101 ESPN’s former program director Jason Barrett was crazy enough to let me join the team as a weekend host of 101 SportsLine during its first month of operation in 2009.
When daily hosts would take summer vacations, as the station geared up for St. Louis Rams football in the fall, I was sometimes asked to fill in as a host.
Former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Chris Duncan began doing guest appearances in 2011 and he would later work regularly with night host Brian Stull. It was during that summer that we were teamed together for two weeks.
The first morning we were to do a three-hour show was really the first time I met Chris. He was nervous. It was the first time he would do a full three-hour show, he said.
The world would learn how humble, honest and truly humorous Duncan was through his radio talent. To this day I am honored to have played a small role in his career.
I told a jittery Duncan how I was still pretty new to radio and gave him a simple piece of advice.
“Just be yourself, dude. You know what you’re talking about and you’re funny,” I said.
By no means am I taking any credit for his success. He was unique.
We had a great time working together and he would soon join the cast of “The Fast Lane” on weekday afternoons.
Whether it was me yelling “it’s high noon!!” into the microphone at 12 p.m., or him telling hilarious tales of his baseball career and working with Tony La Russa, we truly did enjoy working together.
Chris’ mom, Jeanine, was battling brain cancer during that time. One morning he told me that she said hello and that she really enjoyed hearing us together. Wow. That was moving. She would pass away in the coming year.
My favorite moment with Chris on the air involved Tiger Woods and his suddenly sinking career.
I went on a five-minute tirade about the only thing holding back Woods was embarrassment.
“He was king and his private life became public. He’s getting divorced and he’s totally embarrassed. It’s tough. None of us have been that embarrassed in our lives and probably never will be,” I bellowed to the listeners.
With a smile on his face, Chris said, “Alvin, I dropped a fly ball in the (2006) World Series. There were only about a billion people watching.”
I laughed so hard I couldn’t stop. Thank goodness we were near a commercial break.
That was Chris Duncan. He was a Major Leaguer. His father, Dave, also played in the Majors and is one of the best pitching coaches the game will ever see. His brother Shelley was also a Big-League player.
None of this changed Chris in the least. He acknowledged his blessings, but more importantly, he found joy and fun in every aspect of his life.
The last time I saw Chris was two years ago at a mutual friend’s wedding at the Four Seasons downtown.
He remembered our antics on the air, and reminded me of “high noon!” He was thinner, but still full of life.
Chris left us on Sept. 6, the day of my 59th birthday. The cancer he had been fighting was the same that claimed his mother. His gallant battle had continued for many years. He left 101 ESPN last January to continue the fight. He had been doing his co-hosting from his home in California and was no longer in St. Louis.
I was celebrating at a place in Grand Center when I got the news. I excused myself from my own party, went downstairs and cried for a few minutes.
Chris was 38 when he passed away. But he did more in those 38 years than most people do in a lifetime. More importantly, he enjoyed every minute of his life – even with a terminal ailment tagging at his sleeve.
He won a World Series title in 2006 with the Cardinals, but he was and always will be a true champion for those lucky enough to have known him regardless, of that ring.
St. Patrick is back
During his three-touchdown, 378 yard passing performance in a 40-26 Kansas City Chiefs victory in steamy Jacksonville last Sunday, Patrick Mahomes III nabbed the record for most yards passing in the first 16 games in a career.
His 5,759 yards surpassed the previous record held by former St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner during the dream season of 1999.
The reigning NFL MVP also displayed more than a magic arm and sharp eye – he played in pain for the first time in his career and he still played well.
He limped off the field with a sprained ankle during the second quarter and it seemed like the world was coming to an end for most Chiefs fans – and me.
Mahomes was helped to the privacy medical table on the sideline and was blocked from view. A Chiefs fan wrote on Twitter “Please God, take my leg instead.”
A melee had broken out in the endzone, which led to the Jaguars’ Myles Jack being ejected from the game, and it gave Mahomes time to be examined.
“I just kind of rolled my ankle,” Mahomes said after the game.
He had to convince his medical staff that he was good to go and got them to “just tape it up.”
The hobbled Mahomes was not as spry after the injury, but he got the job done and avoided further injury in a game that was downright dirty when it came to the Jags.
“Obviously, I wasn’t as mobile as I usually am, but the team helped me out,” said Mahomes
“I was able to get the ball out of my hands, and guys were making plays.”
A suddenly rejuvenated Sammy Watkins made several of those plays. He had three touchdowns and a career high 198 yards.
When asked about his wounded QB still pressing on, Watkins said, “that’s the fight in him.”
All kidding aside, the Chiefs must do a better job of protecting him during the season – beginning on Sunday afternoon against a group of very fired up Oakland Raiders on the road.
Ocean of controversy
In her first article for The Atlantic, former ESPN personality Jemele Hill suggests that black athletes choose, or leave, “white schools” and attend HBCUs.
Naturally, it has stirred controversy.
“If promising black student athletes chose to attend HBCUs in greater numbers, they would, at a minimum, bring some welcome attention and money to beleaguered black colleges, which invested in black people when there was no athletic profit to reap,” she writes in the October edition, under the headline “Why Black Athletes Should Leave White Colleges.”
“More revolutionarily, perhaps they could disrupt the reign of an “amateur” sports system that uses the labor of black folks to make white folks rich.”
My question to her is: Why just athletes?
I guess future black doctors, lawyers, engineers, journalists, etc., don’t mean as much because they wouldn’t bring in money. That’s the same thinking as those she is questioning in her article.
Hill, by the way, is a Michigan State University graduate.
The Reid Roundup
Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant continued his impressive 2019 campaign by passing for 150 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers’ 38-7 romp over West Virginia. He did not play in the fourth quarter... St. Louisan and Boston Celtic forward Jayson Tatum returned to practice on Monday, a week after spraining his ankle during the first round of the World Cup Tournament in China. There was a chance he would play for the 5-0 USA on Wednesday against France… French soccer superstar Olivier Giroud, who plays for English power Chelsea, told RMC Sports that he would one day play with an MLS team. “In a year? Two years? I don't know when. But of course, I will be opened to a new challenge,” the 33-year-old Giroud said. Seems like a natural fit for St. Louis and its French history… Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones’ contract extension has $66 million guaranteed – which would rank 22nd in guaranteed money in the NBA…O’Dell Beckham Jr. was wearing a $350,000 wrist watch during the Cleveland Browns’ 30-point loss to the visiting Tennessee Titans… Antonio Brown reportedly hired a consultant to help plan his strategy to get the Oakland Raiders to release him. It turned out to be a 25-year-old filmmaker who had no idea he was helping Brown with his Great Escape… The New England Patriots were right there to sign him. What a coincidence. Commissioner Roger Goodell won’t investigate the obvious collusion… The Raiders should sign blackballed quarterback Colin Kaepernick just to anger Goodell and the rest of the NFL.