It was brought to my attention yesterday evening that James Van Horn, know by many Red Wings, Tigers, and Lions fans as the "Eat Em Up Guy", was killed in a vicious hit and run attack along with a fellow homeless man known as Dreadlock Mike. This FanPost is to reflect on my awesome encounters with "Eat Em Up" and how much he meant to my yearly pilgrimage to the Joe Louis Arena.
I live in Marquette, MI, an 8 hour drive from Detroit and a very grueling one at that. I typically only get to go to one game a year so when going I always try to make it count. I usually stay at the Double Tree Hotel, a short walk from to the Joe and every year on my walk to the arena I always ran into Eat Em Up, his brown bagged liquid lounging on the side walk, red painted hulk hand with that jingling change cup plopped in the center, and the biggest smile that could brighten anyone's day. Always in the best of moods he was, chanting in that raspy loud tone, "EAT EM UP WINGS..... EAT EM UP!" shaking that hulk hand using it as his back up cadence, "Cheeka Cheeka cheeka.... Cheeka". I would always plop a fiver in his cup, give him a schwill of my flask of schnapps, and i would sit and dance and chant right along with him. He loved the company as did I and it was a perfect way to start my journey into the Joe.
As that was a typical way to start my night, my exit from the Joe always proved to be just as entertaining. I remember one year stumbling my way out of the Joe after a shoot out loss to San Jose. Obviously a little intoxicated, and spirits low due to the loss, who was there to pick my mood up but Eat Em Up. He saw me and immediately called me and my friend over to the other side of the street. There, he greeted us with open arms, that trademark smile and hulk hand a shakin away to a blues/jazz player busting out tunes on the side walk. He offered us some of his brew and we laughed and jammed on that side walk until the stream of fans stopped pouring down the steps. That night was awesome, having Eat Em Up lift our spirits with well, spirits haha and laughter and friendship was a talking point of that trip almost more so than the action on the ice.
To finish this up I would like to say that my heart and and the hearts of many others I'm sure go out to James and his family along with Dreadlock Mike and his family as well. This was a despicable act committed by cowards who deserve the worst of something one could actually deliver to another human. I hope they find these twats and until justice is properly served, let us remember Eat Em Up and all the wonderful tales there are to be told about this kind individual who, if nothing else, warmed up our hearts with his contagious smile and a good ole "EAT EM UP WINGS.... EAT EM UP!!"