I don’t have many ways to pay tribute to people beyond my friendship, loyalty and an occasional mention in social media. It seems like such a feeble honoring but, this all I have and I wanted to take a minute to tell you about my friend.
Dave Sitton passed away today from a heart attack. He was 58 years young.
Dave was a very young man when I first met him. He took a personal initiative to promote me in my senior year of college football. There were many choices better suited to be the face of Arizona football in 1984. Working in the Public Information Office at the University of Arizona he told me, “I’m not sure how I did it but I convinced them you are the man.”
I now know how he did it. He had an unbeatable spirit; a contagious smile; a charming wit; the intellect of a Wall Street broker; and, the negotiation skills of a diplomat.
Dave came to Tucson from Los Angeles to play baseball and ended up being the Icon of Arizona Rugby and, along with his peer Brian Jefferies, the most recognizable broadcast voices in the history of Arizona athletics (I always teased Dave the I loved Ray Scott, Les Josephson and Ed Sorenson more – how’s that for a throwback?). Dave’s colleague and our mutual friend Cal Berkley Coach Jack Clark – the Godfather of US Rugby coaches – messaged me after hearing of Dave’s passing. It was easy to tell that Dave took a piece of Coach Clark’s heart with him.
A few weeks ago Dave and I rode up Interstate 10 from Tucson to Phoenix to attend a fund raising golf tournament for our friend, ex-UA linebacker Donnie Salum who is serious ill. Dave needed a ride because he was meeting his daughter after the tournament and didn’t want to have a car so he could ride home with her for “private time with my baby.”
Dave told me in detail of his own cancer survivor story and all the horrors of heavy chemotherapy. He did it with funny stories as only Dave could translate that personal pain and suffering into my entertainment. We laughed at his jokes but the trauma of that experience was in his eyes.
He spoke with such a passion for life in everything he touched – sports, politics, people, life. He held a steadfast sense of right and wrong that he projected on his radio shows that targeted audiences supporting our military (American Warrior) and guiding young men making critical choices in their lives (The Daily Male). His run for Congress was based on his unwavering trust in the Constitution, his conservative “Reaganistic” views on how our government should be run and a love of country, all of which I admired.
During our drive we talked about the great UA players and teams from the 1970′s; players many in Tucson have forgotten or maybe never knew unless you lived and breathed Wildcat sports like I did as a boy. Guys like baseballers Dave Stegman, Scottie Norris and “Lefty” Lefferts. We talked old-school UA hoops and our favorites from that era like Coniel “Popcorn” Norman, Eric Money, Jim Rappis, Herman Harris and Big Bird Elliot. We reminisced about the great coaches and leaders we had come to know like Freddy ‘The Fox” Snowden and Lute, Coach Kindall, “The Winger”, Dave Stitt, Willie Williams, Jim Gault, Dave Murray, Dave Strack, Ced Dempsey, Bruce Larson and so many more.
Of course we talked rugby. Dave told me about his international travels taking teams all over the planet, playing the New Zealand All Blacks, having a game he was broadcasting interrupted by the September 11 terrorist attacks and our mutual respect and admiration for his rival, Jack Clark.
His stories made the 90-minute drive seem like 5.
Our chats always had a UA football element:
Dave: “Remember when I got you on all those billboards around town?”
Me: “Of course. I was 22 years old, 30 feet tall and 50 feet off the ground. How do you forget that?”
Dave: “The All-American candidate cards?”
Me: “Great memories. Thank you.”
Dave (with his sly, ball-busting grin): “That didn’t work out so good for you, huh?”
Me: “Sorry about that. I guess I wasn’t quite as good as we thought I was.”
Dave (now chuckling at his set-up): “Yeah, I knew I shoulda went with Vance Johnson.”
Me: “It’s OK. I voted for Ron Barber.”
We both laughed our asses off.
[Congressman Barber was the eventual winner of the Arizona Congressional seat Dave was running for. PS: Dave knew I voted for him in the primaries.]
Our world is a lesser place tonight. God clearly needed another good man in heaven. Wish He hadn’t been quite so quick to chose Dave but God never makes a mistake and He reached down for the best of the best.
That “roadie” was the last day I saw Dave face-to-face. When I left I hugged him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. I’m glad I did.
RIP William David Sitton.