It is incredibly rare to find people about whom no one has a bad word to say. We have all lost one such person, with the sad passing of Kevin Cadle. Whether it was his interaction with people on social media, his meeting with fans at NFL events, or in my case being lucky enough to speak with him on a podcast, Kevin’s sense of fun and enthusiasm always shone through. Words cannot adequately describe the sense of loss most UK based NFL fans are feeling at the moment.
Neil Reynolds, a man who spent more than few hours in Kevin’s company during their partnership fronting Sky’s NFL coverage, noted in a moving tribute that Kevin will never be remembered for his command of the intricacies of the Xs and Os of the modern game. But instead, because he treated the game as if it was something to be enjoyed. For those who came to the sport at a relatively advanced age (I didn’t start watching until I was approaching 20), Kevin and his sparring partner at the time Nick Halling guided me through my formative years, not by blinding me with what would have been incoherent babble about fire zones and trips packages (though I am sure that Nick could have done), but by pointing out how fun the game was. It was this partnership, and environment, that kept me coming back.
It may surprise some to know that Kevin was an astonishingly successful basketball coach in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s. Even though it was a different sport that many of us watched him present, the success that he had enjoyed earlier in his life never translated into insufferable ego. He spoke to us at home the same way he spoke with decorated guests who joined him, Nick and Neil. As fans of this wonderful sport. The mutual respect and dare I say it love that radiated whenever he and Cecil Martin spoke together was positively infectious. There were few more enjoyable traditions for me than the live Thanksgiving games, the breaks in which would be interspersed with one or other of these two attacking a turkey with gusto.
I remember watching the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII, the show now famous for Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction“. A mere split second after the word became better acquainted with a part of Janet’s anatomy only previously hinted at, the feed cut back to the Sky studio. There was Kevin, with a mischievous grin on his face, as he tried to explain away what had happened all the while professing a new found respect and admiration for Ms. Jackson. I wish I could find the clip.
Kevin very graciously gave up 20 minutes of his time in the week before Christmas in 2015 to speak to me on a former podcast of mine. He requested just before we were due to speak for a few minutes delay, which I was happy to allow. When we did speak a few minutes later, he revealed that he’d been at a speaking engagement in which he had to deliver a motivational speech. He answered all my questions with good humor, even when I asked how on earth a highly decorated basketball coach had ended up hosting American football on Sky. His answer, which he gave with a hearty laugh, was simple and succinct. “Because it’s fun!” So was talking with Kevin. The interview was over all too quickly, and he left me with the words “Keep doing what you do my man.”
As I have said, my interaction with Kevin Cadle was limited to a few tweets between us and a brief telephone call. In normal circumstances, this would hardly make us friends in the traditional sense. But in the way he spoke to people, or worded his tweets, or delivered short pep talks to his Facebook followers, Kevin showed an ability to make you feel, if just for a moment, that this wonderful man with so much to offer and do had decided that YOU were the most important person he could be dealing with at that moment, and he was happy to do so. UK based NFL fans have lost an icon, a man who is responsible in many ways for NFL fans in this country having regular season games at Wembley and Twickenham. For having two live games every sunday plus a tripleheader at Thanksgiving. For having countless NFL programs like America’s Game and A Football Life on Sky, as well as allowing the most devoted fans to be able to watch the NFL Draft. By having such a great host, Sky was able to attract and keep a captive audience, helping the sport grow in this country. For that, we should all be thankful.
Farewell Big Kev. I will keep doing what I do. My man.