Friday, November 14, 2008

Tuba Man Memorial

The late Jim Valvano once famously said that you've had a full day if you laugh, you cry and you think. That being the case, those of us in attendance packed a full day into the hour of Wednesday's public memorial to the life of Ed "The Tuba Man" McMichael.

We were moved to sadness trying to understand the tragic way McMichael was taken from us. But we also laughed hearing several speakers share the anecdotes that endeared the Tuba Man to an entire city. And we thought about how we could use our own tuba and funny hats, as Seahawks PA Announcer Randy Rowland explained metaphorically, to bring the same joy to others that McMichael brought to all of us.

What most struck me over the course of the memorial was the breadth of people who were touched by the Tuba Man and the many different ways they related to him. My connection, naturally, was through sporting events, particularly those at KeyArena. Certainly, Seattle's sports community played a prominent role in the service, with Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke and Mariners President Chuck Armstrong speaking, as well as Art Thiel from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Also, attendees signed a Seahawks 12th Man flag that Leiweke announced would be flown at team headquarters the remainder of the season, while jerseys from several local sports teams including the Storm (at right) honoring the Tuba Man stood in front of the stage.

What I never realized was that McMichael was so well known through his connections to other speakers, including de facto emcee John Maynard of the long-running Robin and Maynard radio show, which largely organized the event, as well as KOMO's Ken Schram. John Tangeman, manager of audience services for Pacific Northwest Ballet, spoke to the Tuba Man's ubiqutous presence outside of McCaw Hall.

The emotional centerpiece of the evening came when McMichael's brother Kelsey took the microphone, clearly overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the Seattle community and amazed at the response. His speech concluded with a communal thumbs up from the crowd, imitating Tuba Man's trademark gesture.

Even if you couldn't make Wednesday's memorial, you can still watch the video that concluded the evening (embedded below) or donate to a couple of memorial funds. Donations can be made to the Edward "Tuba Man" McMichael Memorial Fund in person at any Bank of America branch, or by sending a check to the fund at P.O. Box 4985, Federal Way, WA 98063. Also, the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestas has set up a scholarship fund in McMichael's name. Donations can be made via their Web site.

Other recaps come from the Seattle P-I (featuring video and photos), the P-I at McMichael's private funeral, The New York Times and Seattle Sports Online.

My other thought during the memorial related to our routines at sporting events. It occurred to me that in recent years I never really consciously took notice of Tuba Man outside the occasional Sehawks and Mariners games I attended, but the memories came flooding back over the last few days.

I've been thinking about routines because, with the departure of the Sonics, I've started going to a handful of Blazers games at the Rose Garden. I know KeyArena inside and out, having covered about 60 games a year there since joining the Sonics and Storm. The Rose Garden is a completely new experience, and it's weird feeling like a newcomer again. At the same time, I appreciate things in a different way. We take fixtures like the Tuba Guy for granted as people who attend games regularly, and it might be worth trying to pay attention to all those little things and appreciate them before they are taken away.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reminding us about the passing of this Seattle icon, Kevin.