Sunday, March 18, 2012

Remembering Marco Giovengo

On Friday evening March 16th this world lost the best man I know. Marco Giovengo suffered a heart attack in his on campus apartment in Lexington. But that's enough about his death. I am writing this today so people will remember him for the way he lived, because that is what he would have wanted, and that is what he deserves.

My relationship with Marco began in our Sport Coaching class.  He had asked me to help him out on an assignment through a message on Facebook and after I had helped him he challenged me to a video game of NBA 2k11.  It was definitely a different experience for me at first.  I had never had a friend who was handicapped, growing up as an athlete I had very few friends who weren't athletes, and I had a very minimal understanding of the disease muscular dystrophy that he was suffering from.

The first time I met him it made me sad because I had trouble understanding everything he was saying. I felt bad asking him to repeat himself, but he understood that I was trying my best so he didn't mind too much.  But despite not being able to hear him very clearly that first time we hung out there were a few things that I learned about him right off the bat.

Marco is one of the passionate people you will ever meet, and that passion carries over to everything he does, especially the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He loved baseball more than anything. He told me about how his Pap would teach him about the game, how to hold a bat, how to break in a glove, how to throw a ball, and he loved all of it.  He played baseball at every chance he could, both when he was physically able to and even when he wasn't, and he could talk baseball with you all day.  His love of the Pirates also showed you his loyalty. The Pirates have been the worst damn team in baseball since he was 2 years old, but he never once thought about switching his allegiance.  He loved his "Bucco Brothers", as he so affectionately referred to them, for life. His favorite Pirate was local kid Neil Walker who he had built a very close relationship with. Marco had a 20 game season ticket package, and before each game he attended, he would text Neil to let him know he would be there, and Neil would make sure to come over and talk with him in the pre-game, and than give him the ball he had warmed up with.  I had the privilege of seeing this relationship first hand, as Marco insisted that I meet Neil, because as he put it "he wanted to be just like the two of us someday, and we both made his life a much better one."

He also loved and appreciated people way more than anybody I know.  After leaving his apartment one time after we had hung out, he texted me and said "hey man thanks for coming over, it means a lot to me. I love you bro." I wasn't sure what to think at first.  I mean how many guys tell their friends on a daily basis that they love them. The next time we hung out he said to me "I know you might think it's weird that I say I love you. But I really do man. You don't know how many people can't accept me for who I am. So the fact that you look right past all of this, and treat me the way you do, it really means the world to me." It just about broke my heart when he said that to me, and I told him I loved him every day after that.

Another thing is he would never be afraid to speak his mind.  That first time we hung out, he beat my butt in that game of NBA 2k11, and he was talking trash to me the whole time.  He had used the Orlando Magic and I used the New York Knicks.  His favorite player was J.J. Redick and he was yelling things like "J.J. Redick baby", after he hit shots with him, and "New York sucks" the entire game.  Another thing that stuck out to me, was that in the entire three hours I spent with him, he didn't say one negative thing.  He had this terrible disease, but he was not about to let it define him by any means.  He was a regular college student, pursuing his degree, talking about girls, and living on his own.

This past summer I lived on campus, interning with the Washington Wild Things and training for football, and Marco stayed on campus as well taking summer classes. When he found out I got the internship and I would be staying on campus he was overjoyed. Every morning after working out I would play a game of NBA2k with him or MLB the Show before I left for work.  Every night after I got back from working the game around 10:30, we would watch some random West Coast game on my account, or if we were lucky enough the Pirates would be on a West Coast trip.  One night specifically stands out to me where the Pirates lost to the Atlanta Braves in extra innings on a very questionable call. We had stayed up until 2:00 in the morning watching and it was the most angry I have ever seen him.  While we were watching the games we would have "bullpen sessions" as he liked to call them, where we would talk about our days, anything new that was going on, how we were going to make his senior year the best year yet, and just life in general. He referred to me as Manager DBon, and he was my young pitcher that I was trying to lead to the Cy Young award.

One afternoon when I had the day off my friend Heather came to visit me. The Pirates were playing at 4 that day so he came over to watch the game with me.  When he got there he saw Heather, and he couldn't take his eyes off her. That was the only time I've ever seen him be distracted from a Pirates game. I introduced him and the three of us talked for about an hour before Heather had to leave.  After she left he said to me "she is the most beautiful girl I have ever seen." He told me that he wanted me to make sure that she was his Homecoming date for when he ran for King in the fall and I promised him I would do everything I could to make it happen.  I asked her if she would come over with me one day to his apartment, and although he was extremely nervous, being the courageous and polite guy he was, he said to her "Heather I'm running for Homecoming King, and it would be an honor, and a privilege, if you would be my date and escort." She happily agreed and Marco was so happy he could barely contain himself.

This year Marco has had some great memories, despite finishing as a runner-up for Homecoming King, he loved Homecoming weekend. I would be lying if I said he wasn't bitter about not winning, because he absolutely was. But he had a great time regardless.  I threw him a birthday party at my apartment and he said to me "Dan I got the invites for the guys, but out of us two you're the pimp so I want lots of ladies there." We had about 40 people crammed into my apartment for the party, and at least half of them were girls, and during the midst of it, he called me over and said to me "I love you Dan, this is the best night of my life."

Marco always loved the Pitt Panthers, but he really loved his Robert Morris Colonials and his university.  He said that this was his second home.  He was more involved than just about anybody on campus.  He was a member of the band, the Secretary of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, which he was Damn Proud of, as he liked to constantly say, and a Sport Management major who was ready to walk in May and graduate in August.  He was at every basketball game, and every football game, and he swore that we could beat anybody.

Marco is the most courageous person I have ever known, and I consider it a privilege and an honor to have known him so well, and to call him my friend.  Just think about all of the people you know, or maybe even you are guilty of it, who go through life just floating along, not working towards anything, wasting the gift, and the blessing they have been given.  Here was a kid who was dealt a bad card, but refused to let it hold him back.  Marco lived his life to the fullest until his last moments. I spent that afternoon watching March Madness with him. We were watching 15th seeded Norfolk State, upset 2nd seeded Missouri.  He was yelling about how embarrassing Missouri was, and that they sucked, mainly because he had picked Missouri to go to the Final Four in his bracket. But than he said to me "you know how I love underdogs, so I can't really be that mad." And I did know, he had said to me once, the reason he cheers for underdogs so much is because he is an underdog himself.

Marco always said to me and my teammates that we were an inspiration to him, but the truth is that he was an inspiration to us.  He has taught me so much, and he really has given me an entirely new outlook on life.  So although Marco is no longer physically with us, I hope that his passion, his courage, his love, and his unbreakable, and undeniable spirit, will live inside of all of us, and I can promise you that it will always live on inside of me.  Rest In Peace man. I love you.


  1. This is a beautiful tribute to Marco. I was brought to tears and inspired at the same time. Thank you Danny! Everyone on the RMU campus should read this.

  2. Beautifully written Danny. Not sure who was a luckier man in this friendship, you or Marco?

  3. We have no way of knowing what our impact will be on those around us when we meet them, when we share time and when we build our individual lives. We can always choose our paths, but as with Marco, some things in this universe are outside of our control. Sometimes they're just outside of our understanding. And, sometimes, they're not for us to understand at all. Sometimes this life just doesn't make much sense.
    What you and Marco have done for one another, to share so much time and impact one another's days and hopes will continue through the communities that you live the rest of your life in. May your impact continuously be as great as I have always seen it to be and as strong as Marco's will. And may a part of each of us always root loudly for the underdog.
    Love you kiddo.

  4. I have worked at Robert Morris for almost thirty-four years and I have never experienced a moment like this after having read your tribute. I always believed, and still do, that Robert Morris is the place where opportunities abound and where good things happen. The opportunities you two provided to each other are the stuff dreams are made of. How lucky we all are that you shared these dreams with us.

  5. I have always been proud of you Danny and this is yet one more example of your abounding kindness and good soul. Reach for the stars Danny! Marco will be right there with you, joining a few other guardian angels we've known and loved. xo

    1. Danny Nolan Bonaventura has a wonderful namesake who has been his guardian angel all these years.

  6. Not sure how I stumbled upon this, but I'm glad I did. Thank you for sharing such a moving and life changing experience with the public. Sometimes you need to read stories like these to put things in perspective and learn to appreciate what really matters and who really matters in our lives.