His Name Was Marty Pena

Who will remember him? Well, I will. My friend Mary will. My fiancee will. His son will. Ben. I play pool in a league called the American Pool Players Association. It’s purely an amateur league, but we cheer for our teams and our friends with every bit the vigor that we cheer for our pro teams.

In the wake of the Jovan Belcher tragedy, there has been a glut of articles and blogs and what have you about the Chiefs persevering for a win against Carolina in the face of incredible adversity. And you know what? Good for them. Those guys needed that. They did not choose to end up in that situation, but they did what they needed to do. This may very well end up on ESPN’s next 30 for 30 series. Young man kills young woman. Young man kills self. Young man leaves friends and family devastated, wondering why. How? What could possibly bring a young man who overcame significant odds to be an NFL starter to commit such a heinous crime, and then the ultimate sin?

Nobody will ask those questions when it comes to Marty Pena. He was 54 years old. He was an avid pool player. He was a kind and gentle soul. People liked him, and they loved him.

On Thursday, November 29th, 2012, Marty Pena left the joint where he had played pool. On the way to his car, he had a heart attack. And then he died.

It’s always easy to say after someone dies, that everyone liked them. What a nice guy! What a good dude! Well, those aren’t just empty statements when it comes to Marty Pena. Admittedly, to call him “my friend” would probably be an overstatement. He was a guy that I ran into at pool league or pool league events several times a year. And he was also a guy who would yell really loudly, “Torsten!!!” when I walked into a place he already was, and subsequently deliver an enthusiastic, and occasionally painful, bear hug. It was impossible not to like the guy.

I know his real friends. Those that saw him more frequently than I did. They’re crushed. I’m crushed, because they are, and also because he treated me the same as he did them whenever he saw me.

Now that I’m well into this… whatever you want to call it, I’m not certain anymore what my goal was. I guess I wanted to put something on the internet, where all things are eternal for lack of a better word, to remind sports fans, the few that read our humble blog anyway, that people die all the time. Good people like Marty Pena.

I would not be surprised if information came out that Jovan Belcher was suffering from CTE, or something else that could cause a young man to do the things that he did. A successful young man, no less. And you know what, I’m really glad that Kansas City won today.

But the sad fact remains, Jovan Belcher’s death was his own choice. Marty Pena’s wasn’t. He was a guy, young by life expectancy’s standards, who really shouldn’t have gone so soon. Sure, he liked to enjoy some “aiming fluid,” or if things didn’t go so well as far as shot making goes, “excuse juice.” And, to be truthful, a few Marlboros. Maybe he was the architect of his own demise. But…

No buts. I’m just gonna miss this guy. I’m going to rue the fact that I only saw him and hung out with him as infrequently as I did. I’m going to feel a bit of pain every time I see his friends, one of whom I share a day job with. And I will take no solace in the fact that the angels are in good company with him, because I’m a selfish son of a bitch, and that’s how I operate.

Maybe Marty’s pool teams will win their matches this coming week. Maybe they won’t. But they’ll remember him. And not just for this week, or the next couple. For as long as they play pool in the APA. That’s just the kind of person and team mate that Marty was.

Grief is a weird thing. People deal with it in their own ways, but they’re really not in control of it. In a selfish way, I’m almost glad that I wasn’t closer with Marty on a personal level, because his passing has affected me profoundly anyway. On a human level, I wanted to put something out there. On the internet. Wherever. Because Marty’s death was not of his own choosing, and would never get any publicity regardless. But people need to know, Marty Pena was a good man. A sweet, kind, and gentle soul, who was taken from us too soon.

May God and the angels enjoy his company as much as we did here.

RIP Marty Pena.

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