I remember back in the day before Bull Run was firing on all cylinders and reading UBFan and seeing the "handle" UBDropOut. My first thought was what a funny, honest, and quirky name to choose. Most people would not broadcast they dropped out but most people were not Mark. My first inclination seeing his 'handle' was to dismiss his posts. I assumed with that handle a vitriolic slant from his takes on the board.
My first assumption was so wrong.
As I read more and more of his posts, you saw a calming force and a uniting of the group. You saw the passion and knowledge Mark had for UB Athletics. Not just on football like me, but for all the of the sports. I am not sure exactly how it happened, but many of us from this site that are local decided to meet for a UB football game. I am pretty sure that BRJ and Vman were there as well. For the first time I was able to meet UBDropOut in person. I found him instantly to be funny, honest, and quirky. And right of the bat I loved him and his amazing wife Gayle. I witnessed first hand his passion and knowledge for UB Athletics. And I am sad to report the UB world lost its biggest fan this week.
Do you want to know how big of a UB fan Mark was? So much so that his son who graduated from Boston College ended up being the second biggest fan of UB sports. Matt is a true reflection of his Dad. If you have spent anytime at all here on BullRun, you have seen the tireless and passionate reporting not just on the big two sports but more on soccer, tennis, softball, rowing, and etc by Matt. This is where I had such admiration for the Gritzmacher family. What an amazing man to share a passion with his son. I envied Mark's relationship with Matt. The closeness and bond they had was beyond Father and Son. Matt has a maturity and great old soul to him and I saw where it came from. I saw the respect and love that the two had for each other. It was funny to me to get them all worked up. Throw out something I knew I was going to get under their skin and see the two of them with the same eye roll, the physical tightening of the shoulders, the 1,000 mile stare as they paused and waited until the right words appeared, and the zeal in which they would retort. Two peas in a pod. I enjoyed the banter with Mark. I enjoyed firing you up Mark and I am going to truly miss every second of it.
After I used every inch of the rules the first year of BRuWPEG, (I forgot what it was called the first year) I was able to crown myself champion. We can discuss the merits of that championship later and wish I could again over a beer with Mark. The first year I had no clue what I was doing and thought a contest would be fun and stir debate. I wanted to have a place where we guessed the scores and gave feedback. I had to brow beat Mark to join the second year. He was such a fan that he had a hard time picking ever against the Bulls (He was up there but not in the same category as DaveysBrew.) I finally wore him down and he joined. Then what happens? He wins. He takes the whole enchilada with a perfect pick on the second-to-last week. The real first champion of BRuWPEG. It's hard to win BRuWPEG and yes luck does play a factor but this shows how smart and tuned in Mark was with UB.
A fan buys and attends events, a true fan orders tickets for himself and then extra tickets. Mark knew the 2008 UB Football season could be special and it turned out to be very special. Mark purchased the family pack and bought an extra season ticket sheet to be able to keep and frame. Think about the book of tickets still connected. The Army comeback win, the hail mary win versus Temple, the "run" versus Bowling Green. Mark even bought a ticket for the MAC championship game but could not attend, and of course, was in Toronto for the International Bowl. Oh boy Mark, if we only knew how great that game was, you and I should have gone. Mark took that band of tickets to New Era and had it all signed by Turner Gill, Naaman Roosevelt, James Starks, and a number of other players. Where are these tickets? Mark proudly hung on his wall. That is amazing foresight and a dedicated fan. I have some amazing artifacts from the 2008 season. The ball that went through the uprights versus Army, an Ike Nduka signed game worn jersey, the gloves that Naaman wore when he caught the hail mary versus Temple, but I would trade all of those for the collection of signed tickets.
One of the highlights for Mark and Gayle were the trips taken to Cleveland for the Basketball MAC championships. And then last season. Mark just could not sit through another tourney in Cleveland only to head back east on the 90 not being champs this time. Mark decided the he would not go. Mark thought Bobby and the team will be much better next year. "I will go again next year," he vowed. What did Mark and Gayle do? They went, of course. That is what an amazing fan Mark was. And I whipped together a watch party at my friend's sports bar for the game against West Virginia. Who was the first to RSVP? Mark. I could not watch the game. I was pacing behind the pool table. Mark kept coming back and coaxing me to watch and enjoy. I am so glad he did.
I am so happy for Mark to be able to see a bowl game live in Toronto, UB dancing thrice in March, various other MAC Championships, including the amazing 2015 run of the Women's Soccer team, which he got to enjoy with Matt while Matt was living in Buffalo. I am glad that Mark made a vow to always go to Cleveland. It puts a smile on my face knowing he saw both the men's and women's basketball teams win. It is times like this where you you squeeze your wife a little harder, force your kids to hug you, and tell them how much you love them. Mark was young. He was 49. Mark was dealt a tough break with multiple physical issues all his life. But he never complained and was a ball of energy. Mark bought a boat and I wanted to have him stop by and park his boat and the end of my dock and have beer with me. Watch the water and the boats float by and I can rile him up on some UB topic. Chuckle as he would get all worked up. Shame on me for not making that happen. I will miss you Mark. But I also want to thank you for allowing me to be your friend.
RIP Mark Gritzmacher. Horns up!
From Tim Riordan:
Mark was one of the warmer and more thoughtful UB community members I ever had the pleasure of interacting with. In any forum where Mark was a community member I looked forward to seeing what he had to say. He will be missed by everyone who ever was blessed enough to cross his path.
As a father of very young kids I hope that I do half as well maintaining as healthy a relationship with my kids as Mark did with his sons.