Some of the Best, and Some of the Worst

HOME / Some of the Best, and Some of the Worst

August 5th, 2021

It’s continued to be a crazy span of time here, in terms of doctor visits and “invasive” tests, but I felt the need to get something written today. I’ve discussed the hospital stuff enough, but did want to tie up one of the details that was still to happen the last time I was here.

I mentioned that I’d been discharged from the hospital and things were going well, and I also mentioned I had a few “other tests” to take care of in the near future. We did the first of those on Monday this week.

I won’t get too graphic (although many of you have experienced this just like I have) but it all went well. Since the doctors are focused on my digestive system, you might guess that a certain procedure would be ordered. It rhymes with “colonoscopy” (wait, did I type that out loud?) and I’ve had it done before. It’s really not that bad, and anyone over 50 should start the regular rotation. If they catch anything that early, it will likely save your life. Don’t let one day of discomfort talk you out of it.

This time, as opposed to my previous experiences, they basically put me completely under instead of just “heavily sedated” and I much preferred that. All I remember is the nurse anesthetist pushing the plunger on the syringe that held the fun stuff, and then hearing her say “Have a nice nap!” A second later, I heard someone saying my name and thought, “Oh, they must be ready to start the procedure now.” That was not true. They were done and I was back in my recovery room. Badda Boom, Badda Bing. All done. And I passed with flying colors, so that’s good. I’ll see those fine folks again in another five years.

In general, I feel really good. Still tired a lot, and still “officially resting” as much as I can, but no complaints and no pains whatsoever. Science and medicine are wonderful things, as are professional medical people who take such care. I thank them all.

For the blog, this is definitely one of those “I have no idea what to write about” versions, but as I started to write the headline I had the idea. It’s mindless and probably a bit repetitive, if we go back over 16 or so years of blog writing, but it’s all important stuff to me and it’s my blog, so… Here I go.

The topic is “What are some of the best and worst moments of your career in and around sports?” I can handle this. Here they are in no particular order, although it would be understood that the first ones to pop into my head are probably the most important.

We’ll start with…

Best Moments in Drag Racing

1. Winning the Skoal Showdown and the Mac Tools US Nationals all on the same weekend in Indy (2005 was the year) for a place in NHRA history and a payday of nearly a quarter-million dollars. The best part was just doing it. I’ve never felt emotion like that before or since. It was unbelievable. The bonus checks Del Worsham included in our pay two weeks later just echoed the thoughts of “team” and class.

2. Finishing second in points in the Funny Car class in 2004. We were never really in the fight for the championship, but had also never finished as high as second during the CSK era with Del. It had been a tight battle between us and Gary Scelzi to see who would finish No. 2, and it wasn’t decided until the semifinals in Pomona, when Gary lost and we won our race as the next pair. This was all about pride. We were a tight-knit group and the feeling of “team” and camaraderie was enormous.

3. Selfishly speaking, winning the “PR Rep of the Year” award back in Winston’s final year as tour sponsor was something I still can’t fathom. When the Winston rep started to introduce the winner, I was just looking around the room at the restaurant, admiring all my PR colleagues, thinking “Boy, they really like what this person has done. Who is it?” Then I heard my name. For perhaps the only time in my life I was speechless. All I could say was “Thank you.”

4. Wrapping up my PR career in Pomona at the end of 2015, in order to write my book “Bats, Balls, & Burnouts.” I’d had the incredible experience of working for Tim Wilkerson and representing Levi, Ray, & Shoup for seven full seasons, and there was no better way to call it a career than after that great experience. And then NHRA stopped qualifying for no reason. OK, there was a reason. Alan Reinhart began to let the crowd know about my career, my retirement, and my book, over the Pomona P.A. system. I think some dust got in my eyes. That was a VERY special moment.

