Mondays with BIG E
My great friend and long-time radio co-host Eric Walther, or Big E as he was affectionately known, passed away early Sunday morning and the radio air waves will never be the same. He was a gentle giant, on and off the airwaves. His laughter and wit was adored by listeners and his calm demeanor was admired by those who sat in with him. For one hour a week, we would go on air, sit down in our figurative Armchairs, and enter a unique world of sports on the Armchair Quarterbacks Radio Show.
Whether doing the LIVE sports talk shows (on WGNS Murfreesboro, Tennessee, WAOC St. Augustine-Jacksonville, Florida) or the soccer specific podcasts, Big E always shined as the ultimate comedy straight man.
I could throw anything at him, serious topics or not, and he would use his cat-like intellectual reflexes to go toe-to-toe with me every show. I respected that. It was rare. The chemistry, between Big E and all who came on with us, was flawless. He used a warm charm to make anyone feel like they were sitting on a bar stool and having a beer with a buddy, while we razzed each other over our favorite teams.
Big E and I graduated high school together in Nashville, Tennessee in the early 1990's. I looked at his and his cousin's family as an extended family. Still do to this day. We were roommates in college with a few other folks. We all would get together for the big games:
College Football; ‘The Game of the Century’ ( #1 FSU vs #2 Notre Dame in 1993)tops the list
Super Bowls and big NFL games ('90s Cowboys era)
NBA (Suns vs Bulls comes to mind)
and the NHL Finals ('94 Rangers run)
Eric’s jovial laughter could always be heard throughout the room. It was infectious to anyone around.
Over the next few years I fell out of touch with my old friend, but we reunited on the airwaves in 2003-2004 at WGNS Murfreesboro, TN. Every Saturday morning we spent and hour or so talking every sport there is. It’s what made Big E and I such a great team; we loved the entire world of sports. He would bring us closer to hockey and his family's love of Notre Dame in SEC country, and I’d try to show him and the listeners why my fan-hood stretched from the Alma matter of my Dad’s Florida State Seminoles, to the great game of baseball that my Mom and her family raised me on via New York City. We crossed barriers that showed folks it was ok to be a fan on air, and loudly support your favorite teams and hate your rivals, while still showing the rival fan respect and empathy when their team lost. Reminding listeners, from our experiences, that we’ve all had highs and lows, and the reasons why we are fans. It's all an emotional connection that usually begins with family. Big E and I used the theme of family to relate to listeners that grew up with their own unique stories and encouraged them to share.
After 2004 we drifted apart again. I moved quite a bit around the country. Working as a chef and other restaurant jobs, I never lost my passion for sports and sports talk radio. And never forgot the my great teammate Eric Walther. Big E was busy in his own right in raising a wonderful family, all the while still holding onto to his fandom and picking up English Premiere League Soccer as a rare 1st love in the world of sports for a guy born in the Midwest and living in Middle Tennessee. Unlike your average joe six pack who can’t name you 3-4 players on his favorite college or pro football team, Eric had become a true diehard fan and student and teacher of the game of soccer.
In 2014 I launched an idea of Armchair Quarterbacks Radio; sports talk radio by and for the every man. No 'experts' or analysts droning on about next gen stats. Just die-hard fans that wanted to let loose give their two cents without corporate structure. This was in Big E's wheelhouse. We began as a podcast as we assembled some of the great fans and personalities I had encountered in my travels. Big E was my first call. He contributed from time to time, when ever he had down time. Everyone involved always asked me 'why isn't Big E on more?'. He had a lot going on and had to step away once again, but Big E was able to rejoin The Armchair Quarterbacks in the fall of 2017.
At first, Eric and I did a weekly podcast on English Premiere Soccer. It eventually evolved into us covering the MLS, Olympics, all the way to ACC Women's regular season soccer. Soccer was the skeleton, but we would color outside the lines every show. It was my fault. I would get bored with 60 minutes of soccer talk, so I would get us off topic by driving into other sports, movies, tv, pop culture, history; you name it. Big E would always remind me to get back to topic as we laughed our way through another show. He had a rare talent and skill set, that made him a respected contributor on several topics. It made the show.
In 2018 The Armchair Quarterbacks went to a daily show. We continued the weekly podcast and began doing 1 hour a week together on LIVE radio too. Big E would get up early and meet me on air for a once a week conversation about Notre Dame, St. Louis Cardinals, Titans and EPL. I would always get us off track. We began Florida Man Fridays, primarily because to get Big E laughing was radio gold. He always thanked me for having him on the show, and the listeners for tuning in, but no matter how many times I reminded him, he never saw the big picture.
WE were the lucky ones.
I write this on Monday Night. The night I normally did our podcast together. I know he is somewhere thanking me for kind words and is humbled that so many people mourn the loss of such a kind and great man.
We are the lucky ones.
We are still around to share his memory.
We are the ones that benefited by his friendship.
We can still hear his laugh.
We can still see his smile.
We can still remember his humanity.
We can still learn from 'Big E' Eric Walther and maybe make this world a little better for everyone we meet.
The fact is our lives will never be the same. We will all grieve in our own way. Some will play his favorite music or think of the games he enjoyed playing with his kids. As for me, I'll never hear the Notre Dame Fight Song again with out thinking of Big E and the love of sports and life he shared with us one hour every week.
'Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame, Wake up the echoes calling her name, Send a volley cheer on high, Shake down the thunder from the sky, What though the odds be great or small, Old Notre Dame will win over all While her loyal sons are marching Onward to victory'
**Anyone who wants to listen to Big E's podcasts, they are all archived.
Download the Armchair Quarterbacks App on Apple or android and look under 'replay'. Any podcast labeled PARKING THE BUS or MONDAY NIGHT LIVE was a BIG E exclusive show. He was also on a bunch of the 'instant Replays' too. Usually on Fridays.
Also, on our Facebook page Armchair Quarterbacks APP, he was on several FACEBOOK LIVE SHOWS. He was on the monitor for all of them. He appeared 4 times the week before he passed away.**
*Armchair Quarterbacks Radio will try to honor his memory the best we can.
We will begin by naming our yearly contest/ award after Eric, so his memory will live on in the show.*