Whenever somebody dies, people tend to go overboard with posthumous praise. People become more virtuous, more friendly, more talented than they may have actually been in real life. And this is a good thing. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum, “Of the dead speak only good” as the saying goes. People should be remembered as fondly as possible, even if it means puffing them up a bit.
The thing is, you can’t do this with Bobby Rhine.
All the wonderful things you’ve been reading about him over the last few days . . . they’re absolutely true. He was one of those people. If you ever met him, just to say hello and shake his hand, you had his complete attention, and for that brief moment you were the most important person in the world. He was generous, kind, humble, funny, smart. He was all the virtues wrapped up in one smiling face. He was, without qualification, one of the finest people any of us has ever met.
I can’t claim to have been an intimate friend with the man, and I was just barely an acquaintance. But he made an impression on me that will never go away. And what I saw of him on the field and in the booth only serves to cement in my memory all of the good things about him.
Two quick stories.
After a gutting loss in the playoffs at Pizza Hut Park, Bobby walks all the way over to the Inferno section, after all the other players had gone off to the locker room. He shook every hand, spoke to every Infernite, apologized for disappointing us, wished us well, then made the long slow walk all the way back across the field. His posture and slow steps gave away his sincerity. It was a prime example of a class man acting with class. A gracious man being gracious. A generous man being generous. I’ll never forget that.
There was a pre-season scrimmage between FC Dallas and the as-yet unnamed Houston franchise. It was February, and it was freezing cold. Despite that, there were a dozen or so hardcore Inferno types watching, cheering and jeering and having a great time. The ball goes out of touch, right by the fence where we were all standing, and Bobby retrieves the ball for the throw-in. We give him a big cheer, naturally, and upon hearing it, looks over at us and realizes it’s the Inferno. He gets a big ol’ grin on his face and says, “Hey guys!”, then proceeds with the throw. It was one of the most charming, genuine, fun moments I’ve ever had at a Dallas game. Not one in a million professional athletes would have done something like that. But that was Bobby Rhine. He was the real deal.
People always use phrases like “died too early” or “gone too soon” during a time like this. And of course, it’s true. If the world wasn’t so absurd and senseless, Bobby would have been with us for years and years to come. But, on the other hand, I want to quote good old Seneca, one of the stoic philosophers, who said:
“As it is with a play, so it is with life—what matters is not how long the acting lasts, but how good it is.”
Bobby Rhine, though he wasn’t with us nearly long enough, certainly got things right while he was. You can’t say better than that about anyone.