Our country is in such a state of disarray right now that I can’t ever remember the overall morale of the United States being so low - and I’ve been around six decades. Bernie Madoff is certainly one of the major causes, but as much as he is the poster boy for destroying people’s belief in one another, there are many other problems that are causing people to be on the verge of surrendering.
The reason people like him evoke such strong emotions in the general public is that they tear away at the fabric of what makes any group, organization, team, company or society function normally. They violate the people’s trust. How anyone could do - to many of his long-time friends, no less - what Madoff did, is pure evil. Does anybody really need 40 or 50 or 80 billion dollars or whatever the number is now? What, exactly, gets someone to do what this awful man did (and don’t think for one second he’s the only one who did it, or is still doing it)?
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum are people like Dan Brown, the recently retired Fresno State defensive coordinator who lost his two-year battle with brain cancer late Friday night. If ever there was a person you could unequivocably trust, that person was Dan Brown. As few, we hope, people like Madoff there are, unfortunately, the number of citizens like “Brownie” is equally as scarce.
Dan never looked at his glass as half-full. The way he acted, his glass was overflowing - and he was always trying to share some with you. He never met anyone who immediately didn’t become a friend. One of the wittiest people you’d ever come across, he loved exchanging quips and, if you ever got the best of him (which didn’t happen too often), he’d be the guy who’d laugh the loudest. A brilliant football mind, but infinitely better at dealing with others and getting what he knew across to them, he shunned the spotlight, was always self-deprecating and never accepted credit, instead making others feel as if they had as much (or more) to do with his success than he did.
Outside of football, he was the true role model for people, young and old, especially in an area this country is so sorely lacking - that of being the ideal family man. His childhood must have prepared him extremely well on the subject of how to get along with others, since Dan was one of 15 children. Maybe a tough way to grow up, but certainly a wonderful testing grounds for understanding the value of teamwork and also a sure-fire way to learn survival skills.
Dan and his wife, Mindy, had six children of their own and, although each one is unique, every one of the Brown clan oozes personality - obviously, an inherited trait. If you don’t get a hug from one of the Brown kids, it’s because they didn’t see you.
Brownie was also a fantastic golfer. We were paired up at a golf tournament once, which immediately rendered his winning it impossible because as soon as I took up golf, whoever was the worst golfer in the world, moved up one notch. It was an alternate shot format, so he’d crush a drive and I’d slice “our” second shot into the woods. He would make a miraculous recovery and, somehow, advance the ball to the middle of the fairway. I’d top it 5 yards or fly the green, or if I got it near the green, it would be buried in a sand trap. His shot would inevitably land about 4-5 feet from the hole. Naturally, I’d miss the short putt - and just to make things worse, I’d miss by an inch or two. He’d be forced to tap it in, meaning, not only did we waste his shot on a one inch putt - but I would have to tee it up to start the next hole. This went on, hole after hole.
While he was driving the cart (he thought, wisely, he’d better drive it) to find my ball - so he could get us out of trouble again, I blurted out, probably due to sheer embarrasment, “I swear, Brownie, I’ve never played this badly before.”
Without taking his eyes off the fairway, he simply said, “Oh, so you have played before.” Although he was a fierce competitor, his temperment was such that, once he saw who his partner was, he decided we’d have a good time and a lot of laughs. If only they gave a prize for that, we’d have blown away the competition.
There are certain people who, when you see them, automatically put a smile on your face. That describes Dan Brown perfectly. Brownie had a lasting, positive effect on everyone he met and the memory of knowing him gives me, and I have no doubt, everyone else as well, a warm feeling.
In one of the many books I’ve read or listened to, I found one line that sums up people like Dan Brown and Bernie Madoff:
“When you are gone, people will either be warmed by your memory, or relieved with your absence.”
Rest in peace, buddy. Not only are you now in a far better place, but that place just became far better as soon as you got there. �