SPORTS

Remembering my minute with Mark Eaton

Jun 1, 2021, 6:35 PM
Mark Eaton...
Mark Eaton signs his new book at the Jazz 100 Club in the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, March 30, 2018. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — On Friday, former Jazz center Mark Eaton was found unconscious on the side of a road near his home in Summit County after a bicycle accident.

According to the team, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office said that Eaton was taken to a hospital, where he later died. There was no reason to believe a vehicle was involved in the accident, according to ESPN

Eaton was 64. 

But it’s more than just a news story about a distant sports icon to me. I recall meeting Mark Eaton at an odd moment: while broadcasting a story — actually, a “My Minute of News” — outside the arena where the Utah Jazz were about to play in the NBA Playoffs. 

Jeff Caplan’s Mark Eaton story

It happened three years ago. 

I created a “minute of news” about the history of the Utah Jazz. With that minute, I wanted to educate all of the new people moving into Utah that Karl Malone and John Stockton are not just car dealers. 

I went through the team history. You know, like I do. 

Jeff Caplan broadcasts outside Vivint Smart Home Arena (and KSL Broadcast House, which is just across the street) on May 4, 2018. Photo: Jeff Caplan Mark Eaton towers over KSL producer Kira Hoffelmeyer, right, and friend. Photo: KSL NewsRadio Mark Eaton, 7-foot-4, showed off his height at a book signing by posing next to KSL producer Kira Hoffelmeyer, right, and a friend. Photo: KSL NewsRadio

But the moment that minute hit the airwaves, I sat outside Vivint Smart Home Arena just before a playoff game on May 4, 2018. We were broadcasting outside, creating sort of a playoffs party on the station patio. 

I remember this because the tallest guy I’d ever seen just sat down next to me.

Mark Eaton: Humble giant

Mark Eaton crunched his 7-foot-4 frame into our little tent. He put on headphones. As “My Minute of News” was on the air, he’s nodding along and making little comments off-air.

“That’s right. I remember that,” he said, chuckling.

He’s telling me little stories off-air while my minute of news plays.

It was thrilling for me. When I create my “minutes,” I’m usually alone in a room. But here’s Mark Eaton — a Jazz All-Star laughing along and enjoying my work.

There’s no way he would have remembered that time we spent together. But I’ll never forget. That’s the thing about this humble giant. He constantly created moments that people he never met will never forget.

And that is a life well-lived.

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Remembering my minute with Mark Eaton