My angelic wife Lori used to raise service dogs.
When my spine failed and collapsed in February of 2008, she had to stop. She tried to take care of me—a most daunting challenge.
Because of Lori and the dogs, I have gotten to know the Boyd family from Redlands, California.
Andy and Caroline are the perfect California couple-- beautiful, healthy, athletic, totally into fitness, nutrition, family, faith, community, and everything good. They epitomize the dream of the Promised Land and the Golden State. Andy is a world-class athlete in multiple sports, despite being a bit on the petite side.
Their three children--- Chase, and the twin girls, Izzy and Zoe---are all angels. Everything was fine. The dreams of a young family were coming together and true. Then when Chase was just three years old, he was diagnosed with progressive muscular dystrophy.
Andy and Caroline did everything they could to mainstream Chase. They love him so. It is not easy to be disabled—on any level, or for anybody involved. We met The Boyds when Chase was 10 years old, when he got his first service dog---Silkie.
Chase, loves life. He does everything that he can to have a life, a life that is slowly being taken away from him. Chase has been in a wheelchair ever since I’ve known him. Chase needs help to do anything. He can’t scratch his own nose. His entire spine has been fused so that he can be strapped upright in his wheelchair. The hardware that is in his spine looks like a cooking rack at a giant Barbeque Restaurant. Andy and Caroline have to wake up every two hours during the night to turn Chase over in bed.
Yet there is never a word of complaint, unhappiness, anger, sadness, sorrow or bitterness from any of the Boyd family.
Chase has grown to love sports, and pretty girls. And he is as handsome and studly as can be.
Chase, like the rest of us, loves the Lakers. He never misses a game. He never misses an ESPN report on his guys---particularly Kobe, who he idolizes and lionizes. Andy and Caroline took Chase and their family and friends to a Laker game for Chase’s birthday party. When they got to their suite, our son Luke, was waiting inside the suite for them, before he had to go down to the court for the game. As everybody was gathering around Luke for autographs and pictures, Andy stepped to the back of the suite, and called me. It is to this day, the single most emotional and impactful phone call that I have ever received.
Chase fell in love with the genius, wit, wisdom and joy of Frank Caliendo. For another of Chase’s birthdays, we all went to see Frank do a show down in the desert, just outside of Palm Springs. Before the show, we went backstage to say hello, and Frank put on a private little show just for Chase.
When we went out to our seats, Frank built the whole public show around his best friend, Chase Boyd. Frank kept telling everybody how cool and wonderful Chase was, even though he was suffering mightily from multiple sclerosis. Those of us in the huge crowd, held our breath. Frank continued magnificently on, and at the end of the show, Frank told the entire crowd how proud and honored he was that his best friend, Chase Boyd, had come to this show to celebrate his birthday.
They put the spotlight on Chase; and Frank and Chase got an exceptionally-long standing ovation.
All week long, on his own Never Ending Tour, all over every ESPN platform, Frank kept telling the world about his new best friend, Chase Boyd, who was so cool, so fun, so smart, so nice, even though his body was being ravaged by multiple sclerosis.
As the week wore on, Andy, the ever vigilant, dutiful and proud dad, finally reached out to Frank, and said how grateful and appreciative everybody was for Frank’s tireless efforts to bring joy and put a smile on Chase’s face. But that Andy wanted Frank to know that Chase was suffering from muscular dystrophy, not multiple sclerosis.
Frank’s immediate response was, “Shoot, darn it. Hey, do you think that Chase can quickly get MS so that this whole thing still works.”
We have not stopped laughing—though the tears.
Chase would always reach out to me with these requests to engage in a dialogue about the biggest issues of the day in a young California boy’s life---like how the Lakers were the greatest franchise and team ever---and that the Celtics were frauds. He would argue endlessly about Kobe’s place in history—and how Michael Jordan and LeBron were just pretenders. Chase is brilliant. He should be working for ESPN. He knows his stuff. And he is willing to stand up for what he knows to be true—if he only could stand up.
Chase would always help me for my own shows. We would get on the phone and go over all my thoughts and positions before I went on the air. Like Maurice Lucas, Chase Boyd made me better than I ever could be on my own.
Chase would help me on my college broadcasts as well. And when I would go do a game at UCLA, Chase would come across Los Angeles and sit in his wheelchair next to me at our center-court broadcast position. During the breaks he would give me pointers like, “This guy can’t play. What’s he even on the team for?” or “This guy can’t coach. How does he have a job?”
This one game, during one of the timeouts, the UCLA cheerleaders are all out on the court, dancing and bouncing away, and everybody is having a real good time. I look over at Chase. He has his head and eyes down, buried in thought and in his notes about where to go next with the broadcast. I look back at the tantalizing action out on the floor, and then back to Chase, who is missing it all. I lean over and nudge him with my elbow, shaking him from his trance, focus and concentration. He looks over and up to me. I point to the real action on the court, now reaching a climatic and fevered pitch, with everybody totally in the groove being laid down by the UCLA Band. Chase broke into a huge grin. I leaned ever closer, and said, “College, Chase. It’s right around the corner for you. Here we are!”
And then the show was over and it was back to the game. As all the cheerleaders came bounding off the court, they ran right by us. They all stopped and kissed Chase. He was very, very happy.
Chase and I would often talk on the phone about his school-work and the projects that he was developing. Most recently he wanted my thoughts and opinion on a debate that he was having with his teachers and classmates. The subject was leadership. The topic was effective styles and accomplishments. They were comparing Abraham Lincoln and John Wooden. Chase wanted me to back him up in his position that Wooden was better, and had done more.
I told Chase that Coach Wooden and Lincoln were childhood friends, and that their relationship was not about rivalry, superiority and competition—but about making things better for others, the way that he, Chase, had done for me.
That was the last conversation of substance that Chase and I ever had. He passed away shortly thereafter---without a whimper, sigh, or complaint. His body just wouldn’t hold his powerful spirit, brain and heart up any longer.
Chase Boyd had outlived his projected life’s expectancy, by many years. That only surprised the people who didn’t know him.
We’ll always remember you, Chase. And our love for you will never fade away.