Bob Frisk: The Daily Herald's social media before there was social media
To truly appreciate Bob Frisk and what he meant to high school sports and the Daily Herald, all you had to do was tag along with him to a game.
It didn't matter whether it was softball or baseball, basketball or football, track or volleyball. Whatever the sport, Bob would arrive on the scene and a variety of friends and acquaintances -- coaches, parents, scorekeepers, announcers, athletic directors, referees, officials, trainers and boosters -- would spot him and come over to say hi. And Bob always had a smile, a firm handshake and a friendly greeting. Former high school athletes often would take time during the event to say hello to "Mr. Frisk" and he would always want to know what they were doing, and how they were doing.
Before Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, Bob Frisk was our social media at the Daily Herald. No one was more connected. He knew everyone around high school sports, and everyone knew him. And many of those who had never met him felt they knew him -- and his beloved grandson -- through his insightful columns, which were often inspiring and always laced with a positive message.
Bob preferred to keep things simple. He had one sister, one wife, one daughter, one son-in-law, one grandson, and one place of work -- the Daily Herald, where he showed up every work day at 7 a.m. for 50 years until he retired in 2008. A creature of habits, he liked to call his daughter every Sunday, eat at the same restaurants, exercise at the same time, watch the same TV shows, and fill his schedule with high school games.
Even with that singular focus and discipline, however, he had many loves.
He loved old-time radio and books, spending many hours in libraries and bookstores. His home is filled with everything he could find on presidents, World War II, sports figures, great fiction and classics.
He loved Jack Benny, Bob Newhart, "Seinfeld," "Friday Night Lights" and Turner Classic Movies. Of course, "Hoosiers" remains at the top of his list, along with "Chariots of Fire," "Seabiscuit," "A League of Their Own," "Miracle" and so many other sports film classics.
He loved positive moments, and one part of his home is filled with trophies, plaques and other awards honoring his work as a writer and columnist. He loved being inducted into three high school Hall of Fame classes (Arlington, Barrington and Palatine), celebrating "Bob Frisk Day" in Arlington Heights, and being among the first inductees of the Distinguished Media Service Award given by the Illinois High School Association. Although he received too many awards to mention here, he cherished them all. Not as treasures to feed an ego, though. They were simply positive reminders of a life well lived.
He loved everything about high school sports. The teamwork and camaraderie, the bands and the cheer squads, the fight songs and the anthems. He loved the opening night of the football season, Homecoming games, holiday tournaments, the playoffs, state championships and senior nights.
Traditions also were very important to him. Attending the Wheeling Hardwood Classic, the old Sleigh Bells game at Arlington High, and witnessing the Palatine Relays for 60-plus years in a row were among his favorite traditions.
After he retired, he loved his routine of going to breakfast gatherings with former coaches every Monday and Tuesday at various restaurants. He looked forward to his Thursday night dinners with good friends Ken Grams and Doug Millstone, and Friday lunches with former colleague Dave Beery. I treasured our Saturday breakfasts each week, which he always began with this remark: "So, how's the family? Tell me about everyone."
We would talk about his family as well, and all of their interests, which expanded his views. When Susan and Tom graduated from Indiana University, Bob (a proud Illini grad) adopted the Hoosiers as his second Big Ten team. When they moved to Madison and became Badgers fans, he joined the fray as well. He would even watch games with the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks so he could have one more thing to talk about with them. And he proudly put on a Golden Gophers hat when his grandson began taking classes at the University of Minnesota. When it came to his family, he was a man for all seasons.
While he wrote many advice columns to his grandson, Bob cared about a lot of people. He reserved a special place in his heart for coaches, with Jean Walker and many of her contemporaries at the top of his list, along with his old track coach, Russ Attis. He so enjoyed walking the sidelines with former coaches Fred Lussow and Ron Ashley, and others.
Two of his favorite coaches from Hollywood provided him with quotes that lived up to Bob's standards for positive messages. As Coach Norman Dale in "Hoosiers" said: "If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don't care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we're gonna be winners."
Every athlete in Bob's eyes was a winner, and all it took was effort, as "Friday Night Lights" coach Eric Taylor reminded us with his favorite line: "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose."
Bob was our emcee for many high school sports banquets over the years, and he loved honoring the conference winners and state tournament champions. He told everyone in the crowd that this was a "feel good night," and a time for rivals to embrace and celebrate the season. And, as always, he would remind them that although they were among the best of the best, they couldn't have gotten there without their teammates, coaches and families. That night, he would remind them, they were all winners and, like him, they would never forget their high school years.
After every such occasion, Bob would marvel at the speeches given by the athletes, and the maturity they displayed. Every year, he would come away thinking our future was even brighter with the next generation. He was so grateful that the Paddock family invested so much time, attention and resources in to high school sports and the young people in our communities.
Today, Bob would want all of us to be happy and stay positive. Comfort his family, which he loved dearly, but celebrate his life and not mourn his death. After all, he probably would look on the positive side: he has reunited with the love of his life, his wife, and together they're sitting in the stands with the perfect seat to watch their grandson's life unfold.
So, smile and be positive today and the days ahead because I'm positive that we're all better for having known Bob Frisk.