Wednesday, September 7, 2011

R.I.P. Tom Kowalski

Allow me this personal moment, courtesy of WOOD-TV and The Oakland Press.

Lions writer Tom Kowalski dies

Lions take a moment to remember beat writer Tom Kowalski
Of The Oakland Press
ALLEN PARK — A visibly shaken Jim Schwartz asked for the cameras to be turned off at the start of Monday’s post-practice press conference. A first.

Then the Detroit Lions coach addressed the death of long-time Lions beat writer Tom Kowalski, who died Monday morning. He was 51.

To honor Kowalski, Schwartz left the first question to go unasked and there was a moment of silence from the media who were all stunned as the heart-breaking news poured in as Monday’s practice started.

Kowalski quite often asked the first question of Schwartz.

...Kowalski started his sports writing career at The Oakland Press in 1978, he moved on to Booth Newspapers in 1997 and was a contributor for Also known as “Killer” he was a fixture on WDFN-AM (1130) and Fox 2 (WJBK).
In what seems like a previous life, but which really spanned the five years from 2001 to 2006, I was a judge for the Michigan Competing Band Association. Until 2005, the organization held the state championship in the Pontiac Silverdome. As a judge, I got to attend the championship for free and watch the bands from the press box while eating a free catered meal.* It made for a really fun afternoon and evening that I enjoyed immensely, especially since I was treated like a V.I.P. but didn't have to work. That was the life.

My favorite seat, one I sat in both 2004 and 2005, was one reserved during Lions games for Kowalksi. I know because it had a plaque on the bench table in front of the seat with his name and that of his first employer, The Oakland Press, on it. I can see why he had it reserved. It had the best view of the field of any seat in the press box.

Goodbye, Killer, and thank you for letting me sit in your seat.  It was an honor.

*My students know that there is no such thing as a free lunch. I had paid for it metaphorically by my service during the season, while the MCBA paid for it literally through the ticket receipts of the paid spectators at the championship. Eventually, the bill came due. From 2006 on, the championships were held at Ford Field, which nearly bankrupted the association the first year of the move. Later that same year, I left judging, a decision that ended up being good for my mental health. By 2007, I stopped looking back.

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