Worst Moments in Drag Racing

1. Watching Del careen off the end of the track in Pomona, through the sand trap, into the net, and over the net, while the CSK Funny Car did a sickening somersault high in the air before somehow landing on its four wheels. I can still see it. I can still feel it. I can still remember that agonizingly slow ride in a golf cart trying to get to the top end to see if he was OK. And I can still see him sitting in the ambulance when I got there, looking at me with foggy eyes, saying “Hey Bob. My butt really hurts.” After that horrible crash, all he really had was a broken tailbone.

2. A huge body-shattering engine explosion for Tim, as he neared the finish line in Atlanta. Parts, pieces, and fire flying everywhere. I called Barbara on the verge of tears, even though I knew Tim was OK by then. It still got me to the core, and all I could say was “I don’t know if I can keep doing this. I don’t want to see this anymore.” That moment was the first seed of thought about retiring. I really didn’t want to see that stuff anymore.

3. Watching Daniel Wilkerson pull away from Ron Capps in Memphis, clearly on his way to his first round-win as a pro. And then the rear wheels came off and he T-Boned the left retaining wall at full speed, head on. There was, in my mind, no way he was OK. I doubted he was conscious. I feared for much worse than that. He was OK, miraculously, but just like Del’s deal I never want to see anyone go through that again, teammate and friend or not.

Best Moments in Baseball

A contract to a dream…

1. Off the field, the best moment has to be signing my first professional contract, in the sun-splashed living room of the house I grew up in, on Woodleaf Court in Kirkwood, Mo. I was shaking a little. I was staring at it and not absorbing it. Maybe it was fake? Couldn’t be. I mean, there was also a nice note from the head of the Detroit Tigers minor league system, welcoming me to the organization. I needed to be in Bristol two days later. I still have my copy of the contract. As I wrote in my book, “It was a contract to a dream.” If we still had an “enlarge” function these days with the blog, you could blow this up and see my name at the top, and at the very bottom my salary. It was $500 a month. It felt like a million bucks.

2. On the field, it’s a three way tie and all three were home runs. One was a “no-doubter” I could drop my bat and watch, the other two were, I thought, deep fly balls. Magically, both went out in the deepest part of the parks I hit them in, and both probably went as far or farther than the “no doubt” bomb, which was hit at the University of Maryland when my Fairfax semipro team beat the Korean Olympic team. It was, indeed, a bomb. I knew, and the crowd knew, it was gone the moment I hit it. The other two were just as memorable, although I was surprised to see the result as I rounded first-base. The first was in the championship game of the NCAA Regional, against Northern Kentucky, and it earned us a spot in the NCAA Div. II World Series for the second straight year. It cleared the 387-foot sign with air to spare and my mom was in attendance at SIUE. The other was a monster I somehow hit over the 405 mark in dead center, when the Sauget Wizards beat the USA National Team at their stadium in Millington, Tenn. Both of those homers still seem impossible, but I still have the balls and the box scores. I guess it really happened.

3. Wearing an Oakland A’s uniform and pitching in the bullpen in Kansas City before the A’s played the Royals. That, as we like to say, was surreal. Somehow I was in the bullpen throwing to catcher Mike Heath as pitching coach Lee Stange looked on. I was wearing Mike Norris’s uni, with Rick Langford’s spikes and glove. And it all went like magic. Oddly, I wasn’t even nervous. Afterward, I could hardly talk fast enough.

Best Moments in Indoor Soccer

1. Getting hired as the first front-office employee for the expansion St. Louis Storm, only a few months before the MISL season was set to begin. Working endless hours selling sponsorships and tickets. Leading my team of young go-getters to make it all happen. And then walking out into the historic old St. Louis Arena to see 14,000 fans in the stands for that first game. Not just a game. Our first game ever, and we led the league in attendance. That was a huge accomplishment. We worked our butts off to do that. I’m not often overly proud of myself, but I was that night and I was even more proud of my young staff. We overcame so much to make that happen.

