Personally, it was one of those “where were you when you heard the news” moments. My wife, who hates sports talk and barely knows what a first down is, called me Monday Morning and told me the sad news that Tom “Killer’ Kowalski had died. It was like when I heard John Lennon had been killed. It’s been a few days now, and I’m still numb. It was as if I lost a treasured family member.
I never met the man, but I feel like he’s been a big part of my life for at least ten years. I never read his stuff in the Oakland Press because I lived in Macomb County, but I’ve followed him on mlive.com for a long time now and he was the second person I checked in with every morning, after my wife. When it came to the Detroit Lions, he was the MAN. Whenever I heard something about the Lions, the first thing I did was to see what Killer had to say about it. He was the gospel when it came to info about my favorite team.
In reading the accounts of his life, everyone had enormous respect for his work and his work habits. He was a straight shooter who didn’t take any guff from anybody. I remember him from my days photographing the Lions in the 90’s. He was always in the locker room talking to someone or waiting to talk to someone.
The guys who cover the Lions for the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press are relatively new so I don’t have a strong connection to them. Curt Sylvester has retired and Mike O’Hara writes for Fox Sports now but he keeps a low profile. To the loyal Lion lovers like myself, Killer was the voice of that franchise. He was everywhere. On the different radio shows, different newspapers, on TV before the games, he even covered the Lions for the Sporting News. If you wanted the REAL story, you just checked with Killer.
Killer spoke for the fans more than anything else. While I know reporters are not supposed to root for teams, you could tell that he really cared what happened to the Lions. I remember many a Thursday night when he would have his weekly radio show and I would have to sit in my car to listen to it because the radios in the house would not work after dark in the wintertime. I just HAD to know what Killer was thinking about the upcoming game. You could hear his passion for the lions in his voice.
After all those years, 30 to be exact, of covering the worst team in the league, the sad irony is that he left us just before his Lions are about to go on a run of success that rivals the fifties, when the Lions won the title three times that decade. Maybe there’s some solace in the fact that the last time he saw the Lions, they put a whipping on the best team in the league. He, more that anyone, knew where this team is going.
I like to think that the big guy upstairs needed someone to keep track of football for him and he wanted the best to keep him informed. When he asks Killer a question, Killer will probably reply–“Here’s the thing”……….