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Rest In Peace, Big Dave: A Larger-Than-Life Sports Figure Says Goodbye

Mike Bernard (L) and “Big” Dave Thibodeaux (R) working at the LSU recruiting bash in February.

The official version of the following article will appear in tomorrow’s edition of the Acadiana Gazette and at http://www.acadianagazette.net/. It is written by Scott Brazda and edited by Steven Landry. Funeral arrangements for Dave are scheduled for this Friday from 7-11am at Pelliern funeral home in Breaux Bridge with the funeral following at St. Francis of Assisi.

VIEW FROM THE BENCH

By Scott Brazda

 

REST IN PEACE, BIG DAVE:

A LARGER-THAN-LIFE SPORTS FIGURE SAYS GOODBYE

   “Big Dave” Thibodeaux died last Friday at the age of 63.

Who was “Big Dave”, you ask?

Only the most colorful and most genuine radio broadcaster to ever, EVER sit behind a microphone in Acadiana….beyond compare.  No one was even close.

But Dave wasn’t a broadcaster, not really.  He wasn’t tainted by the business and the corporate foolishness like most of us in radio or television.  He wasn’t constrained by the chains that burden me when I’m wearing my media hats:   the need to be liked…. the need to be watched by or listened to… the need to be recognized….the need to perform….the need to be glib… the need to be “on”.

Big Dave was always…. Big Dave.

He was most definitely an acquired taste.  Truth be told, I wasn’t always a fan; in fact, it took me years to become one….to truly appreciate all that Big Dave brought to the local sports table.  I remember one of the first times I ever heard Big Dave; it was on a Friday night during prep football season and Dave, with my friend and old Teurlings classmate Mike Bernard, was broadcasting the St. Martin Parish Game of the Week.  His words?

“Man, when he puts one leg in front of the other… man, that cat’s movin’!!”

My reaction?  “Oh, my God.  Is this what broadcasting’s come to?  If so, then we are all doomed.”

He was no Scott Brazda, that’s for sure (and that was a very good thing).  The “I’s” weren’t all dotted, and the “t’s” weren’t all crossed, and his command of the King’s English had plenty of room for improvement.  He wasn’t in constant search of the right adverbs and adjectives to go with verbs and nouns that were also in the sentence.  He hadn’t memorized Robert’s Rules of Order, and he wasn’t locked into a rigid and pristine format.

Big Dave Thibodeaux was the real deal.

What you saw….was what you got.

No airs, no phoniness, just….. 100-percent Big Dave.

Here’s another one I caught on one of Town Square Media’s stations on a Friday night:  the set-up?  Big Dave and Mike doing a football game, where apparently a raucous crowd had taken over and was jumping up and down, and laughing and smiling and maybe fussing…. Right in front of Dave’s window in the press box.

   “Get down!!  Get down!!” Big Dave yelled at the fans, all the while pounding at the glass.  “Go on!!  Get down!!  Get out of the way!! Sit down!!”

   At which point my buddy Mike calmly reminded him there were other matters to attend to.  “Dave.  Dave.  We’re on the air, Dave.  We’re… on… the… air.”

   Broadcasting??  Big Dave couldn’t give a darn.  He was about enjoying the game, enjoying the sports moment… and telling the story to whomever was listening.  And if no one was listening, you got the feeling that was o.k., too.  He didn’t mind just taking in a game with his buddy, Mike ‘The Bandit’ Bernard, and if you, the fans, wanted to come along with him, all the better.

Mike was the steadying influence in the radio marriage; he did the play-by-play while Dave added the color commentary.  Mike got, or tried to get Big Dave back on track.  At times, it was like listening to a pair of bickering sisters.

   Big Dave:  “Why you hatin’ on the Yankees?”

   Mike:  “That’s not what I’m saying, Dave!!”

   Big Dave:  “No, you got a problem with the Yankees, and that don’t make no sense.”

   Mike:  “What I’m sayin’ is….”

   Big Dave:  “The winningest franchise in the history of sports, and you givin’ ‘em no respect.”

   Mike:  “Dave, would you listen?………….”

   But Big Dave was a businessman, make no mistake.  He was fiercely loyal to the many sponsors who paid for ad time, whether it was for a football or basketball game, or the weekly “Big Time Sports Talk” call-in show.  He wouldn’t just say, “Thanks to Buck and Johnny’s for their support”;  Big Dave would sing their praises, and paint a picture of a plate of food still sizzling, still with steam rising, full of flavor….. and you could picture Big Dave sitting behind that plate with a fork and a napkin.

A company’s support of his shows was a bond, and Big Dave didn’t take it lightly.  And you knew, you just knew….that Big Dave really ate at those places, or really banked at that bank, or really got his car fixed by that mechanic.

Big Dave cared, so deeply cared about helping and curing the societal ills that existed in Breaux Bridge and Parks and Cecilia and St. Martinville (although you know by now  that Big Dave wouldn’t use the words ‘societal ills’).  They were problems, pure and simple, and he was forever trying to get others on board to help him fix those problems.

I last saw Big Dave about three weeks ago in the ESPN-1420 studios in Lafayette.  I was finishing my weekly morning visit with Steve Peloquin, and Dave had come to chat with his other radio partner, Kevin Foote.  As was often the case, Big Dave brought the boudin and as we ate (“…have another piece, Scott…”) he pitched a philanthropic project at me, after which we talked of getting together and visiting the latest group he was trying to help.  That was Big Dave.  He brought the food, he brought the cause, then brought himself and his wonderful heart.

It was that big heart that gave out on Big Dave last week, not that Big Dave didn’t go down swinging.  He had battled a variety of health issues over the last few years, none of which…. Walking cane aside… ever seemed to really slow him down.

I’m sorry to say I didn’t know Big Dave very well.  But that being said, I feel like I DID know Big Dave well .   He put it all out there, each and every day.

He was true.  He was consistent.  He  was….

Genuine.

Babes

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