April 7 - Goodbye, Smokey
For the last 26 years, one constant in my life that I had come to rely on was the fact that Tom (Smokey)
Wiscarz would be sitting not far from me at the Chicago Bulls games. For the last 25 of those years, he
was our clock operator and once ran off 852 consecutive home games which spanned Michael Jordan’s
entire Bull’s career. He could say that he personally put each one of Michael’s points on the board at the
Chicago Stadium and the United Center.
I met Smokey when I was a grizzled veteran of one year with the Bulls’ scoring crew and asked to show
him the ropes in his new position of “extra body”. He had been added to the Bulls’ scorer’s table staff by
his college friend Brian McIntyre who was starting his first year as Bulls’ PR Director. The next year,
Smokey became our clock operator.
For me, Smokey was a part of my life that went beyond the basketball arena. He was someone who had
friends everywhere and knew everyone. Far too many nights, I came home much too late and far too
many mornings, I felt much too ill because of Smokey insisting on us having a couple more.
The memories of 26 years are very strong. I introduced Smokey to his first strip joint in Portland during
the 1992 NBA Finals and then he decided to try to go to every one in the city during our week stay there.
We also climbed the mountain peak opposite Mt. St. Helens and took each other’s pictures overlooking
the crater on one side and Shadow Lake on the other.
We conned our way into a restricted navy based during the finals in Seattle in 1996 by calling and telling
them that we were “with the Bulls” and wanted to see the nuclear subs. The look on the officer’s faces
when the middle age stat crew emerged from the van instead of the expected Michael Jordan, Scottie
Pippen and Dennis Rodman was a picture I wish I had. We did get our tour of the sub.
We drove 150 miles at 2 in the morning to get some “real beer” in Nevada because we could only get 3:
2 beer in Utah during the 1997 NBA Finals. We once were nearly arrested for going around a line of 200
cars trying to get into a parking lot for a Bulls’ exhibition game at a high school in suburban Chicago
because we were late. A police officer jumped in front of our car and said asked Smokey, “What do you
think; they can’t start the game without you?” I just rode his coattails on that one.
Five years ago, Smokey was diagnosed with colon cancer. He did not plan to let it beat him and fought a
great fight. He missed a game here and there when the chemo treatments wore him down. Last fall we
got together for lunch before the start of the basketball season and reminisced about all we had seen
and done in our years of basketball. By the time we finished with our meal and our stories, the
restaurant had emptied and I was late for work. I paid for the meal and Smokey promised he would get
the next one.
The Bulls season started poorly and Smokey’s health mirrored their play. By Thanksgiving, he had
worked his last game and entered the hospital. While the Bulls play turned around and the season
became one of excitement and hope, Smokey slipped further away. He passed away on March 7th, just
before tip-off of our game with Milwaukee. I plan to hold him to that meal he owes me and I hope he’s
looking for a good place to take me!