Anims, Tito, aka “Now, it’s personal”


Tito Vilanova you know. And you, like me, are reeling with today’s bombshell. But Thomas Richter is a guy who, I am willing to bet, none of you know.

He was a wonderful friend who died from complications related to brain cancer. He was a cyclist and a young man who evolved from a shy, bookish guy, scrawny of frame and not all that fast, to a strong, wiry bullet.

One day, he started having severe headaches. Then, while at Thanksgiving dinner with his family, he had a seizure. They did the first of many operations that night. I went to visit him as much as I could, and the last visit, I was about to leave to catch my flight home. We looked at each other and knew, somehow, that it would be the last time we would see each other. And we hugged, and cried. And I don’t know about Tom, but I cried all the way from Boulder to Chicago.

So whenever I hear of someone battling cancer, I think of Tom. But so many of us have someone that we think of when we hear of that news, and try as we might, it becomes personal. So it is with the coach of the football team that I love so much.

Cancer is personal because it is terrifying. It’s one cell that goes rogue and suddenly, life is different. Suddenly a big, nasty battle commences for someone’s life, as the rogue cell corrupts other cells until suddenly, something that was a part of us is now a malignant mass, trying to destroy us.

Damn right it’s personal.

Tito Vilanova loves the club, loves his team and its players. He has to stop doing something that he loves so much because its demands are so great that his body, which will need all of its strength for that titanic battle, must marshal its resources.

Picking players, being second-guessed, blamed, assaulted in the press and other outlets, being called inadequate for having the temerity to not be Guardiola, all causes an astounding amount of stress, stress that I bet he would dance the mambo of joy to have the chance to do again, instead of face what he is about to face.

We fretted, we worried, and the club president, Sandro Rosell, had a presser with ZubiZa, where he delivered the news that none of us, even the ones who were most willing to hoist him on a petard of shame, wanted to hear:

“We inform you that Tito Vilanova needs further treatment which makes it impossible for him to continue as head coach.”

Apparently some test results that Vilanova received recently, made the decision for him that it would be impossible to continue as our head coach. How long did people know? Who knows. Rosell said in that interview from the other day, that “For as long as he is healthy, Tito will be our coach.” I, for one, expected that to be for a while longer, particularly after the battles of last season, the time away being treated in New York and the declarations of fitness by people within the club.

But as any of us who have dealt with people battling cancer, sometimes you feel great, but that evil little bastard is still in there, working away — and you don’t know it until someone says, in That Voice, “You should have a look at your test results,” then pulls out a chair for you. And it begins. Rosell asked for respect for Vilanova and his family, just as the club did with Abidal. And many of us will cry, just as we did with Abidal.

There is a resolve, a calmness that often accompanies cancer. Tom was happy, soothing and completely disinclined to do anything that wouldn’t bring him or the people that he loved pleasure. And I didn’t realize how comprehensive a smartass he was until one day, after we finally talked him into getting outside to get some air in his wheelchair, he informed me of a shortcut back to the house. And, as I was cantilevered behind a wheelchair, pushing Captain Wiseacre up an almost 20% grade that was indeed a “shortcut,” I noticed his shoulders heaving. I stopped the chair, looked at him, and he was weeping with laughter. “You sound like a big ass choo-choo,” he said, gasping for air. And we spent about 5 minutes on that hillside, laughing until we cried. Because those moments are all part of it.

I love that Vilanova goes out a winner, hoisting the Liga trophy after leading the club that we love to a record-setting Liga season, battling his own health issues as well as dealing with a club that had what seemed to be a biblical plague placed upon it. Abidal, Abidal again, Vilanova and now this. It almost seems as if the joy of that Treble season, that threatened to burst our hearts at the seams, has a pendulum-like karmic snap back.

But pendulums also swing the other way. This club is headed for something great. Heartache is never interminable, never forever, and we have had much to deal with. And we will deal with this.

We don’t know who the new coach will be, but it will be announced this week. As Rosell said, “This is a very difficult blow to the Club, but we have overcome many difficult setbacks.” And this is true. Support the new coach, have confidence in the team and the players who are tasked with defending the club’s honor, and believe. Above all else, believe.

Anims, Coach, and fare thee well.

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. CuleToon
    July 19, 2013

    I wanted to say something, but I can’t. With your words, you’ve brought tears to my eyes.

  2. soj-ash
    July 19, 2013

    A very sad news! But I agree …”This club is headed for something great.”

  3. stefan2k
    July 19, 2013

    FFS! I really hope he wins this battle…
    Round 3 is a good one to finally knock this cancer out!

    Thanks to Kxevin for this personal lines

  4. nzm
    July 19, 2013

    Nicely said, Kevin.

    Ànims Tito. May you win again.

    A request: can we please leave all talk of who will take over for at least a day?

    For now this should be a space to be used to respect Tito and all that he’s done. Thanks.

  5. simple_barcafan
    July 19, 2013

    #animstito…sad..really sad..

