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July 23, 2010
Thanks for the Memories
See More Coverage on Terry Sisisky, including this
Classic Terry Sisisky Clips:
https://www.rivals.com/uploads/914/962975.WMA - Maynor Magic, T-Man's call of VCU def. Duke
- T-Man and Young Preview Landstown vs. Courtland
Jimmy Tynes' E-Mail: "While all men are created equal, very few act like it. With courage, with dignity, and with style Terry Sisisky constantly challenged us to be better. I'm having a tough time comprehending the upcoming season without my mentor and my best friend. Earlier today I had a pleasant thought about Terry when I heard "the birds are flying high, the Cardinals have won 8 in a row." Their streak ended today, sort of poetic justice as one of their fans streak too was halted. The Cardinals have another game and we are left with precious memories of a Hall of Fame broadcaster. His talent was only exceeded by his humility. I am leaving Saturday for 5 days in Myrtle Beach. I'm sure there will be appropriate memorials and reflections of a life well lived. As long as I have a voice, I'll continue to let everyone know that in this world of political correctness, sound bites, and ulterior motives there once lived a man that was above it all.
Terry was truly one of the finest human beings you could ever be around. How lucky I am. Did you notice how he had a unique ability to get people together and network? The fact that we have done business as well as enjoyed some great athletic drama proves my point. I am more motivated than ever to finish a literary project that Terry and I had started. I'll need your reflections on the entertainment value of some of the games we covered. I think we had an "Ed" & "Johnny" kind of chemistry. No need to try to be like Terry. You can't, he's that good and unique, but you can be a complement to him. Don't want to compete, just want to complete was my mission and on a good night we rocked. Having a product like Petersburg didn't hurt a thing either."
My Tribute: I've never had to write about the death of a friend. It felt like a sock in the gut when I found out. Terry Sisisky, one of the best broadcasters in Virginia history and a man of high class, standards and a smile that would light up a room, has perished from the Earth. When VirginiaPreps.com Editor and Publisher Zirkle Blakey, another close friend of Terry Sisisky, asked me to write up a tribute, it was perhaps the hardest task I've ever had to take on from a writing standpoint. I felt like it was something I owed him, having spent so much time with Terry and spoken to him frequently over the last few years as well as working behind the scenes as a research guy plus information feeder to him during the State Basketball Playoffs.
He's taught me so much; words couldn't even begin to describe what an influence he's been. In some ways, Terry was like a father figure to me and an inspiration, both away from the sports arena and in the sports media profession.
Last Thursday, on Terry's 58th Birthday, I decided to call the T-Man, knowing that I would probably not be able to get through as he and his family wanted privacy, plus he was very weak and tired. I completely understood, but wanted to make the effort, I needed to and felt in my heart it was the thing to do. His daughter, Samantha, answered, put me on the phone with Terry much to my delight and unfortunately I could tell his time was ticking down. Usually, whenever Terry picks up the phone, you hear an energetic response, example being "MR. HATFIELD HOW ARE YOU MY FRIEND?" (note: the caps for an emphasis on his volume level and intensity in which he spoke). Instead, it was more along the lines of, 'How are you, sir?' In typical T-Man fashion, he told me he had a long way to go and wanted to thank me for all I had done when I told him I can't thank you enough for what you've done for me and meant to me. The conversation lasted all of about 2-3 minutes when I told him I'll let you get some rest, and he replied with his standard, "Hey, thank you Man."
Terry loved scoops and any kind of juicy info he could get his hands on. He loved telling stories, finding out stories, sharing info of all kinds and I tried to be a sponge any time I was around, soaking up as much as I can knowing he'll forget more than I ever remember or probably gain. Nonetheless, I had some of the best times in my life when T-Man was around and he was like a kid in a candy store. In fact, one of the lasting memories at a game I have was during the final week of the VHSL State Basketball Tournament, he would come back with his headset on, me with the other headset on just to have a regular conversation because the arena was so loud and he'd have some kind of priceless story or line to tell me.
Passionate and special, Sisisky was equally caring and compassionate. We headed to Arby's the night before Petersburg played Norcom for the AAA Final, he turned to me in the car and told me he was headed to the doctor's next week for a check-up. He said he felt sick, fatigued. I told him he probably was run down, worn out and needed some vacation time to re-charge the batteries. He was headed to Florida the following week to be with his wife Sandy and her in-laws, he said. He thought it would be his final year of doing the State Basketball Playoffs games. I, like many others, thought it was the jitters and nerves getting to him, and he was just saying that like he would often times declare 'I can't take it any more, no more basketball for me. I'm finished.' Hours after making such a declaration, T-Man would be setting up his equipment hours before anyone else arrived at the arena.
