A few days ago the world lost a great soccer fan and I lost a friend. His name was Osmond, most of us called him Oz.
He was a Manchester United fan. Oz came by it naturally and was a fan long before this current run of fantastic seasons. He lived long enough to see the Red Devils finish at the top of the table again but died before their 3-1 loss to Barcelona.
Oz was also a Sporting Kansas City fan. We were roommates back in the beginning of MLS and he attended most of the Wiz and Wizards games over the first few years with me. We saw the good and the bad. We saw Mo, Preki, Miklos, Meola and all the other great and not so great Kansas City players that made those first few years so interesting. We watched from the club level so we could best see the runs, the positioning, the defensive shape and analyze every bit of team strategy we could.
We cheered through some great games and endured some stinkers but we never gave up.
Oz was also an avid fan of many other sports; hockey, baseball, volleyball, football and just about any other sport he could play or watch. Men, women or kids sports, we didn't care as long as it was competitive. We rooted for and against some of the same teams but we also had rivals in many sports (baseball and hockey especially). His sports knowledge was incredible. If you needed to know where the fifth round draft pick went to college, you could go to the internet or you could ask Oz.
Oz was the greatest athlete I have known. He did not play in the Olympics or a World Cup or professionally in any sport but he was such a natural that he excelled at every sport. If he had focused on one he might have played at a high level in one or even two sports. Limiting himself to one sport was not going to happen though, he loved playing and watching all of them.
I met Oz in the Marine Corps. We were stationed in Okinawa together. A typical day included Marine fitness training and long hot and humid days. Oz would get back to the barracks after work and immediately head to the gym. He would play a few games of basketball, lift some weights and then head to play softball or volleyball for a base team or maybe a pickup soccer game. When he finally ran out of competition he would voraciously plow through a book or two a night.
All that reading gave Oz a great amount of knowledge in a wide variety of areas as well, not just sports.
Oz was as insightful about life (at least for others) as he was about sports. It would be rare that you talked to him and he did not cut straight to the heart of the issue and give some great observations.
Nobody that knew Oz was untouched by him in some way.
Oz was born in England to Jamaican parents (hence the natural Manchester United love) and moved to New York when relatively young. Being in the Marine Corps and living in various parts of the country evened his accent out quite a bit. When people asked about his accent, I used to tell the story that it varied with how much he drank. Initially you could not discern where the accent came from but after a couple drinks he sounded like a New Yorker. After a few more he sounded English (not sure which version). A few more and he definitely sounded Jamaican and after a few more drinks nobody could understand him anyway.
He became ill a couple months ago. With no family in town his friends took great care of him. With helping him, I often did not have time to blog the last couple months and when I did have the time, I was exhausted physically and mentally.
We got Oz home for about a week before he died. He passed away peacefully in front of the TV turned to a soccer channel. Probably near the top of the list of ways he would have wanted to die.
I knew him for over 25 years. He was my daughters god father and was in my wedding. Oz is the reason I am even in Kansas City. There are far too many stories to share about Oz.
Oz my friend, you will be missed.
You are missed...
I will now try to get back in the swing of regular blogging...