'How You Doing, Ske?'
With the ninth running of the Tim Selinske US Masters Championships beginning on Friday morning, we thought it best to give the disc golf world a quick refresher about who Tim Selinske was, how incredible of a person he was, how much he impacted disc golf, and how much of a loss the flying disc community felt as a whole when he passed. The following is a piece written by Dan "Stork" Roddick, PDGA #003, for the Fall 2009 issue of DiscGolfer Magazine. Stork used much of what is written below when he gave Tim's eulogy after his death in August 2009.
Remembering Tim Selinske
Tim Selinske, PDGA #2026 and Disc Golf Hall of Famer, participated in every PDGA Championship, beginning with the first one held in 1982. David Greenwell is the only other player to hold that distinction. Of course, both Tim and Dave were in Kansas City for the 2009 Worlds. Tim’s attendance this year’s Worlds was a demonstration of his tenacity as he had been struggling with illness for many months. But, his friends found him upbeat and optimistic at the event and were greatly encouraged that he was on the road to recovery. All of that came crashing down when only a few days later; this terrible news was posted on the Innova website:
On August 14th at 3 am California time, Tim Selinske passed away after a long battle with Langerhans' Cell Histiocytosis. He had been undergoing treatment for the last 8 months when his condition took a turn for the worse earlier this week.
Beginning with his days with the International Frisbee Association, and until his untimely death, Tim was a tireless promoter of disc sports in general and Disc Golf in particular. Tim was one of the four founding partners of INNOVA-Champion Discs and served as the company General Manager and spokesman.
Tim was a loving and dedicated family man. Engaging, warm, lovable, affable, friendly, loving, smiling, affirming, funny, fun loving and kind are some of the words that best describe Tim. Most of Tim's energy went into making other people happy or feel good about themselves. Almost everyone liked Tim because he was so quick to give a smile and encouragement to them.
He was a joyous smiling presence who seemed to be able to brighten the spirits of anyone around him. His great good humor, generosity of spirit and his boundless enthusiasm for Disc Golf and life made knowing him an honor and a privilege.
As the voice and face of Innova over the years, Tim's affability gave us a warm friendly persona that we cannot replace. The Frisbee family will miss him. Disc Golf will miss him. We were all richer for having known him. We will all be poorer for his passing. All of us will miss him more than words can tell.
He is survived by his wife, Sue and children, Connor, Kimberly and Kyle and brothers Tom and Joe, sister Mary and his mother Kathy.
Our thoughts are with them in this terribly sad time.
Innova Champion Discs - Dave Dunipace and Russell Schwarz
I was in Maui, just a few days after celebrating my son Tyler’s wedding when the news of Tim’s death came to me by e-mail. I was numb for days... truly unable to accept that it was true. It’s only now, weeks later that I can begin to contemplate what Tim meant to me. I know that many readers of this magazine knew Tim in one way or another, so I’ll share my thoughts, hoping that it will help you also make some sense of this great loss.
First of all… the guy was FUNNY. Not local, regional, or even national funny... He was world class hilarious! The voices…. The impressions… The sense of timing and memory for detail and dialog… Amazing. If we had gotten him a shot on Saturday Night Live (especially during some of the weaker seasons) he makes it. No, really… he does. There are lots of people earning money as comedians who aren’t even in it with Ske. I mean, head-to-head, Ske and Tom Arnold… Who do you like? My money’s on our boy.
Not everybody can be funny. Good comics are smart. To do it really well takes a special kind of social genius.
Ske could reach people. He had the two essential skills. He knew what they needed, AND he knew how to provide it. Most of us don’t have either of these abilities and very few have both. Our Ske was a minister. In fact, that's another path in life that he could have taken. Can't you imagine him with his own congregation? They'd love the guy! But, he didn’t go that way and thus became a Bishop in our own Frisbeetarian church.
And, he ministered to each of us. How often did it go this way when you ran into the guy?
"How you doing Ske?"
"Hey, how are YOU doin'?"
And, in just reading these words, you miss the warmth of his smile and that warm embrace. He wasn’t just asking. He really wanted to know.
