This is an opinion piece.
I received a call Saturday that I had been dreading for months.
It was from my friend and longtime sports writing colleague, Tommy Hicks.
When I saw his name flash up on my cell phone, I paused for just a few seconds before I answered.
Sometimes you just know, you know?
Tommy did indeed deliver the news: Our buddy – really everybody’s buddy – Vic Knight died Saturday morning at the age of 62.
Vic fought cancer as hard as he could for as long as he could.
He made countless trips to the MD Anderson Cancer Clinic in Houston for the last couple of years.
There were good days and a lot of bad, Vic told me recently.
But he was still Vic – my buddy, everybody’s buddy.
A Stoughton, Wis., native and proud graduate of Ole Miss, Vic had worked in sports media and management in Mobile since 1988. I first came to know him a little when he was media relations director of the Senior Bowl – a post he held for 20 years.
Our friendship – our brotherhood – expanded when he became general manager of Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile through the Mishkin Group. Vic spent more than half of his life helping the media in one capacity or another.
It’s appropriate that the Alabama Sports Writers Association will honor him at their 50th annual banquet June 12 in Birmingham as a Hall of Honor recipient. It’s the highest honor presented by the ASWA to a non-sportswriter for their contributions to the association and their professionalism.
When Tommy and I delivered the news to Vic a few months ago and when it was released to the public in April, Vic was so humbled and thrilled. He didn’t expect the award, but he definitely deserved it.
It pains me to know he won’t be there in person to receive it next month. But the award has already been made and Tommy shared a picture of it with Vic just in case this very scenario happened. Vic knew what the award looked like, but more importantly, he knew what it meant.
This is a portion of a text message he sent me on April 19:
“This has been unbelievable today. I’ve heard from people I haven’t heard from in 35 years. God is so great to let me experience this.”
Even in our sadness today, God is still great and, in my final conversations and texts with Vic, I know he knew that.
That gives me great joy.
Make no mistake about this. Vic wasn’t chosen for this award because he was fighting a disease he likely couldn’t beat. He was chosen because he spent his life serving others. He made people laugh. He was kind. He was honest. Vic Knight was one of those people that you were always, always happy to see – even on the tough days we all have.
Vic loved the Chicago Cubs. In fact, the very last text messages I received from him on April 26 were about his Cubs facing my Atlanta Braves. He asked if I was watching. I said I was and sent him a picture of me and my 10-year-old watching the game.
“There you go. Need to get you some Cub hats, though!”
Vic was so proud of his wife and family. His son Jack was a standout baseball player for Bayside Academy a few years ago. Vic had a friend take him to Bayside’s first-round baseball playoff series last month. His parents were in town recently to visit. He told me that had been “fantastic and very therapeutic.”
Vic and I exchanged a lot of Bible verses in recent months as his health fluctuated. Here is the last one he sent me.
“Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed. Save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.” Jeremiah 17:14
It would have thrilled me to no end if Vic had been healed on this earth.
But believe me when I tell you, Vic Knight is healed right now. The pain is gone for him. In our sadness, we take solace in that.
On June 12, we will celebrate him.
And, whether his beloved Cubbies win on that day or not, we will still Fly that W for our buddy.
.. For everybody’s buddy.
Ben Thomas is the high school sportswriter at AL.com. Follow him on twitter at @BenThomasPreps or email him at [email protected]. His weekly column is posted each Friday on AL.com.