Basically, all I want to do right now is be a vegetable, but a blog post must be written. And if there's any athlete that can make me smile simply by existing, it's Buzzy.
He grew up in middle of nowhere, Minnesota (not too far from the slice of middle of nowhere, Minnesota where his Olympic line mate Mark Pavelich grew up), and was as good at baseball as he was at hockey. After high school the Pittsburgh Pirates invited him to try out, but pretty much every big college hockey program was offering him a scholarship. So he went to the University of Minnesota (coached by Herb Brooks) and won the 1974 NCAA championship.
Buzz was on the U.S. National Team from 1974-76 (including the 1976 Olympic team) before turning pro and playing for various minor league teams. He was on the national team in 1977 and then again, obviously, in 1980 when he made the Olympic team. At an absolutely ancient 25 years old, he was the grandpa of the group (the only returning Olympian from the '76 team), and people didn't really expect too much out of the guy that had been bouncing around the minors for several years.
The Boys of Winter says that Buzz may have been the "most popular and industrious player on the team," and could very well have been elected captain over Mike Eruzione because he was that well-liked. In the exhibition season, he played in 62 games and scored 42 points. He was on the Conehead line with Pavelich and Bah Harrington; they were the line Herb put in the game when he wanted to make something happen. During the Olympics, the Coneheads were the highest scoring line, and Buzz had 11 points in seven games (including the first goal of the game against the Soviets, no biggie) -- tied with Mark Johnson, who was named the team's MVP, as the leading scorer. Y'know, casually. Not too bad for a guy who was "over the hill," huh?
But the thing about Buzz's mere existence that makes me smile is the fact that he's apparently the most wonderful person ever. Herb used to be on him constantly because he knew that Buzz had an incredible strength of personality and wouldn't be too bothered. He "exudes the sort of laid-back warmth and sincerity that makes you feel you've known him for ten years after ten minutes," never made a fuss, and an old friend of his has said he would've made a great pastor because "he has such a gentle way. He's always giving and thinking of other people." I mean, just listen to him speak. I want to hug him (and clearly so does that reporter)!
Basically, Buzz is everything I love in an athlete: he's an underdog, crazy talented and a quality human being. (And I named my car after him and it makes me happy on the regular. Awesome life choice.)