A Special from WCBS 880 Sports Director Jared Max
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Growing up in Bergen County, I knew Mike Celizic from a young age. I didn’t know him personally, but I knew what he looked like. I regularly read his sports column in The Record – posted next to his photo – the dark beard and mustache worn below his signature Panama hat or fedora. It was an unmistakable look, which when seen in person triggered the exciting thought, “That’s Mike Celizic”.
He was a staple in New York and New Jersey sports. If I wasn’t standing next to Mike, among a pack of reporters around Derek Jeter’s locker, I’d see the top of his hat across the clubhouse speaking to another player. I knew that it’d be wise to find Mike because he was always engaging in conversation beyond the mundane, ‘What did you think of tonight’s performance’.
At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, Mike and I spent many nights talking over glasses of wine inside our media village. Mike spoke his mind and wasn’t afraid to offend. He was a self-declared atheist. Though, I never doubted his spirit or faith. We tended to get along well. I think he appreciated my nature to challenge what was being sold as reality. Separated by 25 years, we made an interesting pair.
One night in Torino, standing outside our media village bar in the frigid cold, glasses of wine in hand, Mike and I were yapping about something when I had to step away from conversation, leaving another friend who’d just completed his long work shift behind to continue the chat. When I returned fifteen minutes later, my friend grabbed me and said, “Don’t ever do that to me again.” A devout Catholic, my friend had found himself engaged in a conversation about God with this highly intelligent, award-winning sportswriter, dogmatic in his beliefs on religion. I smiled because I knew that Mike wasn’t being insensitive, but my friend (who’s one of the most courteous and soft-spoken people I know – and work with) was tweaked. It was all in good fun.
In recent years since the Torino Olympics, I saw Mike from time to time at sporting events, always saying hello and sharing brief conversation. We never got to chat again as we did at length in Italy, and I regret the opportunity I missed to say goodbye.
At the U.S. Open two weeks ago, WFAN’s Ann Liguori told me that Mike was dying of Cancer. She gave me his email address and told me to get in touch, since time was not on Mike’s side. I left the Open and went about my business, forgetting how critical time was. Today, I picked up The Record and saw that my buddy in the hat passed away yesterday. T-cell lymphoma ended his spirited life at 62. I will miss him.