Friday, August 10, 2012

A Letter To My Friend, by Dave Wilson

As most of you know, my brother Tom passed away on Saturday, August 4, after a ten month battle with pancreatic cancer.  At some point I want to post a tribute to Tom, but he impacted my life in so many ways over my 52 years that's it's really hard to sum that up.

In the meantime, I'd like to post a letter that our dear friend Dave Wilson wrote to Tom the evening after his death.  Tom and Dave were best friends in the truest sense of the word, and as you can see in Dave's letter, Tom has left a very big hole in all of us--myself, his daughter Kelly, and the love of his life, his wife Becky...but none any bigger than that of his best friend Davie.

Until I can get my post done, Dave gave me permission to share this amazing and personal tribute to our pal and brother, Tommie Boy Hoover:

Left to right, Greg Hoover, Tom Hoover and Dave Wilson.

August 4, 2012

Tommie boy,

Thought I’d let you know the world changed a bit today.  It might look the same……., but it’s really not.   It has diminished, like a breeze lessening against one’s face.

You were the best friend I ever had.  I’m not sure how many days we saw each other over the past 35 years…  three thousand?  four thousand?  I don’t know, but I treasured every one, and looked forward to the next.

You are a difficult guy to describe…  very complex….  lots of black and white, but even more gray.  You were one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, but more notable to me was your perception.  Countless times you would ask me a question that came from out of the blue.  And this question invariably would involve some troubling aspect of my life at that time.  I believe that you had a Rosetta stone on my thoughts, for which I am grateful.

Speaking of intelligence, I did see you do a lot of smart things (and some dumb ones), but the best thing you ever did was to marry that Becky girl.  You and I had so many good times together, so many doubled over belly laughs with tears in the eyes, yet… you were never even close to being the person that you became after falling in love with her.  I don’t think any of your friends would disagree even though you (ahem…) “could have done better”.  If someone were to ask me what was the second smartest thing you ever did in your life…  I would say; “I don’t know”.

That you were a loving father is evident by your daughter.  People like Kelly rarely grace this world and never by accident.   I know being a single parent and owning your own business couldn’t have been easy.   And as a brother?  Greg is the last guy that needs help from me with words, but c’mon, nobody has ever had a better brother, or deserved one more.  I won’t continue with names, it would go on too long.  Anyway, it isn’t necessary because you made all of us feel so special, like each of us were the most important person in your life.  And maybe we were.

My most poignant moment with you that comes immediately to mind was the day driving to Boone Valley, when I was telling you about the last words I had with my father.  I had to pull over to the side of the road to wipe my tears, and when I looked over at you, you were crying just as hard as I had been.

I also claim some responsibility for what I think was your favorite nickname, although Kate is the one who really came up with it.  After you moved my company out of the valley, the very night the levee broke in ‘93, she nicknamed you Clarence; after the angel that pulled Jimmy Stewart out of the water in “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  Truthfully, you saved me more times than that.

Our friendship went far beyond being able to pick out a single trait I liked best.  But one of the things I admired was your ability to avoid the rote.  I never heard you respond to a question with the standard answer or the common answer.  You always introduced some new angle which let the person you were speaking with know you were engaged in the conversation, and had actually considered their words.  Because of that, people were quick to ask your opinion and trust it.

And one more thing I loved was your irreverence, which was really your reverence.  As if you knew that without challenge, things could be taken for granted, something you never did.  Remember when we would always tell people that our friendship was “nothing special”?   Some people looked puzzled by this observation, but the informed mind knows that when nothing is special, it’s the same as saying everything is special.  

Oh it’s useless to go down the road with what I admired, everyone who knew you admired it too.  You never held back from anyone. 

So anyway, wherever you are, I hope you are well.  I’m really, really going to miss you.

Go ahead and make that tee time, but don’t blink your eyes first.  We always talked about how fast time moves.  It won’t be long before we’ll meet up.   And just like every time before this, I look forward to it.

See ya around……, fella.

Your friend,

Davie boy

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Blues--52 Weeks Later

Photo credit to Scott R. Kline.

As Cooper supervises the packing for he and Missy’s move from Baltimore to St. Louis, we’ve been reminiscing via text this week about our Blues Road Trip—which took place exactly one year ago. It's been all over my mind these past few days.

First off, I’m blown away that it’s been a year.  Granted, I’ve changed jobs, moved from Chicago to Evansville to Louisville, had one child graduate from college and another enroll…it’s not exactly been a quiet year!  But all of that said it still amazes me that it’s been a year.  I told Coop this morning that I can remember touring Stax records in Memphis like it was last week, not one year ago tomorrow.

Reading back through our blog (check it out here: it was not only a great trip and great time, but both Coop and I did a pretty good job of capturing it.

I’ll also say this: we’ve gotten better over the past three years (ever since Bazoo’s death) at doing these guys weekends and trips.  Coop, Newly, Campbell, Ettinger…we’ve even got Hack and Scott in from long distance.  Andy Knoop and I started doing this nearly ten years ago and those trips are a lifeline to me.  But it’s great getting reconnected with all of these guys too.  Do it.  Do it now. Life’s too short, and we’ve had far too many reminders of that lately in our little circle.

It's a very cool thing re-establishing your childhood connections as adults.  There's a commonality that you either forget or take for granted...a shared memory.  Until Dan and I started connecting like this again, I forgot that our Moms had been friends, and that Cooper and I started hanging out together when I was about 3 and he was 5.  We rode the bus together, played HS golf together, fooled around on the guitar together, and as it turned out from this trip--it was no accident, we like hanging out together.  LoL.

