Patrick Kinahan: Former Deseret News sports writer's death creates huge void

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SALT LAKE CITY — The sports journalism world in Utah lost a one-of-a-kind character on Wednesday with the passing of Dirk Facer.

Describing the former Deseret News sports writer as a character is probably the most accurate description of a man who had no enemies. There are plenty of other words that apply — such as funny, loyal, hard-working — but each one only partially reflects the man who poured his heart and soul into his chosen career and family.

Minus the cigar and accompanying hat that stereotypes the old-school version of a sportswriter, Facer fit the bill to a T. For some three decades, he handled every assignment thrown his way with the upmost professionalism.

Before being inexplicably laid off about two years ago, Facer adroitly covered University of Utah football and basketball. He was a fixture on the beat, beloved by his peers along with all the players, coaches and administrators.

Quite literally, no one ever had anything negative to say about him. Take it from someone who has endured plenty of barbs directed his way, this was no small accomplishment. For more proof of this fact, check the outpouring of love mixed with grief on Twitter after his son, Austin, went public with announcement of his father's death.

The profession has changed dramatically over the years, often straying far from the basics taught in every journalism school. It's more about bombastic opinions and the race to be first on social media than it is about simply reporting the news in a timely and accurate fashion.

Facer was a fair-minded journalist, never injecting himself into the story. For this reason, among others, he was always trusted.

Accuracy is the name of the game in sports writing. Facer, who was awaiting a kidney transplant, had the most important aspect of the business down cold.

To the outside world, he was a byline on top of a story on a newspaper page along with a voice that occasionally graced sports radio. To industry insiders, he was a giant that extended well beyond the game. Without exaggeration, no one lit up a press box in the way Facer did all those years. Always, without fail, he was a friendly face ready to offer a kind word.

The rivalry fostered by competition between the state's two most renowned newspapers meant nothing to him. He was far more interested in the person, no matter the affiliation.

As the years roll on for veterans in the field, reporting on an endless stream of games season after season sometimes can become monotonous. This is where Facer shined, given his incredible ability to find humor even in the most lopsided of games that would seemingly drag on for hours.

As a peer, covering a game with him on press row was akin to listening to a stand-up comedy routine. If a sense of humor could be a form of currency, Facer would have been rich beyond his wildest dreams. Yes, for real, he was that funny.

Sports reporters Dirk Facer, Amy Donaldson, Patrick Kinahan, David James and Josh Furlong pose for a photo in San Diego on Jan. 1, 2019.
Sports reporters Dirk Facer, Amy Donaldson, Patrick Kinahan, David James and Josh Furlong pose for a photo in San Diego on Jan. 1, 2019. (Photo: Amy Donaldson, Deseret News)

He was there to lend a helping hand, too, whenever needed. Years ago, when covering a BYU football game at Fresno State, Facer volunteered to be my chauffeur and provide a ride from the airport to the hotel. There was an issue with the luggage, necessitating a trip back to the airport several hours later. No problem for Facer, who quickly offered a lift to the airport at the appointed time.

As an example of friendship, of his own doing, he undertook the tedious task of having virtually all of Brad Rock's friends in the media write tribute messages that were to be presented to the longtime Deseret News sports columnist when he retired a few years back.

It's hard, almost to the point of impossible, to comprehend that Dirk is gone now. The press box will never be the same.


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Patrick is a radio host for 97.5/1280 The Zone and the Zone Sports Network. He, along with David James, are on the air Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.


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