Last summer I wrote a column about my father's prostate cancer. Somewhere in an avalanche of sports questions he matter-of-factly slipped me the news of his cancer. It was typical of the way my father and I communicate.
The first person to call me after that day's newspaper hit the streets was Pete Gross. He told me the column reminded him of similar experiences he had with his father, growing up in the San Francisco Bay area.
Trips to Kezar Stadium for football. Seals Stadium for baseball. Mornings talking sports over breakfast and the San Francisco Chronicle. Pete and I shared the same feelings about our fathers.
Most important, however, Pete was calling to ask about my father. He offered his best wishes and a piece of valuable, unobtrusive advice.
"Tell him to keep busy," Pete said.
It was a warm, reassuring conversation with a truly remarkable man. It was almost a definition of Pete Gross.
For more than four years Pete has been living with liver cancer. Through the energy-sapping chemotherapy, the monotonous trips to the hospital, the ebbing and flowing of pain, Pete has maintained his enthusiasm for life. He has kept his optimism. And he has kept busy.
Tomorrow night he will be given an award that he richly deserves. He will be inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor, joining former players Jim Zorn, Steve Largent and Dave Brown.
Last week, Pete said he was surprised his name would be linked with such superb athletes.
He shouldn't be surprised. Pete belongs.
He is the consummate professional. Turn on the radio in the midst of a Seahawks game and in mere minutes, Pete will tell you what has happened. He is accurate and entertaining.
How many times have you turned down the sound on the television to listen Pete call the game? Be honest. Most weeks? Every week?
Even in the press box on home Sundays, sports writers have their radios tuned to Pete. We pilfer pieces of information that reappear in Monday's papers. We know that Pete speaks the truth.
Nobody in the franchise's 17 years is more identifiable with the Seahawks than Pete Gross. Through the early days, to the playoff days, to the struggles of this season, Pete's pitch has been as much a part of autumns in the Northwest as the turning leaves, the snow-brushed mountains and the cozy evening rain squalls.
Like Kenny Easley on a must-win Sunday afternoon, he has played in pain with Pro Bowl efficiency. Despite the cancer and the chemo, Pete has pushed, like a veteran running back coming off an injury, somehow finding the strength to play on Sunday.
There have been days this season when, if we felt as he did, we would have called in sick and stayed in bed. Pete went to work.
He wants the work. He loves it. Whether it is Dallas, or Los Angeles or Foxboro; whether it is an AFC championship game, or another weekend in a long, losing season, Pete wants to be there.
Pete belongs. In the booth, on the air, among the Seahawks elite.
"Touchdown, Seahawks!" Pete hasn't made that distinctive call often this season. But think about the touchdowns through the years. Dave Krieg finding Largent on a post pattern. Curt Warner breaking tackles. Efren Herrera catching Zorn's pass in the razzle-dazzle early years.
Pete made those calls.
"Touchdown Seahawks!" Has there ever been a sweeter call in Seattle sports?
Just as impressive as Pete the professional, is Pete the person. In a business where bloated egos often fit uncomfortably into cramped broadcast booths, Pete remains himself. The guy you hear on the radio is the guy you meet at the mall.
I doubt if you could hear a discouraging word anywhere about Pete. How many people in this business can say that?
Pete talks frankly about his cancer. The straightforward way he has approached his illness is rife with lessons for all of us.
Liver cancer is a relentless, insidious demon. Pete is fighting for his life. It would be easy tomorrow night for all of us to be saddened and wistful and angry.
But this night is meant to celebrate an extraordinary man. This is a night to be thankful we can know and enjoy Pete Gross. It is a night to express our thanks. A night for us to let him know how much he means to all of us.
The Ring of Honor?
You bet Pete belongs.