I am in a state of complete shock so I apologize if the words that I type do not appear on your screens as they do in my heart. Today the world is a worse place. In small and in profound ways, in places near and far, in real life and on the internet. Because there are few places fatty fat fat, fatty4ksu, fatty, fats, fff, or Shwan ventured where he did not touch someone. His family has read and continues to read the words of grief and support for fatty across big 12 message boards.
I grew close to Shwan when I moved across the street from him on Little Kitten in Manhattan. We would meet each other in the street by the mailbox and talk for minutes or an hour or two before we went in from school or at night after playing in the neighborhood. We talked about everything, which was for the most part sports. He was consumed with them. Not just Kansas State sports, but everything.
He loved hockey. Shwan was a huge Toronto Maple Leafs fan, and I followed the Detroit Red Wings. We played hockey in the street and argued over who was better: Mats Sundin or Steve Yzerman? CuJo or Dominic Hasek? Keep in mind that during this time the Red Wings had rattled off two Stanley Cups (back-to-back '97, '98) and then went on for a third before losing in the Conference Finals against the Avs. Despite this, I was unable to win any debate with Shwan over which team was better because apparently, in 1963 and 1964 Toronto won back-to-back Stanley Cups by defeating the Red Wings. As good as Shwan was with numbers, I was bad. He would relentlessly exploit this weakness in all of our arguments and I would walk home, bested again by human google.
His brain had reams of statistics, dates, U2 and Led Zepplin songs, Seinfeld and Simpsons episodes and Kansas State trivia. He, on command, would recite in reverse chronological order every Kansas State football score from current to 1996. Before that he knew some, but it pre-dated his family's move to Manhattan and his adoption of Kansas State as his favorite team. He would challenge other people of all ages who dared to call themselves a fan of a team to a trivia competition. After he graduated college it was good natured, but in high school? You would watch people disintegrate as he peppered them with jabs of trivia, correcting fans about their own teams. At the end of the interrogation he would always crack a smile and give out praise to the fan. Then as we walked away, he would quietly share his judgement with me.
In K-State, Shwan found a reflection of his best self. A plucky, noisy, underdog punching above its weight. He reveled in this identity and it became intertwined with his own. It was no mixture my friend. No, no. This was a solution and Shwan was like water, a readily available solvent ready to bond. Sports was the catalyst that so often linked Shwan to others.
Even though K-State had so many incredible wins, most of my best times with him were during losses. We went to more bad basketball games together than I can count and it was almost more fun to sit in the stands and laugh than it was to live and die with every tick of the clock during the football games. We would talk during timeouts and I could always crack him up with a well timed heckle. He fed me the line half the time, but he would still lose it when I pulled the trigger during a break in play or quiet moment. The highlight of this era was getting flipped off by Chris Mihm. I think the line went: "Chris Mihm? More like Chris Meh!"
Even if it were a particularly painful loss I could usually get him with a well timed (good) Jim Rome impression or (bad) Kevin Keitzman impression. He loved the manipulation of words and how narrative could be sculpted. He always had talking points and was never afraid to raise his voice in joy or frustration.
Today, I mourn the death of an artist. He was a digital, sports obsessed, Andy Warhol. Remixing sports cliches and common phrases in a most uncommon and creative way. And that was just the posting. Speaking of which, he defined an entire genre and elevated it to a new plane. He was at his best when he would push dry humor so far past the absurd that people had no ability to discern if these were the ravings of:
One of my personal favorites was the following zing on Stanford's Scout board:
Stanford ugly campus. sorry guys. it's too horizontal and taco "belly"
In addition to his tens of thousands of posts on God knows how many message boards, he obsessively recorded and filed Kansas State videos on his external hard drive. He recorded everything: local sports clips, sportscenter highlights, talking heads soundbites and the games (with both team's radio broadcasts and the telecast audio). He hustled to create a vast collection and the word "vast" does not do it justice. He was the Kansas State sports video clearinghouse. He would swap DVDs for VHS tapes, convert the VHS tapes to DVDs, then add them to his ever growing collection. From this database he would craft his youtubes.
The last chapters of Shwan's life were dominated by his family and his life offline. He was his brother's keeper. He dropped everything to move to California and be the Peggiest of the Po's. We talked more about life and we talked more infrequently as he was away, being a rock and a ray of sunshine. I am haunted by the distance that was only supposed to be temporary. I have a new house and a child on the way and he was just tickled by it. He would've been an unbelievable uncle to my children. He may be gone, but his videos will live forever and I plan to use his beautiful propaganda to raise my son emaw.
His brother's illness prompted him to make major changes in his life plans. He studied for the MCAT and was preparing to go to medical school. Always passionate, he had now found his mission in life. In one of our last conversations, Shwan needled me to call my mother more sharing that he spoke to his parents daily. He said: "Do you know who your mother would be thrilled to hear from? You. It would absolutely make her day."
In bad times and in good fatty was always ready to comfort, cajole or make me laugh. I have a million memories running through my mind now and they are overwhelming. I can't help but cry again when I think of his smile and his laugh. I think he said it best:
You know why else I want to win?
So good people can be happy. Just for a day.
Because good people deserve good things. Even if just for a day.