I actually have a lot of Dave Sitton stories - nothing wild, nothing crazy, more a list of stories about a guy who was just flat-out genuine.
Try as I do to be impartial - I have to say when a team plays poorly no matter how I feel about the coach or the players, and I have to say when they play well, even if the coach is a jerk - I had a lot of time for Dave Sitton, who died suddenly this Monday morning.
Was it because his cell phone ring was Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys, or that Good Vibrations replaced Ride of the Valkyries by Wagner? Maybe. Was it his unabashed patriotism? His University of Arizona team played, on occasion, in camo not because they thought they were badass, but because Sitton loved the military and loved America, and his team had adopted the 55th Rescue Squadron of the 563rd Rescue Group. Sitton was an honorary commander of the 55th and the team participated annually in a training exercise with the group. Those jerseys are in honor of the 55th.
Or maybe it was his generosity. Sitton was The Voice of Rugby of years - the play-by-play man for every Eagle rugby game on TV. Now, anyone who has a TV gig in rugby guards it with ferocity, but Dave was supremely generous with his time on and off the air. Just about everyone else involved with rugby on TV could learn from him. Dave was a facilitator. If there was someone else there to do some talking (and on three occasions I had the honor of partnering with him) he gave you time.
Or what about the time he said I shouldn't be recording all the commercials on our RuggaMatrix podcast, and recorded some for us, for free?
As a coach, he was a terrific source. He made sure we got players' names spelled right, always tried to get his players available to talk, and more than once gave me a blow-by-blow account of a game when it was 1am or thereabouts. He understood that the news mattered, and he was also incredibly nice when we screwed up. He knew it's a tough job to cover everything all the time.
So he could quietly, nicely, point out a little mistake on our end, and offer more information.
Still, he was proud. He was proud of getting to 400 wins, but, interestingly, he didn't take credit for a late blowout because the game, he felt, wasn't really competitive enough to count as an A-side match. The record says Sitton won 399; we know it is much more.
He was proud, too, of his broadcast career, which included myriad USA internationals, a radio show in Arizona, and many University of Arizona sports. I remember running into him before the 2010 CRC, when he was wearing an NBC polo shirt and getting ready to work on the NBC network.
He was beaming.
"This is my [international] cap," he said, and I, admittedly somewhat jealous,, understood. After years on various sports networks and the web, he was with the big boys. It was completely appropriate that he was there to do that.
So I have hardly mentioned the rugby games, the national team players he helped produce, or his playing career. He pushed aside his ego enough to bring in Chris Kron and Emil Signes to coach the Wildcat 7s team, but when he had to step in to coach, the team didn't do badly at all.
In 2005 I ran into Dave after a USA game. I wished him well as he was battling cancer at the time, and told him that someone very close to me was also being treated for the disease.
Dave just looked at me and said:
"Don't just survive it, kill it!"
That's what he did, and when we spoke again a few years later he asked me:
"Did she kill it?"
"Yes Dave, she killed it."
So, Dave, like many, many people, who I hope we will hear from over the coming days, I would like to say how shocked and distressed I was at your passing. You were a classy guy in worlds where being classy can get a real beating.
And I know I personally will miss you, as will so many others.