Friday, February 27, 2009

A sad day

Right now, I'm looking at my souvenir brick from the old Chicago Stadium that was torn down to make room for the United Center. I'm looking at it and I hear the roar.

Today is a sad day for anyone who closely followed the Chicago Bulls in the late-1960s and '70s. Two icons of the franchise died yesterday, Norm Van Lier and Johnny "Red" Kerr.

Van Lier died at 61. Nicknamed "Stormin' Norman" for his legendary competiveness, he was an integral piece of those great Bulls teams that came so close we could taste it. His fire on the court alongside running mate Jerry Sloan set the gold standard for toughness.

I grew up on Bulls basketball (yes, there was great basketball in the Windy City before MJ arrived) and there's little doubt it molded me in some ways. To this day (I am sure of it), it is because of those Bulls teams, that it is hard for me to stomach players who are unwilling to lay it all on the line during a game.

Van Lier would give it everything he had every single night. He won games, the Bulls won tons of games, on heart and guts. He was the fire-breathing definition of the "will to win."

Johnny "Red" Kerr was simply a Chicago legend. Went to high school there, went to Illinois and is still the first and only coach to lead an expansion team (the Bulls) to the playoffs. He has been a staple on Bulls broadcasts for as long as I can remember. Red Kerr and Jim Durham. That was basketball on the airwaves to me as a kid.

So many great memories of Van Lier, Sloan, Bob Love, Chet Walker (and so many others) and going to those games at the Madhouse on Madison when the noise was real. It used to get so loud it was known to shatter windows.

Norm's gone. Red's gone. The Stadium's been gone for a while.

Never to be forgotten.

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