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Nice article about Collinsworth and brother


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A bond that won't break

Cris Collinsworth's brother died, but memories will not

By Peter Kerasotis

Florida Today

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Greg Collinsworth was dying. He just didn't know it yet.

But as he left his Orlando home and prepared for cancer treatment in Cincinnati, where he stayed with his brother Cris, he sent an e-mail to friends.

"Don't worry about me," he wrote. "Other than the cold weather, I'm going to be just fine."

Less than a year later, at age 44, Greg Collinsworth was dead, still as affable and as caring about others right down to the end.

"That was Greg, always," Cris said. "He never seemed to be bothered by anything or any situation. I think that really carried over to the cancer. In that entire year, he was more worried about being an inconvenience to me or to my mom and dad, that somehow he was putting us out."

Three months later, Cris Collinsworth prepared for what many would say required remarkable poise - working FOX's TV booth as an analyst for Super Bowl XXXIX. It was the biggest broadcasting gig of his life, but it all pales in comparison. These last several months, football has been more a diversion than anything else. During his brother's dying days, he never missed a day of work, or a broadcast.

"I did that as much for myself," Cris said. "For me, it would've been much more difficult if I couldn't get back into my routine. But were there times that I had to put my pencil down and put away my work and cry one more tear? ... There were certainly plenty of moments like that."

Greg and Cris Collinsworth were more than just brothers. They were best friends and partners in life.

"There is some other half of everybody in the world, and he was the other half of me," Cris said.

The painting

Only a year and a half separated the only two siblings of Abe and Donetta Collinsworth, and they grew up just a grade apart in Titusville, Fla., each a three-sport star at Astronaut High School.

Cris starred for the Florida Gators in football, Greg for the Florida State Seminoles in basketball.

One day in college, Cris got a call from his brother. Greg was coming to visit, would Cris pick him up.

But Cris got busy and forgot.

And he felt terrible when there was a knock on the door and he discovered it was Greg, with a large painting underneath his arm.

Greg had carried it about five miles.

"Happy birthday, bro," he offered, handing Cris the painting.

Cris kept that painting for years, proudly hanging it in every dwelling he ever resided in. It was a sunset, orange and red and black, never really matching anything. But it always meant something special to Cris.

"Finally, one time Greg came up to my condo in Cincinnati, and I was dating my wife Holly at the time, and he was telling her, 'Will you please take that painting and throw it in the Ohio River, or do something. Every time I come up here, I have to see that thing. I can't take it anymore. It's so embarrassing.' So Greg and Holly had this little clandestine thing where they got rid of it."

He told the same story at his brother's funeral in Orlando. At the funeral, Greg again had a letter for his family and friends. And he wanted Cris to read it.

"I must've read it ten thousand times beforehand," Cris said. "But I knew I'd never get through the part about me."

Sure enough, he broke down, and his cousin finished reading the letter.

A special bond

Not many people have a bond like Greg and Cris had. The two boys grew up as close as could be, alternately rooting for and competing against each other.

After graduating from FSU, Greg got into financial planning and eventually started his own business. One of his clients, of course, was Cris.

Cris often wondered if his success - playing eight years in the NFL and in two Super Bowls before embarking on a more successful broadcasting career - was hard on his brother.

"Yeah, I think it was, because he was a great athlete in his own right. ... But I'll tell you this, if you ever wanted to get into a fistfight, just start saying something negative about me to Greg. Friends of his would tell me that they knew how to get underneath Greg's skin, and that was to razz him a little about me."

It bothered Cris that as adults, Greg became known first as Cris Collinsworth's little brother.

"If people only knew how many times he was my big brother, and those times when I had to count on him to be strong."

The final days

Greg defended his brother and helped him be successful.

Football broadcasters have flip cards they call boards. On one side is a team's offense matched against the other team's defense, and vice versa as you flip the board. Greg used to make Cris' board for every broadcast, and it would be an elaborate process, color-coded with detailed information on each player. It is a vital tool for broadcasters.

"Three days before he died, Greg finished training someone else to do my boards, showing him the final touches of how to prepare them. And he was so matter of fact, telling him, 'When I'm gone, this is what you're going to need to do.' "

Two days later, Cris had his last conversation with his brother. When colon cancer was detected and Cris brought his brother to Cincinnati for the best doctors and treatment he could provide, the concern was whether they could remove the tumor without Greg having to wear a colostomy bag afterward.

But when surgeons opened him up, they found that the cancer had spread to more than half his liver. So they closed him back up, and told the family the news.

When the time came, Cris went to Greg, leaned over and said, "It's OK. You can go. Don't fight this anymore."

The next day, Greg died.

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