Tim Ellison died yesterday.
Not many BigSoccer members met him or knew his real name, but if you spent much time in the regions of BigSoccer where serious people with a devotion to the game tend to hang out, then you surely knew that when "oldguyfc" posted something, that reading it wasn't going to be a waste of your time.
There's an old cliche that you regularly hear tossed around that says "Sport doesn't develop character, it reveals it"
I've never been all that sure I whether I entirely agree, but I think a good corollary might be made if you replace "sport" with "the internet".
All of us know only too well how easy it is to use the message board format to plump up ones' own ego, particularly when someone with little actual knowledge of the subject matter begins a lecture on one topic or another.
But Tim, a guy who had forgotten more about the game than most of us will likely ever know and who had actual insight and experience and who did in fact have "inside" contacts never really felt the need to point it out to you.
That was something you had to figure out for yourself.
Which is not to say that he didn't have some very strong opinions about the game and some very stubbornly held ideas as to how it should be played and the kind of people who ought to be allowed to run it.
And if you worked hard enough at being stupid, he was more than capable of pointing it out to you, but unlike too many of us there was always a sort of "I'm sorry you forced me to do this" tone to it. I doubt if anyone ever took it personally.
More than anything, he hated the self-promoting charlatans who too often have custodianship of the game. To read his monumental takedowns of a certain USSF President who shall remain nameless was to feel not anger really so much as sadness that the fate something as wonderful as soccer is in the hands of such small men.
For that reason he always applauded my posts about Blatter, Warner and Co., and hoped that I would not stop pounding on them just because some people demand that I 'move on". Not that there was much chance of that happening before, but there's absolutely none now.
Mostly though, he loved the game however and whenever it was played, be it youth or college or MLS – the Fire has lost a great, great freind – and of course the US national team. Nobody ever called him a soccer snob. He was every bit as likely to enjoy a well played U16 game as a USA qualifier. It was all soccer to him, and it was all good.
One of the few threads he ever started – and one of his last posts on BigSoccer – was a request for contributors TO A BIG TEN SOCCER THREAD.
I wasn't aware of it before yesterday, which was typical of him. Like many, many guys on these boards, I was the beneficiary of his prodigious use of the PM system, and we chatted about a couple Fire draftees just a week or so ago. He could have mentioned it then but chose not to.
Well I've seen it now and it will be my honor to try and live up to what he hoped it could be. It won't be anything like what it would have been with him pointing out how we were screwing it up, but we'll do our best.
A lot of people are saying this morning that they "didn't really know him" and indeed few people on BigSoccer even knew his real name.
But the thousands of people who have read Tim Ellisons' thoughts and appreciated his insights and shared his love of the game did indeed know him in the way that mattered most.
Keep one cold for me, old freind. I'll be along.