My Corner, Your Corner: Reflecting on time spent with a living legend

My Corner, Your Corner - Tony Callaio | August 28th, 2015 11:24 am

Sunday, Sept. 6, will be a special day for Arthur Worth Collins Jr.

Arthur is not a Greater Pittstonian and, to my knowledge, he’s never set foot in northeastern Pennsylvania. But he is known to millions of people all over the world.

He is an American journalist, broadcasting pioneer, author of several books, and has been inducted in not one, but two Halls of Fame – the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame and the International Tennis Hall of Fame. I’m speaking of none other than Bud Collins.

Bud Collins may not be a household name, but in the Boston area where he has written for the Boston Herald, mainly the Boston Globe, is best known for his work in the professional tennis world globally.

Bud, who turned 86 years young in June, is receiving a great honor next Sunday in Flushing, New York, the site of the U.S. Tennis Open, as the United States Tennis Association (USTA) will honor him by naming the media center after him. From now on, the media center will be known as the “Bud Collins U.S. Open Media Center.” That’s quite an honor.

For several years, I had the privilege of working at a women’s professional tennis tournament in Charleston, South Carolina, called The Family Circle Cup where I wrote, photographed, escorted pro tennis players to appearances, handled center court video coverage and other duties over an 11-day period each spring.

In 2008, Bud was hired by the event to be the master of ceremonies for the week-long tournament. The tournament was host to top world-class players like Maria Sharapova, Venus and Serena Williams and Carolina Wozniacki. I had the honor of being Bud’s handler for the entire week — meaning I worked side-by-side him every day.

I only knew Bud as the guy on TV, the guy with the extremely loud pants made from crazy prints that became one of his signatures. At times, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. After all, I was with a legend not only in the sport of tennis, but in the world of broadcast and print journalism.

Bud’s knowledge of sports, tennis in particular, was astounding. His mind was sharp as a tack and his delivery was unique. He has written six books on tennis including, “The Bud Collins History of Tennis,” a copy of which he personalized for me. I was thrilled.

Anita, Bud’s wife, is an absolute delight and quite the accomplished photographer. She’s part Italian, so between photography, tennis and our heritage, we had a lot to talk about. She recalled having “polenta on the board” which cornmeal-based Italian tradition that my mother also prepared for us many years ago.

The first thing I noted about Bud was that he graduated high school in 1947, the same year as my dad. They also were one month apart in age. While together, Bud and I shared tennis stories and opinions. But we shared one other thing — we are both victims of prostate cancer. Even though Bud is a public figure, I never knew he had cancer. It took me by surprise. I can recall the conversation vividly when I shuttled him in a golf cart to his next appearance in Charleston.

Between the cancer, the proximity in age with my late dad and tennis, I felt a bond with Bud Collins. We both spoke of our experience with the dreaded disease and how it seems to be on the rise. Testing is being done more vigorously now than ever before. The cancer is caught earlier and being treated with high success rates of survival.

Even though Sept. 6 will be a special day for Bud at the U.S. Open, it’s sort of bittersweet to go back to Flushing. In 2011, Bud took a terrible tumble while at the U.S. Open suffering a quad rupture, torn at both ends of his leg. He had numerous surgeries to repair the damage.

I’ll be glad to see Bud’s day in the sun at the Open. Even though he’s been the recipient of many honors and accolades, something tells me the naming of the media center will top the cake.

Congrats, Bud, and thank you for the special time I spent with you and Anita in Charleston.

Quote of the week

“If God wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Thought of the week

“If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” - Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Bumper sticker

“Love forbids you not to love.” – Umberto Giodano

My Corner, Your Corner

Tony Callaio

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