Life is full of twists and turns. That’s why it is so often referred to as a journey. What lies ahead, around the proverbial bend, isn’t always predictable. Sometimes it can catch you off guard and take you by surprise.
Along the way, the path of your journey will cross with others. And if you’re lucky, some might travel a parallel journey and make your trip that much more enjoyable.
I was fortunate enough to have crossed paths with Coach Buzz Battaglia.
Coach is as Baltimore as steamed crabs and Natty Boh. His thick Baltimore accent welcomes you. His kindness, compassion and warmth remind you that this once was The Land of Pleasant Living and still is, whenever you are in his company.
Today, one of those twists in life’s journey staggered many who knew and loved Coach Buzz. He’s left our world to join the coaching staff of his Maker.
Death is a robber. It takes without remorse. It steals from your world. It doesn’t care if you weep. It doesn’t care about your pain. Seemingly in a moment, what was yours and mine and a gift from God is gone. We’re left with our love and memories and we pray that those things will lighten our heavy hearts and help us to embrace what was, instead of desperately fretting that which will never be again.
For several years, I had the distinct honor, privilege and pleasure of joining Coach Buzz, Miles Goodman and Coach’s son John, on The Coach’s Buzz every Monday evening. Like Coach, the program was quintessential Baltimore. No pretentiousness. Nothing phony. Just honest, sincere and real.
Unless of course one of the three co-hosts was “on assignment”. That’s where the fibbing started and stopped. For Miles and John, “on assignment” usually meant that they had their toes in the sand and a drink in their hand at some exotic resort. For Coach, particularly as of late, “on assignment” usually meant that he was battling some physical ailment at a nearby hospital.
And that’s something that Buzz kept on the down low.
You see, Coach didn’t direct attention towards himself. He wasn’t wired that way. He was all about making those around him feel better about themselves. Whether he was working at Salvo Auto Parts or on the air at CBS Radio, Buzz was a team player and placed team needs above his own. John Harbaugh would love to have had Coach on his team, because each week, despite struggles that would sideline most of us, Coach would suck it up and play hurt.
He “Played Like a Raven”.
You know, it’s been said often that a hundred years from now your bank account won’t matter, the sort of house you lived in won’t matter nor will the kind of car you drive. What will matter is that you made a difference in the life of a child.
I’m pretty certain that Coach has done that for his children and his grandchildren. He’s done if for all of the kids who were fortunate enough to have been coached and/or mentored by Buzz. His wonderful sincerity, genuineness and selflessness will live in perpetuity through the discreet lessons he taught all those who were smart enough to pay attention to his magnanimous ways.
I wish that I could hear him say “Bellll-Air” one more time. I wish that he could go out to the Mobile One Hotline to welcome me into his show one more time. And I wish that I could hear him call me “Paesan”, just one more time.
But then I remember, how death is a robber.
What I will take with me… are the memories and the laughs — particularly his laugh.
What I will take with me… are his lessons by example, that I hope will make me a better man, a better husband, a better father and a better friend. Then maybe I can, in some meaningful way that I’m sure will never measure up to Coach Buzz’s, leave this world a better place.
I’m so glad you came along Coach, and that the twists and turns of our lives collided; that our paths crossed.
I will miss you my Paesan, yet I’m comforted knowing that you will realize the glory you deserve while “on assignment”.
Until our paths cross again, Godspeed.