Today's memorial service for George Michael at the National Cathedral in Washington was a celebration befitting the man.
As the Reverend Campbell (Arch's wife) put it, George lived his life large, and the Cathedral at Wisconsin and Massachusetts Avenues is certainly that.
The remarks by Channel 4 anchor Jim Vance and Hall of Fame Coach Joe Gibbs were poignant, and revealed a lot about a man that many in the church likely knew only by his performance on television for 28 years.
As I've mentioned before, George and I became friends within a few weeks of his arrival in DC. For all of his identification with the Redskins, rodeo, and the Sports Machine, George was a baseball guy. No doubt about it.
He and I would speak on the phone with great regularity. He collected vintage photographs of players sliding into bases. He had thousands of them. They were one of his many life's passions. Sometimes he'd get some photos that lacked captions, and he'd overnight them to me to help put names to faces. I'd do the best I could and get them back to him.
After returning a batch to him several years ago, the phone rang. It was George.
"I got the pictures back. Nice job, but why didn't you finish?"
"I thought I did finish them. What do you mean?"
"You didn't ID the umpires."
"Umpires? I don't know umpires' faces from 75 years ago, George, other than Bill Klem and a couple of others. They all wore the same outfit and looked alike."
"You're killing me, Phil. You're supposed to know these things."
"Well, obviously, I don't know everything."
Later I found a book that had headshots of dozens of old umps and did a better job later on.
I'd always pestered George to put a book together of his better photos, but he questioned whether anyone would really be interested. I assured him that with his name on it, it would sell, but he had other irons in the fire.
Sometimes when George would call, I was out and my wife would answer the phone. He'd talk to her for several minutes. Sadly, she never got the chance to meet him face-to-face.
The DC area has been rich with great sportscasting: Warner Wolf, Glenn Brenner, and of course, George Michael. Local TV sports has taken a huge hit in recent years. It's not what it was, and will never be that again.
George Michael was the Little Richard of TV sportscasting: an originator, an innovator, copied but never equaled.