That morning on his way to the arena, I get a call from T-Man . . . you guessed it . . . early. I told him to head on, I still have to get some toothpaste because I was out and I'll meet you at the Siegel Center in a little bit. About 15 minutes later I get a phone call, it's Terry, ready to roll and he already got me a tube of toothpaste. I tried to pay him for it, but he wouldn't let me.
The first game is less than 30 minutes away and Terry is working feverishly on his opening, on-camera delivery, practicing with me. He must've gone over the same line about 10 times, but he wanted it to be perfect, on the money and of course he would nail the fastball right out of the park. Terry said he'll be right back he had to head to the bathroom. Moments later he returned and told me he just vomited. I replied, 'You did what?!?!?' I was most concerned with his health and wellbeing at that point, knowing that it is not good to do that before going on TV, and I started to wonder what if.
He felt sick to his stomach, but I guess like Boston Celtics Head Coach Red Auerbach would tell Bill Russell to do before a game, it worked for the T-Man when it came to his game-time performance to get it out of your system. At the conclusion of the first of what would be four Championship games that day Sisisky would call alongside Fish, the camera crew/production folks came over to Sisisky with him near me and told him, "You sound excellent. Really great, maybe the best you've ever sounded."
The car ride up after a quick stop to Bill's Barbeque was something I'll never forget. We talked about all kinds of things, his early influences in his life in broadcasting, people he modeled himself, what needed to be done to be successful behind the microphone and many other topics, ranging from pro and college sports to High School Sports, VCU, and a whole lot more, even family and personal things. That day he shared some private things with me, wisdom I'll take with me the rest of my life and of course his favorite sports team of all, the St. Louis Cardinals, came up in the conversation more than a few times.
Upon arrival, the T-Man was his jovial, nervy and jittery self trying to find a parking spot in the garage over two three before kickoff. He cracked jokes and we got in the building with plenty of time to spare to get a program, food and anything else. Terry had the uncanny ability to sit down in the stands next to a regular fan he didn't know and suddenly strike up a conversation with them like he was their next door neighbor. It happened often, and his personality and friendliness was just so comforting to be around.
As we left with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter and USC pounding UVA to get a jump start on traffic, clumsy me spilled part of my red snow-cone on Terry's pants. I felt so embarrassed, ashamed and like a fool. I offered him money, he wouldn't take it and amazingly he was not bothered in the least by my spill. He was more worried about getting to the car to catch the scores of the games, always in a rush, on the move and on the go. I admired his gusto and how he went to the beat of his own drum, not letting anything slow him down.
Finally, on the way back to Richmond, we got in-depth about sports and his excitement of his new venture of launching TerrySisisky.com, his own Internet broadcasting site to do High School Sports. Nights when I wasn't covering an Eastern Region game or I got home early, I'd make sure I would log on to catch him and Jimmy Tynes, put a link up on the message board and let the fans listen to one of the real greats. It always tickled me when he would take a "two minute break on AMEN 820," and then proceed to stay on the air for the Internet audience on TerrySisisky.com to provide some extra commentary, often comical and informative.
As he said on more than a few occasions, he worked harder and longer at that than he did at VCU or with anything else. But Terry didn't know any other way to work except putting forth every ounce of energy in his body into what he did. Terry wasn't one to show his feelings or let his emotions get the best of him, and while there were numerous occasions where many people probably didn't fully show their appreciation, he did remind me that day after I thanked him for the trip and one of the best days in my life how important a little 'Thank You,' can mean.
It came as no surprise that less than two weeks after the conclusion of a long football and basketball season, I received an e-mail from Terry on a Monday morning, thanking me for all I've done and even calling me an encyclopedia of information. If I was an encyclopedia, T-Man was a library full of books, a wealth of knowledge and a greeting and salute that would stick in anyone's memory bank.
One of Terry's dreams and goals I know privately was to one day be inducted into the Virginia High School League Hall of Fame. I think the people with the VHSL will make the right decision to put him in as soon as possible when the next opportunity rolls around. Get it right, he deserves to be in there, it's where he belongs. He was truly an ambassador for High School Sports, as good as they come; nobody worked harder, cared as much or was more passionate than him. I've been privileged to share special memories and moments with Terry that will last me a lifetime, and to be able to call him my friend, even if it was for only a brief few years. There will simply not be another Terry Sisisky. They broke the mold a long time ago.
God Bless T-Man and his family, you'll be missed, always remembered and never forgotten.
Matthew Hatfield is the AAA State Basketball Analyst for VirginiaPreps.com - - the #1 High School Sports Site on the Rivals Network. Check out Hatfield's website - - www.matthewhatfield.com - - for more on the pro and college sports scene. Contact Matthew via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and also catch him every Saturday at 11AM during the VirginiaPreps.com Hour with Rod Johnson on ESPN Radio 94.1.