The Tuba Man [photo via the Seattle Times]
I’ve been a little out of the loop when it comes to Seattle news, but I was shocked to read that Edward McMichael, better known as the Tuba Man to Seattleites, died last week due to injuries suffered during an Oct. 25th mugging by teenage thugs. From the Seattle Times:
McMichael, 53, died unexpectedly Monday, nine days after police say he was kicked and beaten by a group of juveniles near a bus stop in the 500 block of Mercer Street. Police have arrested two 15-year-olds in connection with the assault.
Earlier today, officials issued a public appeal for help from anyone who may have encountered the teenagers on the night of Oct. 25.
The Tuba Man’s death has led to an outpouring of sadness and anger from those whose encounters with him left a lasting impression. His brother, Kelsey “Bud” McMichael, is surprised by the impact Ed had on this city.
For twenty years, win or lose, rain or shine, the Tuba Man would play his horn. He was more than a fan, he was a fixture in the Seattle sports world.
Though most people only got to experience the Tuba Man in passing, I was lucky enough to actually get to sit next to him during a sporting event, and let me tell you, if you thought he was outgoing outside the stadium, you should have seen him without his 45 pound instrument holding him down.
The encounter came about six years ago. My dad and I were sitting in the bleacher seats watching the Sonics get pummeled by the visiting Lakers. We were considering leaving when sometime in the third quarter, the Tuba Man waltzed up to our section, checked his ticket, and sat down right next to me. Actually, he didn’t do much sitting at all. He spent most of the time performing his patented Tuba Man dance, which is basically just marching along to the beat any time music comes on over the loudspeaker. However, if you’ve attended a pro sporting event, this happens nearly every four seconds. I was getting tired just watching him.
I remember quite clearly the way he took in the game with a youthful exuberance; like each time he looked out onto the court it was like the first time he’d ever seen a live professional game. To him it was simple: cheer for the home team with all your heart no matter what. It didn’t matter that he was sitting in the back of the nosebleed section and his team is losing by 25 points. He screamed like he was in the front row. He cursed like he was sitting behind the visiting team’s bench. And when he marched – and man could he ever march – people marched with him.
That night in the Key Arena the game on the court was unremarkable in every way. As for my chance brush with the Tuba Man? Well, that will be impossible to forget.
Related Listening: “Horn” – Nick Drake