About the Author
Recent posts by Hub Arkush
There are times in our lives when uncertainty overwhelms us, the crushing weight of our losses seems too much to bear, and we are left with nothing but to ask why. It's been that kind of week for friends of mine whom I love very much. They lost their husband, father, son, brother and friend, and I ache with them with the cruelest pain of all. It isn't fair, and I have to find some way to ease our pain.
I first met "Big Z" over 25 years ago. I was in my early 30s, doing a little radio on the side for free plugs for this newsmagazine, and he was an aspiring young engineer, spinning the dials for talk radio, rock and roll and reggae bands on the side, and hoping to get a foothold in big-time pro sports. We worked at WGN Radio at a time when Wally Phillips was getting ratings in the 20s in the mornings and we were the mothership of AM radio, the kids in the candy store.
Like all kids, we grew up. "Z" was part wild child, part rock star and the most talented engineer I've ever known. I was older by just enough for him to think it was kind of cool when I moved into the Bears' broadcast booth and he started spinning those dials for me.
There was terrible tragedy as we returned from a road trip with the Bears one night to discover "Z's" young wife had been killed in a head-on collision on I-57. He strayed for a while to places that never help. But "Z" was far too big a man for that to last, and a few years in Minneapolis with relatives always at his side gave him an idea he could start his own engineering business working sports and music all over the Chicagoland area, and eventually all over the world. So "Big Z" came home to our broadcast family.
Family is the operative word when talking about "Big Z." Several years after losing his wife, he lost his mom as well, but together with his brothers Michael, Paul and Steve, they built a wall of love around their dad, Eddie, that no pain would ever be allowed to pierce again. I think Eddie may be the most loving and warmest man I've ever met, and all four of his boys are still firmly stuck to the tree.
Eventually "Little Z," Steve, joined our traveling road show with the Bears, working the parabolic microphone on the field. Shortly after that "Middle Z," Paul, an outstanding engineer in his own right, came on board for pre- and postgame shows and covering us in the booth occasionally when "Big Z" would be off traveling the world with some of the biggest names in the business. They even figured out a way for my son, Arthur, to get on the plane as our spotter, and every day they found new ways to teach everyone around them the meaning of family, the meaning of faith and the meaning of love.
"Big Z" remarried and eventually he and Sandy were blessed by the arrival of Johnathan a little less than three years ago. It seemed a story straight out of Disney until "Little Z" called me a week ago to tell me his big brother had been battling lung cancer for almost two years. The doctors had told him all hope was lost, and he felt it was time to let his friends know. "Big Z" and his brothers battled death alone, too tough to let anyone else share their pain, too loving to leave without saying goodbye.
Mark Zerang died at 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 12 at the age of 49, and Heaven instantly became a far better place. He was too young, and it will never be fair. But "Big Z" was the toughest and most courageous man I've ever known. His smile literally lit up a stadium, and with every breath he took, he taught us all that if you build your life around your family, love will overcome all your pain. To Sandy and John and all the "Z" boys, rest will come soon and our tears will dry, covered by smiles in memory of one of the best guys we've ever known. "Big Z" would never have it any other way. You see, it's not that he's left us, but what he's left us with that really counts.