LINDSBORG – When I think of him he is in the press box at a football game, marking his peculiar hieroglyphics in three colors on a sheet of lined computer paper. Or he is at his desk, pecking on a keyboard, chuckling to himself. Or he has stopped by my office, on his way to some meeting or another, to say he’d see me tomorrow.
Dan Carr saw me tomorrow for the 11 years that I edited The News Record, and now and then since. His death on Saturday, May 25, was saddening but not a shock. He had checked in to Bethany Home not long ago with end-stage liver disease. I’d gone to see him late one recent afternoon, ducked into his darkened room, saw that he was asleep and turned back. I left a note for him at the nurses’ station.
Dan began full-time work at the News-Record in August 2001 as a sports writer with odd habits and an unconventional but pleasing style of reporting. We were a weekly (no Web edition then), and the Friday and Saturday football games were long finished by the time the paper came out on Wednesday. In Dan’s accounts of those contests, a player designated to run with the ball was not a “back” but a “rusher.” And he did not dive into the line behind blockers, but put himself into the swarm, and was either crushed or flattened, or emerged to find the light of open territory.
His stories of football games stood away from the breathless urgency of deadline reporting. The moved along evenly, a steady and vivid account of what had happened and why, and with a bit of analysis, including prospects for next week’s game.
The reporting was meticulous. Dan had developed a method for recording on paper every movement, every play in a football game. His canvas was a wide spread of dot-matrix print paper, turned so the shaded green lines ran up and down; these were the yard lines. With colored pens he marked the flow of offense and defense (noted with time remaining on the clock). Dotted lines, squares and circles showed the placement of players and action as teams moved up and down the field.
When I asked him to explain his system, began patiently but I was quickly lost. The whole thing seemed like a lecture in spherical trigonometry.
“What’s that yellow slash up by the sideline?” I interrupted.
“Pass interference,” he said, then pointed to the time remaining, the players involved, the penalty, and the red line that took the offending team in reverse.
Early on, he had explained the feverish Smoky Valley-Southeast of Saline football rivalry that heated the season’s first game for both schools. He suggested we present a large traveling trophy, engraved to the winner, and call it the “Bi-Valley Classic.” After all, he said, the schools were from the Gypsum and Smoky Valleys. Dan made it happen, and it was fun for a couple of years.
(The Vikings won the inaugural classic, the Trojans the second, but soon the teams’ schedules went sideways; a massive reorganization of teams and leagues sent their rivalry and trophy floating into the mists.)
Sports were Dan’s catnip. In 2002 he received press credentials for the U.S. Women’s Open at the renowned Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson. He was assigned space No.2, premier row, in an enormous press tent among hundreds of correspondents, and next to the throne for Sports Illustrated. Imagine the thrill. He was at the event every day with photographer Shanley Loffer. Dan’s “Open Diary,” a daily account of the experience (Julie Inkster won the tournament) was a classic.
Next year he was in Point Lookout, Mo., (south of Branson) to follow the Bethany Swedes into the championship game of the 2003 NAIA division II basketball tournament. (Bethany lost to Northwestern, Ia., 77-57.)
His work station at the paper was awash in memorabilia. Among them a wall rack of dozens of golf balls from prestigious locales; keepsakes from the Swedes, Vikings, Chiefs, Royals, Jayhawks; his prized ceramic miniatures of the great old baseball palaces including Ebbets Field, Fenway Park, the Polo Grounds, Comiskey Park, old Yankee Stadium…
His presence at the annual KCAC football writers’ meeting prompted both humor and irritation; during the group’s official pre-season poll, Dan always cast a first-place vote – the only one, at times – for the Swedes, and no matter the prevailing reality.
Eventually he moved into reporting local government with a sports writer’s attention, but without the dot-matrix computer paper. “I miss Dan,” Gary Shogren, Lindsborg’s director of development, said not long ago. “He was at every meeting – the early committees, the evening council sessions.” He was a regular at school board meetings. In election years he arranged the arrival of early local results and updates from the county clerk.
I could go on – his mounted Kansas map, color-coded push-pins marking scores of delivery points to distribute Destination Lindsborg, a glossy travel and tourism magazine long put to rest; 40,000 copies for places across Kansas and into Colorado, and he knew them all.
There’s more, but there’s the idea. Dan enlarged and put into focus the complications on a football field, at a school board meeting or the delivery drops for 40,000 magazines. He was organized, carried many loads, and volunteered selflessly for, at times, awful duty.
In later years he was not well, trapped at once by illness and obligation. But before he was sick there were the discarded sorrows, the immediate joys, even golden prophesies and messages of good cheer that came from someone we could truly miss, and for a long time.