On June 1 KFAN radio host (and former Star Tribune sports columnist) Dan Barreiro came on the air and announced that Dark Star died in his home sometime earlier in the day. His radio show for the rest of the afternoon would become a remembrance of “The Darkman.”
An emotional Paul Allen talked about how Dark was the first person he saw on his first day at Canterbury Downs. Dan Cole spoke about Star’s interesting view on sports and how they looked forward to doing their Friday afternoon bits together. And even competitive lines were erased for a moment when longtime Star Tribune columnist and current 1500ESPN radio host Patrick Reusse joined Barriero on the air to talk about his friend.
After listening and reading what people were saying about Dark Star, whose real name was George Chapple, I felt like I may have been the only person in Minnesota to never have met him in person. I do remember seeing him on The Canterbury Report as a kid, even though I really had no idea what was going on. I also remember listening to him on the way home from Viking games when they were on WCCO radio back in the day. But for some reason his death is still sticking with me.
I texted my brother after I heard about Star’s death and he responded back with a message that hit the nail on the head: Star’s death represents the taking (or in the case, going) away of one the longtime Minnesota sports personalities that have spread across a few generations (more than a few if you’re talking about Sid), and that there doesn’t appear to be anybody waiting in the queue to replace them.
Sure, there are plenty of younger sports personalities making their presence known 140 characters at a time. That’s not an insult; it is just how things are. What I’m talking about is a generation of sports writers who have stories to tell about some of our states’ sports icons of the past, like Bud Grant, Billy Martin, Tommy Kramer, and Herb Brooks.
But for six-month stints in Springfield, Ill., and La Crosse, Wis., I’ve lived in Minnesota all of my life, so I don’t have other markets to compare it with. But I would like to believe when it comes to storytellers of Minnesota sports that our own market is unique. Yes, we get annoyed with them at times (some people a little too annoyed with their comments underneath online columns), but our state, with all of our frustrating sports franchises, has produced sports media types who have not only stuck around, but continue to remain relevant.
Think about it: Sid Hartman, Patrick Reusse, Charley Walters, Tom Powers, Bob Sansevere have been with their respective newspapers since I started reading about sports on a regular basis. Even television personalities such as Mark Rosen, Randy Shaver, Mike Max, and Joe Schmit have hung around for their entire careers (the latter group appears ageless).
How come? Maybe what now feels like a history, or either losing or just coming up short, entails job security. Or maybe, just maybe, these guys are just good at what they do, even if we don’t agree with them six out of 10 times.
The Darkman was undoubtedly a strange cat, and at the age of 66, left us too soon. He represents a number of things, but, in my book anyway, he represents a legacy of local sports personalities who have left their own mark in Minnesota sports.
Tim Miller lives in Vadnais Heights and currently works in advocacy for the American Academy of Neurology in Minneapolis. You can follow him on Twitter at @trmiller22.
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