I remember the first time I met Chester W. Coppock.
It was the summer of 1998 and I was in Northbrook, Illinois on a One On One Sports Radio junket that was designed – and quickly succeeded in – hiring me from Baltimore to do a national sports radio called “Nasty Nationwide.” The honchos had flown me in to do two sleepy Saturday and Sunday morning “fill in” shifts and I was nervous as hell trying out for this huge gig. Even though I had done four hours a day, every day for seven years and even owned my own radio station, it was still a big move to be heard on 400 stations on a hot summer weekend.
As the hours of my sweaty, initial shift wound down, I bumped into Chet Coppock coming out of the men’s room in the hallway. He warmly greeted me as an “Aparicio in Chicago” who sounded like “a natural” on the radio.
You don’t forget the first time you meet Chet Coppock even if you want to forget the restroom you met him in.
By 1998, Chet was a living legend in the Chicago sports media and the carnival of life. He didn’t need to introduce himself – but he did. And I knew I had really done something right in my life to be doing a national radio show in Chicago and to have a guy like that coming outta the bullpen on a Saturday morning.
I flew in and out of Chicago a hundred times over the next three years and Chet never failed to be the life of the party and conversation among a bunch of much younger colleagues who simply adored him. After his death on Wednesday night from complications from an auto accident in South Carolina last week, one of my former colleagues wrote that he was the crazy uncle of Sporting News Radio. But he was even better than that because he was such a great guy, such an accomplished guy who always made time to laugh and have fun talking about sports with all of us.
He was, by his own admission, a professional wrestler doing sports radio – and all with a wink and a depth of knowledge and curiosity that made you want to know him. The Mike Ditka stories. The Harry Caray tales. Kareem Abdul Jabbar in Milwaukee. The Monsters of The Midway. He was a national Roller Derby host. The Super Bowl Shuffle. Ernie Banks. The Jordan Era. His Indianapolis legacy.
And no one was more associated with professional wrestling and the Verne Gagne of AWA ‘rasslin’ circuit than Chester W. Coppock. The last time he did radio with me, he told me the stories of drinking beer with Andre The Giant.
Chet chronicled all of it and opined freely in a 1970s and 1980s media world that was about to explode in the flashy aftermath of Howard Cosell and cable television.
Back when I worked with him, he found out that I loved The Bodeans and set up V.I.P. tickets for me and my girlfriend one night at The Riv without me even asking. He heard I wanted to go – and, voila – it was done. No one has EVER done that – before or since!
He always wanted my concert reviews from stints at Ravinia and full reports from anywhere music or sports were going on in Chicago when I was on my monthly junkets looking for Rush Street.
Back in January after the Ravens were eliminated, I snuck back in Chicago for a 24-hour whirlwind run into Milwaukee to see Bob Seger and visit with friends. Chet and I had set a lunch date for pizza at Pequods on the north side. The roads were icy and it was cold as hell but it had a beauty about it as well in the soft, still whiteness that day in the suburban land of Ferris Bueller.
“Welcome to Siberia of The South,” Chet texted me as I landed at Midway where it was 5 degrees.
Chet didn’t make it to Morton Grove that day. He apologized via text right as the best sausage pizza on the planet arrived: “Sorry, Nasty. Stuck in city. Have a double bourbon in my honor!”
And there, sadly, lies a final command from a man I must now honor and obey…
I will greatly miss Chet Coppock. A good man. A good friend. A wonderfully colorful, kind man. We all loved him at that crazy little radio network in Northbrook, where I’ve since kept and collected an incredible group of friends two decades later who all are mourning his tragic loss.
Tonight, I will find some rye twice – and toast the legend that was my friend Chester W. Coppock.
MY dime. MY dance floor!
All of us were made richer for having him in our lives and a story to share about him.
Chicago will never be the same for me. Or for a lot of other people who loved him like I did…
P.S. (UPDATE) I just watched the last video I shot with him below under the roller derby girls. I told him I loved him at the end. He said some things that just made me cry. You can go watch for yourself…