For the second time in just a little more than a year, one of Northern Illinois Sports Beat’s prominent message board posters has died.
The man known as “Mr. High School Guru” passed away late December. I knew this man personally, and went on a few car rides together to basketball games. People on my message board knew him as being based in Winnebago, and often knowing more about the Rockford-area football, basketball and baseball scene better than most other people.
“Guru”, as I will call him, helped make my message board popular when he came over in 2010. That led to an influx of people from the Stateline area coming aboard, and the board was filled with discussion both positive and negative. “Guru” would often come to blows with many posters, including myself, providing not just facts but insults that would make the person he was arguing with feel intimidated.
I know, such an awful thing for me to write after the man passed, but in coming to know him, the things he posted was simply an extended love for the high school sports scene he kept watch over.
We met at one of the Rock Falls Shootouts, and he was someone whom I had to talk to whenever I was seeing a Winnebago game – or any other big Stateline football or basketball game (as well as “Donnie” Rose, who is the other member of the boards that passed, in December of 2014). He introduced me to a lot inside of the Stateline scene, and in return, I opened him up to some of the other areas that I covered on NISB, such as the Western Big 6 and the Little 10.
When Newark and Hinckley-Big Rock’s boys teams were good, I convinced him to come down to the Plano Christmas Classic with me to see how they stacked with the other small teams he’s seen.
I kept telling him that he had to see Rock Island’s Chasson Randle play. So the two of us, and a buddy of his, took a van from Winnebago to Chicago to see the City-Suburban Shootout that year at the UIC Pavillion. Rock Island was playing Morgan Park and Wayne Blackshear at that event. That game followed a two-point game between Proviso East and Lyons. After Morgan Park beat Rocky, Simeon (Jabari Parker) and Benet Academy (Frank Kaminski) played in an epic game. Simeon was ranked No. 2 in the nation at that time, and Benet was No. 24. Benet pulled off the close win.
When the three of us got back to our van, I asked Guru how this event compared with some of the other ones he had been to. “Best ever,” he said right away, flatly, loud, and proud.
We drove down to Peoria the year Auburn took third in Class 4A, and watched Simeon and Proviso East duke it out in the 4A title game. That was also the year Peoria High played in the finals, and they had this larger old fellow with a booming voice. This guy’s cry of “LIOOOOOOOOOOONS” was loud and distinct enough to catch “Guru’s attention. The two talked for a little bit, before Guru convinced me to shoot a picture of the guy cheering, and offered me $20 if I posted it on NISB with a bubble caption. It was also at the State Finals where he introduced me to Flash Flanagan (who has also recently passed), a Chicago-area scout and one of the many State Final must-talk-tos while down there.
That’s the last time we spent any considerable time together, as him and I got into a big argument over that summer and cut off contact.
I saw “Guru” at a couple more events, but we kept our distance. Since working for SVM, I don’t get up to the Stateline area much, and I think the last time I saw him was at one of the State Finals in Peoria.
When we knew each other, “Guru” would sometimes share his personal stories with me, as long as I didn’t tell anyone. He, like a lot of us, had our vices. I’m going to keep my lips sealed, but what I can reveal is that it didn’t take long for me to put one and one together: High school sports was an escape.
“Guru” and I had our disagreements and spats, but I have never, and will not, question his love for high school sports. There aren’t many non-biased fans like him out there these days. Despite whatever I knew he went through, his passion for high school sports, regardless if it was Winnebago, Auburn, Boylan or Lutheran, or whomever, is something that a lot of the players and coaches that he got to know should be thankful for.
(I’m choosing not to reveal the name of “Guru” as he never wanted his true identity to be revealed publicly on the message board. However, it came to be an open secret as to what his name is. For those who know who I’m talking about, yep, that’s him. If you don’t know, don’t go through the trouble trying to figure it out.)