Andover's Mike Muldoon chosen for Christmas Tourney Hall of Fame

Dec. 29—While everyone else in the room was joyous, the saddest of sad facts hit me when Tournament Director Rick Gorman took to the podium of the Sakowich Center at Merrimack College.

The Commonwealth Classic Christmas Tournament has returned, and it's expected to be bigger and better than ever.

Why so sad, you ask? This event, this iconic Merrimack Valley sports masterpiece, for decades, was Andover native Mike Muldoon's baby. He didn't birth it, but the former Eagle-Tribune sports legend, who passed away last spring unexpectedly, nurtured it and cared for it with every ounce of his amazing heart.

He needed to be here the morning of Dec. 18 to know that the Christmas Tourney was OK after two years away.

So, for a while my own heart ached, right up until the point that I said it to one local coach among the 340 or so people in attendance on Sunday: "Mike should be here."

Without missing a beat, that coach just said, "He is."

It was a bit cliché, bordering on corny. But I laughed.

Mike followed the Christmas Tournament, it seemed like, forever. Maybe it was the heroics of his high school buddies, Andover High legends Ted Kelley and EJ Perry III during their playing days that hooked him for life. Heck, I'm a Central grad and I still get the cold sweats thinking of EJ knocking down those jumpers and stealing victory from us.

Mike worked like a dog for the Christmas Tourney and savored every second of it.

The only moment in the 47-year history of the event that Mike would have hated came when Gorman announced the second Hall of Fame class in the tournament's history.

The fitting inductees who will be honored officially on December 30 between the boys and girls championship games are longtime tournament announcer, "Golden Voice" John Vitale, Commonwealth Motors owner Charles Daher — appropriately dubbed the tourney "savior" by Gorman yesterday — and, of course, Michael Callahan Muldoon.

I think a lot about Mike and my early years with The Eagle-Tribune back in the 1990s. By then, Mike was entrenched in the event. One day, he invited me to the pre-tourney banquet, which back then was held at Bishop's in Lawrence. Mike basically forced Mr. Licare to take two of us. I literally did no work. Mike did it all. But he cared enough to get me on the list for that delicious chicken parm. The Christmas Tournament solidified our friendship as much as any local event could. We were in it together. Mike did all the work, and I got a good lunch and a sweat shirt.

"Nobody loved the Christmas Tournament as much as Mike Muldoon," Gorman said when making the announcement. He was so right.

As much as Mike loved the free meal and free swag — I'm told there are Muldoons everywhere sporting their usual gift from Mike, Christmas Tourney gear — Mike hated the attention and the glory.

He was unmatched in his devotion to his craft and this tournament but was just fine in the background. Huge props to the tournament committee to pumping the spotlight on Mike one more time.

To be honest, he deserves the title Hall of Famer as much as anyone. I just wish he was here to see it.