My memories of Chuck Muncie
Bobby Hacker is the VP of Business and Legal Affairs at FOX Sports.
For those of us that grew up with Chuck Muncie, there is so much more to say than what most news outlets have to offer, namely, a statement about his history in football, his legal troubles and his youth work. So, I guess there is no better time than now.
I met Chuck while we were students at Berkeley in the early 70’s. When I first met him I was a 5-8, 135-pound white kid with long hair from the San Fernando Valley and he was just a football player. Just your average 6-3, 225-pound chiseled black guy with a scruffy beard, an afro and thick black framed glasses; yes, before that was the look of the hipster. I recall that first meeting so clearly, Chuck with his 10 speed bike, wearing his overalls and hiking boots.
As we became friends I learned that he was lucky to walk, let alone be a stud athlete. As a child in Uniontown, PA he had been in an accident and was bed-ridden in a cast. But as with all great sports stories, he managed to walk and run, in football, in basketball (where he had been a high school All-American) and in track and field (besides being a sprinter, he was an old-school western hurdler high jumper). He ended up in a junior college to play football, and thankfully his coach Mike White moved home to Cal and Chuck followed him.
Chuck’s exploits on the field are facts that anyone can look up, but to have seen him play was something nobody that saw him could ever forget. How in his senior season did every team know that on the first play Cal was likely to run a 29 quick pitch, and yet Chuck could not be stopped? Those poor little defensive backs, as well as some pretty big linebackers tried, but when a man that size hit the corner and exploded into space, well, bodies definitely went flying, and usually backwards!
I remember watching the end of a spring practice, when Chuck raced Wesley Walker and Howard Strickland, who were part of Cal’s Pac-8 (yes, before 10 or 12) championship 4 x 100 relay team. If you all let your imaginations run wild or maybe even if you just want it to end like Roy Hobbs and that last pitch, you know what happened.
The general public might think they know all about Chuck and his problems with drugs and ultimately with the law. But trust me, those facts do not get close to the truth of Chuck’s greatest weakness. A combination of incredible generosity and a manic passion to make people happy may have caused him more problems than anything else. Who knows why he fought so hard to impress people? Was he insecure about being just a country boy that came to the city? Certainly, he trusted people and, more importantly, he believed in trusting people. Sadly, very few in this world are as loyal as Chuck was.
When he elected to rebuild his life, he did it by working with youth, particularly at-risk youth. His programs taught simple lessons like if you want something, let’s say a gang tattoo removed, then you owed the organization hours working on rehabilitating a facility that other kids would be able to enjoy. From there he went into running combines for high-school athletes and ultimately into production of high-school sports on the internet.
Chuck and I never lost touch. Oh, there were years we hardly heard from each other, but when we did reconnect it was warm, friendly and just like home. He was a man who many (not just me) believe that without the distraction of drugs, would have been among the greatest running backs ever. For me, he will always be the greatest natural athlete I ever met and my brother. My life, and I know the lives of many others will feel lessened by the lack of his physical presence, but he will always be with us. God rest your soul.