Arkush: John 'Moon' Mullin and I taught each other about Bears, NFL, life
Even at times like this when all 32 teams have "Gone Fishing" signs hanging on the doors and all are off on summer break, there are football stories, Bears stories we can tell and enjoy.
Most days, but not today.
Today we send my colleague and friend John "Moon" Mullin on his final journey to what has always been his eventual fate, to make heaven a better place, a task at which his success is guaranteed.
Moon died on Father's Day, 2½ years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Along with his beloved wife Carolyn, daughter Jenny, their extended family, a strong showing of McCaskey brothers and a veritable who's who in Chicago sports media, we celebrated his life and said our final goodbyes.
Brilliant chronicles of Moon's impact on journalism, the Bears, NFL and the human condition have already been offered by Melissa Isaacson in the Daily Herald and Dan Wiederer at the Tribune.
I'm not that talented and am here just to say my final goodbye to the guy that for most of the last 30 years was one of my best friends on the beat, and the one I respected the most.
It all started with the deep affection we shared for Platteville, Wis. Even in season and early in the offseason, we'd plot for our annual six-week summer camp.
There were nights we spent at Donisi's with almost the entire Bears roster, standing in the middle of it all with half of them getting sloppy drunk and Steve "Mongo" McMichael buying us beers and reminiscing about his retired buddy Hamp.
The Platteville Country Club and its roughly 5,600 yards of 18 holes carved out of farmland offers many warm memories
Moon loved golf, I hated it. But we'd sneak away two to four times a week between the morning and afternoon practices to chase the white ball.
That was because just being with Moon, experiencing his joy in the game, telling stories and swapping lies was always such a treat.
There were nights on the hill behind our dorm with a six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon and two big cigars -- I don't think either of us ever liked the stogies, but Bill Gleason and Ben Bentley made us do it -- wagering when Sherry Perry would show to sneak up the back steps of the players' dorm with a bucket of KFC for the "Fridge."
She always showed.
We made countless other special memories in Bourbonnais, Lake Forest, Soldier Field and press boxes across the country, but space only allows me one more, the most unforgettable of all.
After being neighbors in Deerfield for a very long time, John met Carolyn and moved out to Wauconda. About 20 months ago my wife Candace and I downsized and moved northwest, only to discover we were a seven-minute drive from the Mullins.
A year into his diagnosis, I had no idea how to act or what to expect, until I reached out and Moon said, "Well come on over and let's watch some 'Monday Night Football.' "
Other than a small oxygen tank and a buzz cut of his always thick and wavy silver hair, he was unchanged and undeterred while already past the expiration date given so many that suffer the same fate.
It led to not only regular time for Moon and I, with me becoming a conduit of sorts to the media room he clearly missed, but a few special evenings for the four of us that gave the girls each a new friend and shoulder.
And it allowed Candace and I to witness a couple with unimaginable courage and graduate degrees in unconditional love, lessons we will cherish forever.
As a journalist, football analyst, human and more than anything a friend, Moon was as good as it gets.
We just said our final goodbye a few hours ago, but I'll bet you anything he's already got his wings.