If a picture is worth a thousand words, could the reverse be true?
I wondered that Sunday night.
Every post I saw on Facebook and Twitter about the passing of Josh Houchins, the 36-year-old host of WGEM SportsCenter who died Sunday afternoon, included a different picture. Some I had seen, some I hadn't. Each one elicited a different memory or invoked a different emotion.
So I sat there thinking about the best way to describe him, and I found myself asking the same question over and over.
If a thousand pictures were worth one word, what would it be?
I struggled to come up with the right word because no word seemed grand enough. Houchins meant so much to so many that boiling down his impact on their lives to a single word seemed inadequate.
Yet, the more posts I read and the memories that were shared, it became clear one word can define his impact and his legacy.
Josh Houchins was everyone's friend.
For nearly a decade, he became a friend to the listeners of WGEM SportsCenter. He made their morning cup of coffee a little more enjoyable with his wit and wisdom. He made their drive to work or school or wherever entertaining because he injected sarcasm, laughs and general goofiness into every broadcast.
He was a friend to every guest who made an appearance on the two-hour morning talk show. Some interviews needed a serious tone, others could be done completely off the cuff. Either way, Houchins made the person he was talking to feel comfortable.
And I doubt any guest got away without being asked at least one random silly question that made everyone in the studio and those listening smile.
See, Houchins loved life too much to take himself too serious.
The sports-crazed communities of West-Central Illinois, Northeast Missouri and Southeast Iowa appreciated that. He was one of their own, having grown up in Lewis County and graduated from Highland High School and Culver-Stockton College.
He made coaches and athletes comfortable because he asked good questions and listened to what they had to say. His easy ways behind the microphone made others relax, leading to insightful and fun interviews.
Most often, it sounded like two friends carrying on a conversation.
That may be what I will miss most.
Those late-night discussions of sports or music or life in general that took place in The Herald-Whig newsroom when Houchins started out as a part-time sports reporter are unforgettable. The text conversations that happened while on air and the off-air chats during a commercial break when I co-hosted WGEM SportsCenter are classic.
It's easy to take such little moments for granted. Houchins never did.
His life might have been short, but he lived it to the fullest.
Every picture tells you that.
Tyler Tomlinson, the head women's soccer coach at Culver-Stockton College, a former WGEM weekend sports anchor and Houchins' best friend, posted several photos Sunday that made us chuckle, smile and cry all at the same time.
"You know, we didn't take very many serious pics together," Tomlinson said.
Houchins wouldn't have wanted it any other way. He wanted to smile and hoped you did, too.
I'm going to miss that smile.
Rest peacefully, my friend.