What a shame. An absolute shame. The Boston Globe has the story.
I had the pleasure of crossing paths with Neil Fingleton. One night about 13 years ago, after visiting my father who was in the hospital in Worcester after his cardiac arrest, I went into a local restaurant to grab a late dinner. The man next to me was none other than Neil Fingleton, who had graduated from my alma mater, Holy Cross, the year before. He wasn't difficult to spot, being 7-foot 7 and a beefy 7-7 at that.
I struck up a conversation with him, telling him I watched him play up on the hill (HC) a few times. He told me he was looking to play overseas, and had come back from a tryout. But other than that short exchange, we talked no more about basketball. He had been a history major at Holy Cross, as was I. We talked about professors still there, and our favorite classes, and such things. He asked me if it had served me in good stead, and I told him it was indispensable for understanding the world around us. He talked quite a bit about the differences between education in England and the States, and how Americans were perceived in the UK. His opinions were thoughtful and interesting, tempered with a worldly maturity rare in such a young man.
Neil was engaging, highly intelligent, and funny. A delightful young man. He joked about his receding hairline beginning to resemble mine, and if he went bald, he wasn't going to try any hairpieces because nobody could see it anyway. He was not a bit self-conscious about his height, as often very tall people can be.
After a very long and rather somber day (Dad had not regained consciousness) at the hospital, I was ready to turn in. I finished my dinner and a beer and headed out. But I thanked him for the conversation and wished him luck with his career. He did the same, wishing luck with my Dad.
I was sad to read a while later that a lingering back injury ended his playing career. I had no idea he had taken up acting, but thinking of how well-spoken and confident he was that night in Worcester, I am not surprised he did so well, and that he was so highly thought-of. He had parts in a number of films, and starred most recently in Game of Thrones, in which he played a gigantic hairy monster named Mag the Mighty. As I read remembrances from those who knew him, I am not at all surprised that Mr. Neil Fingleton was remembered fondly as a kind and intelligent gentleman.
I am very sorry he is gone, and gone so young. Rest in peace, sir. And no, you could never have gotten away with holding up a convenience store, even with a mask on.