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Ode To A Retired Guy

1 July 2013

Today is the official end of an era.

For 35 years, 2 months and 3 days (according to his blog), Kevin Pates has been on the Duluth News Tribune staff, and he is retiring today, and moving to Arizona. Presumably to train for his return to the Grandma’s Marathon course as a runner.

I appreciate and admire Pates’s approach to sportswriting, an approach that grows rarer with every retirement of a longtime newswriter and every launch of a new fan blog. His stories are concise, tight, factual, and give the reader a clear sense of what happened in the game. He doesn’t pander to the rabid fans nor antagonize anyone; he writes stories for any audience to read. Even when he was dragged into the sphere of social media, he did it his own, professional, non-swearing (ahem!) way. His style is obviously the antithesis of everything RWD stands for, but there would be no purpose for RWD if I was simply aping what Pates does, hundreds of times better than I could do. It is important to read a sports story without bias. Or with cleverly hidden, carefully disguised bias.

And that’s what I enjoyed the most about reading Pates’s columns and blogs, joining his game night chat rooms on occasion, and following his tweets. He occasionally let the curtain slip. In the most diplomatic, irreproachable fashion, he’d sometimes let us in on what he really thought about a referee’s call or a coach’s comment or a player’s actions. While the rest of us would rage about some call that resulted in an overturned goal or an unwarranted penalty, Pates would make some comment about how “It would certainly seem as if the puck was in the net.” (Paraphrasing here.) After an infamous drive with Bruce Ciskie in the UP, he remarked how it was surprising that a campaign sign could so closely resemble a deer. Behind his professional demeanor in his columns and blogs, there’s a sly, dry wit.

After tUMD won the national championship in 2011, I asked Pates how he reacted when Kyle Schmidt scored the game-winning goal. While the rest of us were sobbing, doing snow angels, or shouting “YEAH BABY!!!!!,” Pates told me he smiled and filed his story.  He’s the quintessential newspaperman, and we have been lucky to have such a fantastic beat writer.

Best wishes for a long and fulfilling retirement!


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