Anyway, this trip with him was just one of these myriad reconnections that have kind of sustained me through some challenging times over the past few years.  Andy and I never really lost touch. Scott and I have also done a pretty good job at staying close. Newly and I got reconnected when I moved to Evansville in 2000. But Coop and Campbell has really just been over the past three years, and Hack within the past two.  And it's very cool. Like finding money in your pocket you didn't know was there.

No real point to all of this rambling here.  Just thinking back on one of the great trips ever, and alot of great friendships over the years.  Coop…NOLA is calling again, and Austin is still begging to be hit…  J

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rest In Peace Third Stone

The internet has changed the way we think, work, shop and probably most importantly, how we relate to people. I’ve considered this before, but last week it touched me in a very personal way. Let me explain.

Several years ago, I think it was 2005, I joined the website operated by The Sporting News, TSN. At first it was just to play online Fantasy Baseball (for you true devotees, it was online Strat-O-Matic), but as I starting reaching out to the community I discovered a rich blogging experience. Initially a reader and commenter, I was encouraged by my new found friends to blog—primarily by my internet Godfather Lew Troop. I’ve always been a writer, but had not blogged before. And Lew pushed and encouraged and critiqued me into it. He’s the only one of my TSN pals that I’ve ever had contact with outside the ‘net, and we spoke often and regularly on the phone.

Blogging became a wellspring for me. In addition to a creative outlet that really encouraged and developed my talent, it was a repository for my work—and I’ll tell you that I had some great stuff out there. Twice TSN recognized and posted my work on the national site, I won the only blogging contest I ever entered, and my colleagues recognized one of my pieces as among the best on the TSN site and named me to the Hall of Fame. This was all in the span of a little more than a year.

Unfortunately, my advancing career limited the time I could spend on blogging at that point, and I drifted away from it. Eventually, the sight was shut down, and I lost over 100 of the best pieces and columns I’d ever written. That still grinds me.

But in addition to the writing, I had stumbled upon an amazing network of friends. Not traditional at all, but friends none the less. I only ever had that one that I talked with on the phone, and have never met any of them in person; less from a conscious decision than from

But they’re friends. We mourn each other’s losses, encourage and support, celebrate the highs. And when one of us is gone for an extended period without contact the network whips into action and we try and find out what happened to the missing member of the family.

When TSN broke down, the core group started another blogging community. I’ve yet to engage to write or post there, but I read it regularly; and others of us connected via Facebook and Twitter. And I can tell you they’re among my closest friends. They’ve shared in my career and job changes, family moments and all of the things your friends are always there for. I’m attached to them. I need only get a retweet from Sharp Tusk (@SharpTusk) or a favorite from Jesse (@WhistlePig11) and it’s like my grade school best friend has called. They rally around you too. Through Sharp Tusk, I’ve become an adopted member of Arkansas Razorback nation, even thoughI’m a dyed in the wool Crème and Crimson Indiana Hoosier fan. I was struggling to reach 100 followers onTwitter (@GregLHoover) and ST fired out a missive to his beloved Hawg Nation and BANG! I had more #WPS tags (Woo Pig Sooey!, an Arkansas thing) than you can shake a stick at. I felt like someone from the country who was a little lost and had been taken in by his City neighbors.

And while this is all centered on our writing and blogging, it’s like the friends you meet from work that you have a beer with or go to dinner or a ball game, you develop other closer relationships. We’ve got standing jokes about the Mayans, the Apocalypse (actually Hogpocalypse as my WPS buds call it), and many others. They’re a very significant and important part of my life and I love each and every one of them.

And last week, the haunting shadow that I knew was back there but had never acknowledged came calling: we lost one of our old TSN gang, Third Stone From the Sun. Third Stone was a great writer—primarily on NFL and NFL Hall of Fame subjects—and he’d been MIA for a couple of weeks…when one of our friends was contacted via e-mail. Stone had suffered a stroke and passed away on January 22, 2012. Only 45, he left a wife and three young daughters.

Now, I only knew Stone from his writing. He’d have recognized me as well, though we’d never even so much as exchanged messages. I’m not even sure I’d ever posted in response to one of his pieces. But he was part of my TSN family. Certainly not as close as Lew Troop, Frags, Sharp Tusk, Harvey Dakota or numerous others…but there none-the-less. I can tell you that when I learned of his passing I cried, and was maudlin for most of the day and the rest of that week.

So how do you wrap your arms around that? Why this sense of loss for someone you’ve never even so much as exchanged an e-mail with?

Well it’s not as complex as you might think. Our emotional attachments come from interaction…and in this case, I’d interacted with Stone by knowing his opinions, his writing style, his likes and dislikes; even if we hadn’t directly communicated. That’s the thing about the internet—it’s changing paradigms all over the place. And now it’s changed another for me by redefining how I meet, engage, grow fond of other people, and eventually mourn their loss. Hopefully this is the first of many such times, because while it hurts, it’s also the mark that we’re out there developing lasting and important relationships that matter to us; the essential point of life from where I stand.

So Godspeed and Rest in Peace Third Stone; and prayers of sympathy and support to your family and little girls. While the old expression “we hardly knew you” might seem apt here, it really isn’t. Because even though it’s different from how I’ve known others for all of my 51 years, I knew you very well. I liked your writing, I respected your opinions, I looked forward to “seeing”you, and I am going to miss you being a part of my universe—even if it was the digital and virtual one.