  6. providence
    July 19, 2013

    So sad … Thank You Kevin .. You’re the Best Writer have ever seen. !!!

    Anims Tito. Tots Units Fem Forca

  7. July 19, 2013

    Get well soon Tito. Or not. Take your time. I hope you recover fully. Nothing would make me happier.

    Appreciate the post Kxevin.

    I hope Pep and Tito mend their friendship too now.



  8. Clouseau
    July 19, 2013

    Arrived back to find out about Tito’s relapse, heartbreaking stuff. All the strenght to him hope he victor once again. Thank’s for everything.

    Have to say the Clubs idea to make a presser without question allowed was well thought off.

  9. CuleToon
    July 19, 2013

    I’ve been reading a lot of comments by readers in As and Marca on the sad news about Tito. At this time, there are more than a thousand comments in As and about 2.500 in Marca. And you feel a lump on your throat when you see so many madridistas saying kind words and wishing the best for Tito and his family.

    Among all this sadness though, I’ve found a comment that has managed to make me smile. But I’ll post it tomorrow: now is not the time.

  10. simple_barcafan
    July 19, 2013

    Thank you Kxevin..When I am down, I cannot think of a better writer than you to read article…

  11. javsantos
    July 19, 2013

    Long time lurker, first time poster. Just wanted to show my solidarity with Tito and the Barça familiy here and all over the world in these trying times. I would also like to express my gratitude to this blog’s admins for making this such a wonderful place for us Barça fans. Lastly, I.want to congratulate Kxevin for such lovely and thoughtful post.

    #AnimsTito and Visca Barça !

  12. IamXavi6
    July 19, 2013

    kevin; thankyou for sharing the personal story of you and Tom.

  13. fcbfan10
    July 19, 2013

    a sad day. i can’t imagine what Tito and his family feel now.

    Anims, Tito and strength to his family.

    thank you for the post, Kxevin.

  14. Chiu
    July 19, 2013

    animo tito. our prayers goes to you and your family.

  15. Megster
    July 19, 2013

    Cancer makes you reevaluate and re-prioritize the things in your life. And I guess this is the best solution for everyone, especially for Tito. But what I am optimistic about is that there are lot of possible treatment available nowadays. I just hope Barca, as a club would continue its support to Tito.

    Anims Tito!

  16. K-cule
    July 20, 2013

    Thanks for articulating what’s going on in all our minds Kxevin. I,too,lost a close person to cancer and do know what an annoying bugger it can be and how it gets very personal. It is my sincere wish that our lovely coach gets well from this. I can’t describe how heavy my heart is after reading the news. Let’s all join in through our various ways (prayers, positive thoughts etc) to give Tito and his family strength to overcome this! #anims Tito

  17. Bill
    July 20, 2013

    Very sad news indeed. Thanks for the piece Kxevin.

    I’m in Gdansk, right now, arranged my summer vacation so I could catch the pre-season game…even opted to miss Messi and friends in Chicago for a chance to watch the team here, then I heard the news.

    I don’t even mind the wasted travel, plus the crappy weather out here so can’t even enjoy the Baltic sea. Just sad for Tito. Hope he gets well.

  18. July 20, 2013

    Someone told me yesterday that Tito has resigned. I laughed it off saying he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Today I read this.
    This is like a dream. I thought Cancer had had its fun with our team. Not yet apparently.
    Tito, I feel you. You will beat this, too. Anims!

  19. Rami
    July 20, 2013

    I’m stll in disbelief, All i can do is wish him the best health, And thank him for everything he did for us.
    Anims Tito!

  20. Doug
    July 20, 2013

    Very nice Kevin. I’m about to attend my mother’s funeral after several bouts with Leukemia. Cancer is an insidious disease. I hope this is just a minor setback for Tito.

    • nzm
      July 20, 2013

      Sorry to hear that, Doug, and all strength to you at this time.

    • July 20, 2013

      Thank you for sharing. Death is part of life, and I always say to people to do what we should all strive for, which is to celebrate, rather than mourn.


    • ooga aga
      July 20, 2013

      Thank you Doug, and thank you Kxevin. and thank you Tito. we be grateful and happy for what we have had, rather than what we now do not.

  21. Spiza7
    July 20, 2013

    Tito’s given a lot to the club and it is good to see everyone in the football universe giving him support including fans of many other teams.

    We all know he is a strong person, and I hope he wins this battle, and that it stays that way.

    Get well soon.

  22. barcadan
    July 20, 2013

    Definitely beautiful that he was able to achieve what he did last year. I hope it gives him some bright thoughts as he faces this again. Fucking cancer.
    Anims Tito, força Barça!

  23. Tebzat
    July 20, 2013

    Whats happening to our beloved,its like we sold our souls during Peps four years.Now he is coming to collect

  24. Tebzat
    July 20, 2013

    Whats happening to our
    beloved team,its like we sold our souls
    during Peps four years.Now he is
    coming to collect

  25. Ryan
    July 20, 2013

    Thanks for everything Tito and kick that cancer’s butt!

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