Nostalgia and the Passing of Legends

As you are all too aware by now, the Padres, baseball and frankly the entire American community lost one of those people who the word “hero” was truly intended for. Of course, Jerry Coleman would hate to hear that word uttered next to his name. Wherever he is right now, I’m sure this past week has been unbelievably uncomfortable for him as the outpouring of emotion and praise has been a fountain that no one can turn off. And no one should.

In our tiny piece of the world here at Padres Public we’ve dedicated the week to Jerry Coleman and opened our pages to you guys to share your favorite Coleman anecdote. You guys didn’t disappoint. There are far too many to link to here, but take a look back over the past seven days on this site and you’ll be awash with great stories and memories of The Colonel.

I unfortunately don’t have a personal anecdote to share. But for once walking past him in a hallway, I’ve never met Jerry Coleman and it’s never been more clear what a loss that is than this week. My experience with The Colonel is like most fans’ experience. Via the radio and a big gold star hanging from the press box.

Jerry Coleman is nostalgia for me. Or better yet, his voice is nostalgia. Nostalgia is a funny thing. Mundane things can trigger it and suddenly you’re a kid again. A song you didn’t realize you cared about (Everclear’s “Electra Made Me Blind” is one in particular that suddenly transports me back to being 16 years old for some reason) or a smell or a movie scene. And it fills you with a euphoric feeling, though just as fleeting it devolves into melancholy.

For me, that’s what Jerry Coleman is. A piece of my childhood. Sure, I listened to him as an adult as he’d announce games over the radio while I bored my wife to death listening on long-ish car trips. But I don’t think back to those moments when I think of Jerry Coleman. I think of being a kid, pretending to be asleep but instead listening to the Padres sweep the Dodgers to win the division in 1996. I remember going to games at Jack Murphy Stadium and watching Bip Roberts make a great play at 2nd and whipping my head around with the rest of the crowd to wait for the star to come out.

Losing Jerry Coleman is a stark reminder that our idols are human, despite all evidence to the contrary that they are so much more. I remember when I heard Tony Gwynn was diagnosed with cancer and how taken aback I was by the news. The idea that he could die was something that never once crossed my mind. The same was true of Jerry Coleman. There’s an odd thing that occurs to even the most logical, educated amongst us. We know better, yet the notion that our heroes will not be here forever is still a bridge too far.

I’ll miss hearing Jerry Coleman this season. The broadcast will be a little “less” in some way. But then something will happen, and Teddy will drop that star, or someone will tell a story about one of Coleman’s┬ámalaprops. And that sting of nostalgia will hit. And I’ll be under my covers, pretending to sleep while listening to Padres baseball.

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