A private evening with
Sonny and Carol Jo Lubick

by Joel Cantalamessa
(Parker, CO)

There are so many great memories surrounding Colorado State football games: my first bowl game experience in San Diego in 1994, celebrating the 1994 win over Arizona on Elizabeth Street, pinching myself after being up 34-0 at halftime of the 1999 CU game, etc.

But, one of my most favorite memories does not come from the stadium. Several years ago, my wife Laura and I attended the Ram Good Times Auction -- the athletic department's No. 1 fundraiser for athletic scholarships. The night was a blast; we enjoyed the food and music, and of course the free adult beverages. When the live auction event started, we decided to participate. We started off bidding on some smaller items, but quickly bailed out when the bidding got too high.

Soon, the next item on the list was dinner for six with Sonny and Carol Jo Lubick, at Johnny Carinos. The bidding started swiftly, jumping into the hundreds. I was surprised to see that after an early bid, Laura continued on this time, raising her hand as the bidding reached $500. The four or so mixed drinks probably alleviated some of my concern, for the moment.

However, as the bidding continued, and reached the $1000 mark, no amount of alcohol could subdue the anxiety I had as I watched my wife fearlessly and continue on her mission, which seemingly became no longer about winning the dinner, but rather beating her opposing bidder.

"Honey," I said, "You have made a valiant effort, and I know this goes towards a good cause...but $1000 for Johnny Carinos dinner? Maybe it's time to..." and before I could finish my sentence, she swatted my pleading hands away, and insisted, she was going to win this dinner for me. She knew Sonny was my hero, and she had decided we were going to bite the bullet and get this done.

I buried my head in my hands and listened to my friends at the table laughing with delight, as they knew the prize was for six people, and that they'd eventually be among the beneficiaries.

"Fifteen hundred...fifteen hundred," the auctioneer shouted..."going once, going twice...sold to the lovely lady in green."

I counted the bills in my head...thinking of the home improvement projects we could have used it for, the new set of golf irons, 20 dinners out, anything! But then, it hit me...we were going to get a couple of hours of private time with Sonny Lubick, chatting about football, chatting about life, listening to his stories and jokes...and have him all to ourselves! Of course, Laura and I knew the Lubicks already, but we realized this was a unique and special opportunity.

So, after setting the date, and inviting two other couples to join us, we drove up from Denver to Fort Collins for our evening with Sonny and Carol Jo. On the way, I warned the group that Sonny and Carol Jo probably have dozens of these types of obligations to tend to, and we should probably expect a fairly quick evening. As we met the guests of honor at the restaurant, they were genuinely excited to be there, and told us they were happy to spend time with a younger group of folks. From the minute we shook hands with them, we could tell, they were happy to be there.

Would you believe that four hours later, Sonny was ordering more bottles of wine, and a second round of food? This was not just an obligation to fulfill for the Lubicks. These genuinely exceptional people enjoyed our company and made us feel like the most important people in the world. Sonny shared stories of the road, tales of his years on the sidelines, behind-the-scenes information on the college football coaching fraternity, and of course his trademark jokes.

Spending those four hours with Sonny showed us why he had such a successful career in coaching. You couldn't help but love him. No doubt, he commanded respect from his players and those players would have run through a brick wall to win games for him. I look back now, saddened that his final years at CSU didn't turn out better for this great man. He deserved better. However, for Laura and I, and our friends who joined us that night, we've personally experienced why nothing should ever tarnish Sonny's accomplishments and the legacy he has left at CSU. He was an incredible coach...and an even better man.

For all the joy that Sonny brought to Laura and I by winning football games on the field, he gave us this one very special memory that we will never forget. Certainly, it is one that we could never put a price tag on. Well, I take that back. But, you get the point!

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