Matt Mauser didn’t perform Sunday.
He was too busy trying to put his life back in order.
My lady friend, Diane Cavenee, and I made plans at Christmas to surprise her mother, Marie, with tickets to Mauser’s Big Band concert, a pumping, high-energy performance showcasing Sinatra hits in his prime.
A bigger surprise came over Marie’s face when told just hours before Mauser was about to take the stage that the show in Brea had been canceled because of the unthinkable, the announcement coming earlier in the day that Kobe Bryant, the coveted Laker star who meant so much to so many, had lost his life in a helicopter crash near Calabasas.
Among the nine casualties was Christina Mauser, the wife of Matt Mauser.
News of the cancellation came as a relief, knowing my thoughts would likely be elsewhere that night, reminiscing of Kobe’s brilliance on the court after reports the world has lost a legend.
Before word came that his act would not go on and without knowledge of his wife’s passing, I – and I assume others – wondered how Mauser would be able to jumpstart his lively 12-piece Pete Jacob’s Band, follow that up with singing and dancing – oh yes, his gyrations on stage are a rare feat – with such a pall over the country.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of taking in his act, you’ll agree Mauser, like Kobe, is an incredible gift in his own right. Yet, away from the stage, Mauser, much like the late basketball great, owns all the top qualities of a strong family man and, frankly, is now “scared about the future,” as he told NBC’s Today Show on Monday after losing his wife – a mother of three.
Shared with Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, the show’s hosts, Mauser talked about the 38-year-old, whom he called “extraordinary.” As an assistant basketball coach under Bryant, Chistina was part of the travel team that was headed to Thousand Oaks for a basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Academy Sports Academy – a training facility for young, talented and promising athletes – when the helicopter went down. On board was Bryant’s 13-year-old athletic daughter, Gianna, or better known as “Gigi,” among the victims.
Matt and Christina taught together at Harbor Day School attended by Gianna Bryant in Corona del Mar. It’s also the place they met Kobe, who hired Christina to teach defensive basketball skills at the Sports Academy.
“She was incredibly witty, funny, funny like nobody you’ve ever met,” Mauser said about his wife by phone in front of millions on the Today Show. “She was warm, she was incredibly bright, she was technologically incredibly savvy. She could figure out anything.”
Christina Mauser, as you could plainly hear from a grieving Matt on national TV, was a special mom.
“I got three small kids, and I’m trying to figure out how to navigate life with three kids and no mom,” explained Mauser. “I’m scared. I think more than anything I’m a little scared about the future.”
During the interview with Today, Mauser said he was “keeping it together” until the anchors mentioned his wife by name. “Now I’m starting to lose it again, It’s horrible.”
Along with making music, not with one band, but two, Matt, who also performs with the rock group Tijuana Dogs, coached a girls’ basketball team with Christina at the private Orange County school.
In a poignant moment with the Today hosts, Mauser, who said he largely stayed away from television coverage of the tragedy on Sunday, caught a glimpse ESPN’s SportsCenter late in the day, prompting a heart-wrenching remark from his daughter.
“Everything was about how much everybody was mourning and hurting, and she said it was nice to know everybody was hurting along with us,” Mauser somberly said to Guthrie and Kotb. “And I know that sounds odd but it did kind of help.”
It also did kind of help that he did not perform on Sunday. Thank you, Matt, and God bless to you and your family.