2. Similarly, the home opener for the Kansas City Attack, when I was the new general manager for that team. We drew about 8,600 for that game, at Kemper Arena, but that was a far cry from the 1,500 tickets sold per game they’d averaged the year before. Our owner was all smiles. So was I. I was just as proud of that as I was of our first game in St. Louis. In KC, we had a much larger mountain to climb after the franchise had experienced a really bad season the year before I arrived.

Worst Moments in Indoor Soccer

Here I come to save the day. Not so fast, Wilber!

1. There’s really only one. My short stint as the GM of the Indianapolis Twisters. From the moment I walked in the door at mid-season, hired to “save the day” for the franchise, until the owner surprised everyone (myself included) by folding the franchise just weeks later, at a press conference that was supposed to be about the Indianapolis Ice hockey team buying our team and joining forces with us. The whole thing was a mess, and with it being mid-season I really couldn’t fix it. It was pretty awful. When your paychecks bounce, that’s pretty awful.

Best Moments in Sports Marketing

1. I did some amazing things and went to some incredible places in my 3+ years at my brother Del’s agency. But, it was a small deal that I came up with on a whim that takes this cake. Black & Decker was one of our clients and we were beating the usual bushes to get them a few sponsorships that would help promote and sell the latest version of the Dustbuster they had just introduced. I thought I’d be laughed out of the meeting when I said, “Why don’t we get some Major League and minor league teams to use the new Dustbuster to clean off home plate during the seventh inning stretch?”  As I prepared to be laughed at, everyone loved it. In the end, the teams loved it too and we landed a full sidebar article, complete with photo of the Oakland A’s batboy cleaning home plate with said Dustbuster, in Sports Illustrated. That’s what you call a win.

2. Travel in general. I went to Italy twice for our client the International Baseball Association, and went to Havana, Cuba as well, to attend the annual international meeting of the IBA. Italy was amazing. Havana was other-worldly. I still have a few photos of me in the city, looking a little bewildered that I’m actually there.

3. Standing at the 50-yard line at the Louisiana Super Dome after the announcement that we had successfully negotiated the Sugar Bowl title sponsorship with USF&G Insurance. It was ground breaking, and although I had only a peripheral role in hammering out the deal, it put DelWilber+Associates on a totally different map, and there I was with my brother looking around from the 50 as the media went crazy. That’s when he looked down at my feet and said, “OK, now you need to buy a new pair of shoes.” I hadn’t noticed I’d worn holes in my black wing-tips.

Worst Moments in Sports Marketing

1. Like the indoor soccer worst moment, there is only one here and it too involves the MISL and the indoor game. Our client at DelWilber+Associates was M&M Mars and their 3 Musketeers brand. We did an exhaustive study on what sport would be the best and most efficient fit for them to rejuvenate the brand, hitting the right demographic for the right price. After weeks of votes and research, the MISL and indoor soccer came out on top. I hustled to put the whole thing together, dreaming up league-wide promotions and working with the MISL staff in New York. Then, we took the two M&M Mars executives out to L.A. for the MISL All-Star game at The Forum. Everything was going great, and I was thrilled to be working on the program. And then, at the All-Star Game, the New York Express franchise folded. Two weeks later, we got the bad news from M&M Mars. They had changed their minds. The whole thing blew up. Thanks a lot, New York Express…

So that’s how you write a blog when you have nothing to start with. And yes, most of this is in “Bats, Balls, & Burnouts” but I assume some of you haven’t read it (yet!) or if you did it was a while ago and you might enjoy reading these highlights and lowlights again.

As for me, I’m still scheduled to head to Kauai on the 24th of the month, and I’ll be there almost a month. Because I’m a great brother. I’ll have my laptop and will be sure to include many photos of the Pacific Ocean, the village of Kapaa, and other places on the Garden Isle.

Until then, if you liked any of this (even the Indianapolis Twisters part) please click that “Like” button at the bottom. I smile when I see those likes…

See you next week with more nonsense.

Bob Wilber, at your service and considering this blog to be the Best Moment in Blog Writing. For me, at least.