For many of us who have worked, lived and followed sports in this area all of our lives, recent events involving the University of Missouri have become too much to handle.
First, Missouri announces that enough is enough. The teetering stability of what was left of the Big 12 Conference was not something, Mizzou school officials said, they wanted to sit around and watch crumble before their fearful eyes. Instead, Missouri elected to walk away from the problem and align itself with a conference with which, it was believed, the university's livelihood would be served and protected long into the future.
That was hard enough to take for people like yours truly who have grown up with the Big Seven, Big Eight and now the Big 12. Now we learn that Mike DeArmond, who has covered and written about the Missouri Tigers for more than half of what has been a brilliant and distinguished 40-year sportswriting and editorial career with The Kansas City Star, has decided to retire.
While we are happy for DeArmond -- believe me, 40 years in the frenetic, time-demanding, deadline-driven world of metro daily newspaper journalism is an incredibly long time, especially in this day and age -- we are hopeful that he is only retiring from his daily journalism career and that we haven't seen the end of his insightful reporting and informative and enjoyable writing from time to time.
In his time at The Star, DeArmond was an exceptional journalist who went beyond the typical demands. As a reporter, he was one of the first journalists on the scene and wrote the front-page story of the tragic skywalk collapse at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on July 17, 1981. He covered eight Olympic games in his four decades at The Star, and he wrote about the Royals in the early 1980s, including George Brett's bid in 1980 to become the first .400 hitter in Major League Baseball since the late, great Ted Williams (.406) in 1941. DeArmond also served time as an editor at the newspaper, as an assistant city editor when there was both a morning and evening edition of the newspaper, and as an assistant sports editor.
A 1972 graduate of the School of Journalism at Missouri, DeArmond, from Joplin, Mo., has been writing about MU sports since he was an undergraduate, and the second half of his career at The Star was almost exclusively devoted to covering major Missouri sports, but some that were less glamorous, as well.
I have never personally met DeArmond, but I feel like I have known him for years. Our careers started off on similar paths, except that I went to that rival school on the Kaw River in Lawrence, also majoring in journalism, and was a couple of years ahead of him. My professional aspirations while in college at Kansas, and even before that when I was in high school, was to be a sportswriter for a major metropolitan newspaper or national sports magazine. Only I ended up spending over 40 years in the media, public relations and as a corporate communications executive before retiring from that life four years ago.
Something else DeArmond and I have in common is the triggering point that got our careers started in journalism. In the alumni profiles that exist on the MU School of Journalism website, he cites a journalism workshop he attended at Missouri as a high school student as the prime stimulus that sparked his interest in a career in journalism. I had the same life-changing experience after attending a six-week journalism summer camp at the University of Kansas my junior year in high school.
The irony of all of this is that now that I'm retired from the corporate world, I'm back doing what I originally set out to do: writing about sports. And DeArmond, having already put in half a lifetime and deep personal dedication to the sportswriting profession, now wants to go off and do something else. Don't get me wrong, I believe he is well deserving of the opportunity to take a new road and so something else a less time consuming and less demanding with his life. In the meantime, I'm just getting restarted on my "something else."
As a native Kansas Citian, I have followed, with some interest and appreciation, both as a fellow journalist and as a passionate fan of sports, DeArmond's sports reporting and editorial commentaries in The Star. He has done a lot of next-day game coverage, but he is also very accomplished as a feature writer doing lifestyle and personality pieces.
I have always felt he was one of the best writers in The Star's sports department, and to remain there as long as he has was truly amazing to me. His style of writing is concise and easy to get into, and his use of vivid, relevant imagery and well-constructed language in describing a given sporting activity or aspect thereof, I've always believed, made the reader feel as if he was right there and part of the history being chronicled.
Whatever DeArmond decides to do in the next chapter of his life, he will be greatly missed from the sports pages of our daily local newspaper. He has told others that after stepping aside from the newspaper journalism trade he wants to return to doing what he has always loved - doesn't that sound familiar? - playing acoustic guitar. He wants to "find the words to all the songs he's learned to play the last 45 years," he says, "build a small recording studio in the basement of his house and put all of that on DVD."
Jeff Rosen, The Star's assistant managing editor for sports, had this to say about DeArmond leaving the newspaper: "Nobody works harder or cares more about his craft than Mike DeArmond," Rosen said. "Last fall, he was the first to report that MU has an offer on the table to go to the SEC. His meticulous reporting led the way for The Star's coverage of that tumultuous time and proved to be the fitting final act of a fabulous career."
You don't have to know DeArmond to admire and respect what he has accomplished in the journalism profession, his lifelong devotion to his craft and what he stands for. He is a terrific role model for anyone in the sportswriting game or anyone thinking about going down that vocational or avocational path.
DeArmond's final story for The Star was the MU-Baylor men's basketball game story for The Star's website and Sunday's newspaper.