Thursday, December 03, 2009

One Call, That's All

Never having been incarcerated, I don't know for sure if new prisoners actually get just one phone call before their cell door slams shut. If they do, most probably would not call a sportswriter.

Years ago when I was sports editor of the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, Dick Knar, basketball coach at Assumption High School, phoned me from the local police station about 12:30 one Saturday night. He was sloshed, and he was headed for the slammer.

Knar was something of a wild man. He started games attired rather nattily in a coat and tie, but soon ripped off the tie and was known to toss the jacket on the floor, rip his shirt, and actually jump up and down as the contest progressed. We once took advantage of his antics by doing a photo sequence.

Tribune photographer Bill Kiefer aimed a telephoto lens at the coach throughout a Royals' game. We picked out five scenes showing Knar's transformation from a calm gentleman into a raging maniac. As Associated Press members, we gave the sequence with captions to the AP. It went nationwide, appearing in many papers, including the Los Angeles Times.

In his late-night call, Knar asked if I would keep his arrest on a drunk and disorderly charge out of the Tribune. He had lost control in the bar of the Dixon Hotel, where the sports crowd hung out, and finally had to be removed by the police. I told him that since I now knew about the incident, I had an obligation to tell our managing editor. Anyway, I said, one of our reporters would pick it up on the police beat early in the morning.

Managing editor Ollie Williams decided the story didn't merit any special treatment on the sports page, but we would run it as a normal police report item. A bit later, the high school principal appeared in chief editor Carl Otto's office.

After the priest left, Otto emerged with a broad smile, and said. "He wanted me to kill that story about Knar getting arrested. I told him if the Pope was here asking us to kill a story, I wouldn't do it. But I would print the news that he asked all over the front page. Our little talk ended right there."

1 comment:

joared said...

Very funny!