Sure we all have friends, but Ske was off the chart. Social scientists study such things. If we graphed it out for all of us reading this piece (not unlikable people) the mean number of friends (not mean friends... the average) would be about 150. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar suggests that most people have about that number. Well… Ske is OFF Robin’s chart!
Can you imagine how many people in this world consider Tim as a real friend to them? It's staggering. We’re talking about thousands all across the globe.
Of course, he's been in good position for this his whole life. His first job, while he was in high school, was working at the Ice Cream Parlor in San Marino. Who doesn't love the guy who has the keys to the ice cream store? We'd get back late from an ultimate game and he'd open up for us. Oh my god… that was gooood ice cream. I guess they just didn't keep inventory back then. How he ever kept that job... Well, I guess he didn't...
Then I hired him... What was I thinking? I gave him the keys to all the Frisbees! So... he served as my point man for sales at the International Frisbee Association (IFA). We’d try to have a staff meeting and Tim was ALWAYS… on the phone. I would go back to his office to pry him loose and he would be in the middle of a deep conversation with some kid from Tennessee about which mold number Fastback would be best for MTA. I’d say, “Tim… Hang up and send him all three. We’re waiting for you!” Many life-long friendships started with one call to Ske at IFA.
And, then in 1983, when he, Dave, Harold and Charlie formed Innova, Tim became their public face for many more years to come, representing the company at trade shows, conferences and tournaments. At the memorial service, Harold described Ske as the heart of Innova and I’m certain that many others would agree.
So, Tim had some bully pulpits indeed. But, it's more than just the opportunity. He had that unique gift of connection. Even over the phone, you got it immediately. But, in remembering such an amazingly nice guy, one might be tempted to think he was a teddy bear. That would be a mistake. This was a steely competitor, whether it was a DDC world semi or a game of Halo. IFT guts matches and tabletop football were approached with the same intensity… and humor.
He was the best teammate you could dream of because he knew how to make you better. What a gift.
The man had fantastic hands. He held the world record for fastest guts catch (of an Al Bonopane throw) from 1981 to just this year when it was finally broken. And, he was a great bobbler and gollum player, adept with either of those great paws.
When a person gives so much of himself to others and is so widely embraced, it's often ironic that his family suffers. Many well-loved public figures have tumbled into that trap. There just is nothing left of them for the people who need it the most. Not in Tim’s case. His family was always first and foremost. I guess he learned how to do that as he grew up in a very close family, keeping tight bonds through the years with his brothers, Tom and Joe and his sister, Mary.
Though there must have been many tough compromises that had to be made because of his heavy travel schedule, Tim and Sue built a wonderful family life. They and the kids, Connor, Kimberly and Kyle traveled together, visiting all of the states in the continental U.S. The home they made for themselves and Tim’s mother, Kathy, is a warm and rambling commune with lots of space for fun and games. For years, the Selinske Christmas party was an epic event that drew hundreds to their house, which was annually awarded the prize for best decoration. As his brother Tom observed, most of the neighbors just gave up on that competition since they had no real chance of winning, and because Ske was sucking all the power from the local electrical grid.
But, in thinking of those wonderful warm memories, we’re now brought up short by the realization that our favorite Santa is gone. This is where eulogizers are to provide some sort of consolation. I'm not good at that. Tim would do much better.
I get hung up on how unfair it is. I don't really know why the question of fairness comes up so often in discussions of our lives. None has been promised and it’s only rarely delivered. Tsunamis rage over slumbering villages, punks drive by houses and shoot into children’s bedrooms. Who are we to cry foul?
But, there should be a certain cycle to life. Mothers shouldn't have to bury their children. Youngsters shouldn’t morn the loss of a parent. I was counting on Tim to be writing about his memories of me.
But the universe is a wild and unpredictable place. In the sweep of time, perhaps we have just this one consolation about our friend. By great good fortune, each of us who knew him had a chance to be part of this perfectly marvelous life.
And when it’s our turn to go, we should all hope to be this genuinely admired, deeply loved and sorely missed.
As they used to say in vaudeville, "Always leave them wanting more." You've done that, buddy... You've done that for certain.
-Dan "Stork" Roddick, DiscGolfer Magazine, Fall 2009-
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