The obituaries are a strange place. Nobody wants to wind up there, only it’s inevitable. There’s no prejudice; no nods to age or race or gender or class. We live, we die. It’s all sorta random.
Two minutes ago I clicked on the New York Times obit section and learned—shockingly—that Dwayne Schintzius has passed. The former basketball player, best remembered from his fantastic career at the University of Florida, was only 43, and died of complications of a failed bone-marrow transplant. He had had leukemia.
I can’t say I was friends with Schintzius, or even really knew him. As a baller, I mainly think of him as a mediocre Nets big man for a year or two. Those who follow the NBA would classify Schintzius as they would so many here-today-gone-tomorrow players. He was Mike Brown and Tod Murphy and Granville Waiters. Good, OK, ultimately forgettable.
That said, I have a story. About five years ago, while working on Boys Will Be Boys, I called the offices of a former Cowboys lineman named Crawford Ker. The person who picked up the phone was a man—”Mr. Ker’s” executive assistant.” He asked if I wanted to leave a message, and identified himself as “Dwayne. Dwayne Schintzius.”
“Uh … the Schintzius who played at Florida?”
We spoke for a bit. He was trying to get post-NBA real-world work experience, and thusly found himself working for Ker. It was only 10 minutes on the phone, but I came away thinking that here was a man who clearly had his head on right. He wanted to make it away from sports; wanted to get far away from the world that defined him.
I don’t know how it ultimately worked out. But I’m truly sad to hear of his passing.