My friend Jeff Heatherington died last week at the age of 32 after a more than two-year battle with brain cancer. I went to college with Jeff, worked at TSN with him, and after that, lived in a frat house with him. There are many stories I could share about these experiences, absolutely none of which are appropriate for a newspaper. Like myself, Jeff wasn’t a big name in sports media, but for two years he lived a dream many of us aspire to — the chance to be a real sportswriter, which in this era of bean-counting can be akin to aspiring to be an astronaut. In 2002, he somehow managed to convince the management of TSN’s website to send him and friend Danny Celia to Florida (all paid) for spring training. While hopping from camp to camp doing stories (and going to bars), they came across Jose Canseco and his last-ditch attempt to stick with someone, the Montreal Expos.
Then-Yankee Roger Clemens was also quoted in this story, and in it he heaped praise upon his “trainer” at the time (who would turn out to be Brian McNamee) for shaping him and Canseco up.
We discovered this the other day when Dave Carroll, a co-worker from TSN, posted some of Jeff’s old stories on tsn.ca as a tribute. While it’s not much of a story now, we laughed that he was sitting on a major scoop. The funny part is, he was more nervous than anything talking to Canseco because he was a childhood fan of the Bash Brothers.
After losing his job in 2003, Jeff didn’t complain, instead deciding to become a personal trainer. He never complained about the brain tumour he was diagnosed with in 2006 either. Like he once said to me, he could handle the cancer, just not all the BS that went along with it.
And along the way, he taught me not to do as much of one of my favourite bad habits — complain.
– Read some of Jeff’s work here: Double Play: Remembering Jeff