By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) I didn’t know Doug Buffone the Chicago Bear. I didn’t know Doug the colleague, Doug the relative, Doug the friend.
But I knew Doug Buffone. He was my friend. Because I knew Big Doug. I knew Uncle Fuzzy.
We all knew him as listeners of 670 The Score. Several times since news of Doug’s passing at the age of 70 spread Monday afternoon, Score personalities have mentioned that “personality” was a description least befitting of Doug of all people at the station. He wasn’t a gimmick or a bit. His candor, humor and passion have been vehemently called the most genuine in Chicago radio.
Dana Buffone the day I got back told me how happy he was that I was back home. The most genuine man the business has ever introduced me to.— Say Bruh Metrics🏁 (@Jason1Goff) April 20, 2015
To then listen to Doug talk — or put another way, laugh, cry and holler about the same games about which we were yelling at our TVs — was to know him because he connected with all of us in the most unique of ways. Any other professional sports talker spends 10 minutes yelling through the gravel in his throat and we dismiss it as First Take canned phoniness. Yet we never questioned Doug Buffone’s authenticity.
I first became acquainted with Doug as half of The Wise Guys show with Mike North during my Scorehead infancy. Having a hot dog from the Best’s Kosher factory store down the street from the Department of Transportation yard where I worked summer days as a city asphalt laborer, life soundtracked by those two imperfectly ranting and arguing — I was living a Windy City stereotype. Still, I fell in love with the perfect Chicagoness of it all.
But what endeared Doug to so many of us who never got to know him yet really knew we knew him was the Bears postgame shows with Ed O’Bradovich. Doug was a tonic, an outlet of primal meatball catharsis who never became hollow or parody (even when he was literally appearing on a show as the Big Doug parody of himself). It was almost worth a Bears loss to have Doug and OB be a vehicle for your angst, to listen to them slowly bubble to a crescendo of crusty, tortured (sometimes incoherent or Freudian-slipped) venting and afterward say to yourself, “Yes. Exactly.”
Buffone is Italian for clown or joker or fool. Doug was very much a buffone in the best interpretation of the word, the Shakespearean sense. He functioned as comic relief from Bears tragedy, and in the classic Shakespearean way, he was often actually smarter than rest of characters (for all the slapstick that followed Doug, any loyal listener knows how deceptively bright he really was). He was an unrefined, blue-collar philosopher. He dug the figurative graves matter-of-factly, spoke of the corpses of yesterday’s games in a way that resonated with us and cocked his head and furrowed his brow at the upper-crust lawyers and the melodramatic Hamlets of the sports world.
All the while, he was the humble and self-deprecating Uncle Fuzzy. His zest for life and storytelling and poking fun at himself was tangible through our radios. His Big Doug jokes on The Mully and Hanley Show during a morning commute did a trick that coffee couldn’t, and his unintentional comedy of running over a floor of marbles with a polysyllabic name of an athlete or reading the Score call screen are the little things that make a fan of 670 like me tout what makes it so unique and great.
Doug pulled off the rare feat of existing as a former Chicago Bear — royalty in this town — who became an Everyman.
A fave Doug story: He refused to block Tom Dempsey, out of sympathy for his club foot. Dempsey made the tackle, Halas tore Doug a new one.— M@ (@MattSpiegel670) April 20, 2015
A savage warrior with a heart of gold. A man who had no problem talking about covering himself in deer urine or how he conversed with extraterrestrials. A guy who never rested on his status as No. 55 or used that to mail it in.
Doug Buffone would be in the office every day at 9am preparing for a 2pm show. Worked his ass off all the time. Most former athletes don’t.— Joe Ostrowski (@JoeO670) April 20, 2015
He rode shotgun in our cars and had a beer in our garages more so than the other voice on the airwaves because you just knew he respected and empathized with the rest of us who cursed and moaned and guffawed with our sports like he did. There was an ironic mix of unhinged, unchecked simultaneous joy in our anger that Doug allowed us to not be embarrassed for having. He validated us.
And those weekly sessions of validation and catharsis are going to be so sorely missed. 670 The Score is a different animal without Doug Buffone, certainly for the staff there but so much so for the listener too. That hurts.
I was at Doug’s roast a year ago — the worst Score roast because so many “roasters” couldn’t say anything bad about him. Doug was happy while wondering what all the fuss about him was for. He was somebody I’m jealous for not having known better.
But I know I knew him pretty well. You did, too. He wasn’t our friend, but he was our friend.
And we were all lucky to know Doug Buffone.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe.