Former Chicago Bear Chris Zorich arrives at the Dirksen Federal Building for arraignment on federal tax evasion charges, Thursday, March 14, 2013. | John H. White~Sun-Times
Updated: April 18, 2013 6:42AM
We follow people in the news for years and come to believe we know something about what makes them tick.
Then if when they fall, we measure out our compassion accordingly.
Former Ald. Ed Vrdolyak’s topple?
What took so long?
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s dispatch to prison?
A lesson in the dangers of vainglory.
But former Chicago Bear Chris Zorich?
The man screwed up big. As he admitted in federal court Thursday, he failed to pay taxes on income of up to $1 million over four years.
Now he’ll pay a price, possibly including prison time.
But all we can feel is sad.
“Chris is a really good guy,” the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Academy, where Zorich is the athletic director, said to us Friday. “He has a heart of gold.”
That’s how it always looked to us.
But what about all the paperwork and tax filings Zorich failed to stay on top of before and after his charitable foundation went bust?
“Chris never really paid attention to stuff like that,” Pfleger said.
That’s also how it always looked to us.
Zorich, who grew up hard on the South Side, was always more the good guy than the man of business, the first to feed the poor and maybe the last to check the books.
Then, in 2002, Zorich faced big challenges. He went through a divorce. He failed to pass the bar exam. His cousin, Barbara Singer, who had really managed Zorich’s foundation, died after a long bout with cervical cancer.
The Christopher Zorich Foundation, which Zorich started in 1993 while still a young Bear, did good work. It provided turkeys to the poor at Thanksgiving, awarded Notre Dame scholarships and delivered flowers and gifts to mothers living in homeless shelters on Mother’s Day.
Nobody’s making excuses here. Zorich is a grown man who, according to his plea agreement, still owes $71,042 in back taxes.
But his days of doing good, leading with his heart, are not over.