Thursday, April 23, 2015

Human milestone

Once upon a time I called him the voice of all our winters, and now it is years later and I realize I've sold him short. Bob Chase is no longer just the voice of winter. He is a voice for all our seasons, in the sense that you cannot mention WOWO or Fort Wayne or the Fort Wayne Komets anywhere in the United States, at any time, and not hear his name eventually come up.

Tonight, at the age of 89, Chase will call his 500th Komets playoff game, and if that is yet another milestone for him, it is a measure of his iron permanence that calling it a milestone sells him short yet again. After 62 years behind a microphone that  eternally will be his, Chase himself is a milestone, one of those measures by which we mark out our lives.

I listened to Chase shout "Look out!" and "Heeere comes (pick a name), raggin' it all the way into the zone" when I was 10 years old and 20 years old and 40 years old. And now I am 60 and he is still shouting those things. When I was in college, my roomie and I used to tape his game calls and play them back, especially in that lost season after the Komets won the Turner Cup in 1973. The team was so bad that season, so unremittingly hopeless, that playing back Chase calling the lowlights was actually less painful than unintentionally hilarious.

In comes (Saginaw's Dave) Cressman, look, shoot, score!

He's tryin' to get around (Komets defenseman Charlie) Labelle, he gets around  him ... score!

You get the idea.

I don't know where Dave Cressman or Charlie Labelle are now, but I do know where Chase will be tonight. It is where he has always been. He is the living proof that Woody Allen was right when he said 80 percent of success was just showing up. Chase has done that and more, which is why the Lester Patrick Award sits somewhere in his home, the highest honor the National Hockey League can bestow for service to the game of hockey. And they bestowed it in 2012 on a man who never called a game in the NHL.

And, of course, never missed it. Why would he? He couldn't possibly be more renowned than he already is for the simple act and monumental feat of always being there.

That hit home yet again last Sunday, when I attended the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame banquet. Speaker after speaker got up and said one of the highlights of the day was getting to meet Bob Chase, who was there to present 2015 inductee Blake Sebring of the News-Sentinel. Among them was fellow inductee Bob Jenkins.

All that guy's ever done is be the ESPN voice of IndyCar and, for a time, the Indianapolis 500. And yet it was Chase he wanted to meet.

Another milestone for the milestone.

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