Ken Burger 1949-2015
When I started this blog..the premise was to periodically point out “when the news that should make sense…doesn’t”.
South Carolina newsman, sportswriter, columnist, editor..and my friend..Ken Burger has died..passing on Tuesday. He was two days short of celebrating his 66th birthday. Quite honestly…that does not make the least bit of sense to me.
As a young radio sports reporter in Charleston making the rounds to cover Citadel football and RiverDogs baseball — even the occasional jaunt to Columbia to cover the Gamecocks — it was always nice to see Ken literally stroll in to the press box preparing to bring home the game story. There was always that point where he would appear — cool as a cucumber with his Polo shirt collar flipped up like one of the cool kids walking into class.
I always knew I was in the presence of a real reporter and would occasionally — in my quest to get my own work done — steal a moment or two just to watch him work. I would always learn something whether it was about interviewing, writing, or the nuances of the game itself.
I only recently learned about Ken’s 2007 prostate cancer diagnosis. That was a punch in the gut for me. I immediately started thinking back to memorable lines from some of his columns. My all-time favorite offering of his started out:
“I love women. I love basketball. I hate women’s basketball.”
I have been reading many of the tributes to Ken. Among the most poignant I’ve come across came from Joe Posnanski who wrote the following a little while ago in a post called ‘A Drive to Charleston’:
Ken Burger is dying. These four words stump me. You know that Woody Allen joke about how he doesn’t want to achieve immortality through his work, he wants to achieve it by not dying. I always connected that joke to Kenny. He was the one person I knew who might really beat death. Heck, he beat everything else. Alcoholism. Smoking. Bankruptcy. Various personal abysses. For a long time he was beating the hell out of cancer too.
And then, he wasn’t. Cancer doesn’t fight fair.
“Madame,” Hemingway wrote, “all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true storyteller who would keep that from you.” I think about this as I drive through past those South Carolina towns — Lancaster, Chester, Great Falls, Winnsboro, Smallwood. “All stories, if continued far enough, end in death.” Kenny, of all people, gets that. Kenny is a true storyteller.
You can read Joe’s entire post here.
I never know really what to say in instances like this. All I can really do..is remember the times our paths crossed at a press luncheon or during a taping at the TV station when he would call me by name and ask how I was doing.
Those things I mentioned earlier that I learned in the moments I stole watching Ken..I still employ to this day in my work at FOX News Radio. For that reason primarily, I have relatively few problems getting people to talk with me on the record. As we say in the South, “You catch more flies with honey.”
I will miss you, Ken Burger.
When next I sit on press row, I will break the rules and let out a small cheer…just for you.