John Smallwood died yesterday. It was Sunday.
I got the news right after the kickoff of the Eagles￼ game: a call from my boss, Pat McLoone, which, when it comes right after kickoff of an Eagles game, either means I’m on A-1 the next day, or tragedy. It was the latter.
John had been sick one way or another for about 12 years or so. I can’t help but think that, despite losing a life spent with his wife and daughter, crossing over comes as a comfort to him; a rest.
This might sound macabre, but in the past decade he and I often had discussed death. Know this: He was at peace with his world.
He’d beaten cancer as a young man, so he lived every minute with grateful vigor. I knew him for nearly 30 years, since he wrote in Rochester, N.Y., and I in Syracuse. I’ve never known a finer combination of writing ability and love of the job. He considered it a privilege: every game he attended, every interview he conducted, every crowded flight or crummy hotel stay, every colleague he met. He adored sportswriting. He was very happy.
He died at 55. We are fewer than three years apart. Makes you ponder.
You’ll hear how John’s pleasant demeanor, his warm spirit, his kindness, and his gentlemanly ways brought joy and happiness to the people he loved and worked with. It’s true. He was the best sort of prince.
John and I had much in common. We first sought fairness and justice. We next admired strength of character. Then, sacrifice and success.
John and I also were quite different. He possessed a level of real empathy that only a person fully connected to that communal human spirit can possess. He was very quick to cry. I envied that.
At any rate, the point of this post is this:
While many of you knew OF John Smallwood, few of you knew him as well as I. And, so, I would tell you this would be his wish:
Try to be more patient, more understanding, more helpful, more congenial, more steadfast.
Try to be more like him.
I know I will.