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One of a Kind

America lost a real hero, a true patriot and a selfless public servant yesterday.

John McCain was truly one of a kind. A prisoner of war who endured over five years of torture in Vietnam. A six-term Senator. A presidential candidate. A man who crossed the aisle to work with his Democratic colleagues. A man who always spoke his mind, tried to do the right thing, and placed country over party.

I was fortunate enough to meet and spend some time with Senator McCain at the 2012 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, the post-season game I ran for 14 years.

That year, our game matched Navy and Arizona State, and McCain had strong ties to both schools. He’d graduated from the Naval Academy and served in the Navy. He was a senator from Arizona, his library was housed on the Tempe campus, and he was a good friend of ASU president Michael Crow.

So we thought it might be appropriate to invite him to attend the game and handle the coin toss before the game. We were delighted when he accepted.

That year, the game was scheduled on Saturday, Dec. 29, and we had an early kickoff at 12:30. McCain originally was scheduled to fly in the night before, but because of a Senate vote he had to postpone his flight and flew in on the morning of the game.

He arrived at AT&T Park a half hour before kickoff and strode onto the field. He walked up to me, introduced himself and immediately began peppering me with questions about the game. They were well-informed questions…he’d obviously done his homework.

He then graciously posed for pictures with bowl dignitaries, game officials, sponsors, and the Navy mascot. He couldn’t have been more accommodating.

During the game, Senator McCain sat with the ASU president. I walked down to their suite and asked John if he’d mind coming down to meet the Bowl's Board of Directors. Once again, he couldn’t have been nicer and more gracious. Shaking hands, looking people in the eye, acting like he had all day, laughing and sharing anecdotes.

As I walked him to and from the suites, we stopped and chatted for awhile. He was so accessible and open, that I decided to take the opportunity to steer the subject to politics. He spoke of his goals for that legislative session, his long-term hopes for our country, and the difficulty he was having dealing with the “wacko” Tea Party types.

Although I didn’t vote for McCain—his choice of a running mate made that impossible—I always admired and respected him tremendously. After that day, even more.

I have great memories of our time together. And although I’m a Democrat, his photo hangs in my office. He was, quite simply, a great man.

May you rest in peace, Senator McCain. We may never see your likes again.

Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//

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