I am very sorry to tell you that Beano Cook died in his sleep. He was 81. If you love college football, you will miss him.
— Ivan Maisel (@Ivan_Maisel) October 11, 2012
I mentioned the other day that I thought Beano Cook was gravely ill and, unfortunately, I was not wrong.
For a guy I've never met, his passing is significant to me. You see, it was probably fifteen years ago when a group of guys I was part of met for a fantasy football draft at Cowboys Country Club in Grapevine. Afterwards, we were in the dining area with ESPN on the TV when Beano's face popped up for some pre-TCU game commentary. The guys exploded with laughter because, on that day, Beano Cook truly had a face for radio only. His cheeks were sagging and he looked like an old bulldog. I laughed along with them. It wasn't long after that when you would never see him on television again. He was relegated to radio and then retirement.
Then about five years ago I started listening to a college football podcast from ESPN where Beano would join Ivan Maisel on Wednesdays for about thirty to forty-five minutes. Unlike the guy on the TV from years before, Beano was now like a grandfather who would relate stories about Notre Dame in the 1950s or old great Army or Navy teams. He was a college football historian, and I began to care about the stories he would tell. I can't tell you the number of times I heard his voice coming from my iPod on my weekly jogs -- and he always called into Ivan from his home in Pittsburgh. He never traveled.
But over the last couple of years, his mind would wander somewhat on the podcast, and I would also hear an occasional grown or cough coming from his end of the line. Ivan would sometimes have a hard time even getting a word in as Beano would go on long dissertations about one subject or another. Simply put, you could tell he was fading.
Then he disappeared from the podcast completely about five weeks ago. It was the first time I can recall that he missed a show. Ivan would only say that "Beano is not feeling well, and can't be with us. We hope he'll be back next week." You knew something was wrong.
He died last night, and I can't tell you how badly I feel about taking part in a little laughing and mocking session many years ago. As I got to know him on my jogs, I learned he didn't deserve it. And it's a lesson that I should not have needed to learn.
Edit: On a lighter note, Beano despised baseball. I read today that while he was at CBS in 1981, he learned that baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn had just given the newly released Iranian hostages lifetime passes to MLB games. Beano's response: 'Haven't they suffered enough?'" A man after my own heart.
Edit: Ivan's thoughts.