Consider this an open letter to Cleveland Cavaliers fans.
As a marketing and advertising man living in Wheeling, W.Va., perhaps it’s not my place to address the group.
But allow me to recreate a moment.
One of 17 years ago.
One that will give you insight into your new coach.
See, I was a sports writer for 38 years before joining Wheelhouse Creative here in Wheeling. And the majority of my coverage centered on West Virginia University football and basketball.
Now, if you’re reading this, I assume you know new Cavs coach John Beilein worked wonders with the Mountaineers before his terrific run at Michigan. In Morgantown, there was an Elite Eight appearance. There was a Sweet 16 appearance and an NIT championship. His teams collectively were 104-60.
Yet that’s not what I most remember about John Beilein.
What I most remember is a single length of Planck time that will always stick with me. It was a few minutes with Beilein after the events of Nov. 26, 2002.
Which was the day my daughter died.
Camille Gabriella Vingle was born June 1, 2002, and brought sunshine to all that saw or held her. I called her my lighthouse because of the way she lit up when Daddy came into view. She had my heart.
Yet on her four-month checkup, we learned Camille had acute spinal muscular atrophy. If you haven’t heard of SMA, well, you’ve probably known a family that’s been touched by the disease. It’s the most common fatal neuromuscular disease diagnosed in children under the age of 18. It’s commonly mistaken for SIDS.
So on Nov. 26 of 2002, we laid Camille to rest just short of six months of age.
To say it was devastating is an understatement of vast proportion. A friend said after the funeral I looked like I’d been through war.
It was then, however, I had to battle. I had to fight. And one that helped me through was John Beilein.
After a couple weeks off work at the Charleston Gazette, I stumbled back. I was mostly in a daze but Beilein asked me into his office at WVU’s Coliseum.
And it was there we prayed.
In his office, he’d marked a passage from a copy of “My Daily Bread.” (“It’s the last one I have,” I remember him saying before giving me that copy.)
He understood I was carrying a heavy burden of loss and anger. How could God take my little girl? Couldn‘t he have taken me instead? What kind of God would take such a sweet, helpless wonder away?
So Beilein went to Chapter 54: Temptations against faith.
“Lord, If there are so many things here on earth which I cannot understand, how can I understand heavenly things? Human reason is weak and limited. It can be so easily deceived but true faith can never be deceived. Such faith depends on Your word, and Your word is Truth. If Your works were such that they could easily be understood by puny human reason, they could hardly be called wonderful and divine. As long as I know that You speak through Your Church, I shall never doubt what She tells me.”
It was at lease salve for the gaping wound. His concern for my well-being, his words in those few minutes helped.
So yeah, you can look at John’s UM Final Fours and Big Ten titles. You can listen to those who praise him as a coach – for they know well of what they speak. He’s a terrific coach. He’s meticulous. It’s never mattered at which level he’s coached, he’s succeeded.
As for me, though, I’m a new Cleveland Cavaliers fan because of the man behind the championships, the achievements and victories.
The man I saw behind the scenes.
The man I broke “My Daily Bread” with.
Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle. Those interested in Wheelhouse Creative’s marketing and advertising services are asked to call 304-905-6005.