If you live in Carroll County or had an affiliation with soccer (pick the level, he loved them all), you knew Bird Brown. He was the man who was quick to pour a beer for you after you left it all out on the field at a Wolves tournament. His team may have handed you a solid smackdown, but he was your friend and you were going to talk soccer over a cold beer ... whether you wanted to or not.
Bird, who passed away April 27, was the guy running drills at a club tryout and then the next minute, he was gone ... after letting you know he had to get back to Anne and the boys for dinner. Bird was the coach encouraging his high school players to execute plays flawlessly with his mom, sister, and Anne cheering from the bleachers. Bird was the guy running a tryout practice to assist the coaching staff with evaluations and team selection. Bird was the columnist who never shied away from writing his opinion. And yes, he was that nice guy who could be seen all over town helping his mom into a local restaurant. He doted over his mama. In fact, Bird doted on people and our community is better for having him, his passion, and energy.
On a Friday night in July of 2011, my husband (who was told by the labor and delivery nurses to go get some food) went to the deli that Bird and Anne owned. Bird saw the telling hospital bracelet around Jim’s wrist & knew our lives were about to change for the better. After all, he had three handsome boys and was so proud of them. Not only did Jim leave the deli with his dinner for the evening, Bird sent along a sandwich and a piece of key lime pie (my favorite) for after our boy arrived. He cared about friends and young families.
He looked out for his teams and wanted everyone to understand the beautiful game. He was quick to tell you that he fell in love with soccer when he lived in Brazil as a young child. He never stopped educating ... whether it was setting the roster to put the best team on the field or informing you how to make the perfect orange crush or telling many of us that our children should grow up with dogs. He had advice and you were going to hear it.
What happened when you made eye contact with Bird? You found yourself back on the soccer sideline coaching with a friend. I witnessed it all go down in the Safeway parking lot. I was in the car with two young boys. Bird made eye contact with Jim and the next thing I knew was that Jim was passionate about soccer again and he was submitting paperwork to coach the Westminster Owls alongside Bird that fall.
Bird recognized the sacrifices his volunteers gave to the team because he and his family had done it for years ... squeezing in a family meal before a varsity game or sneaking kisses from the kids right after the game so they could head home to bed. I forgave Bird for that “helluva” sales pitch he gave my husband in the Safeway parking lot because the confidence and passion for the game that was renewed in Jim made us a better team. Yep, I was and I am a big Bird fan.
Bird Brown was a huge part of many of our kids’ lives and it crushed us to tell them Coach Bird left us way to soon. But these kids are tough, like Bird.
Sure, we’re all going to shed tears on beautiful soccer game days when we miss him so much but I hope our community will be more like Bird. Dote on each other. Care for friends. Offer opportunities. And never forget ... family first.
Heidi Reigel writes from Westminster.