Damon Beck didn’t make a great discovery that would change mankind.
Nor was he an explorer taming the wilds of the west, or the first man on the moon.
Yet he was a pioneer, going places where very few had gone before, but many have gone since.
Beck died of cancer last Thursday at age 60.
For 18 years, from the mid-1980s into the 2000s, Beck was one of the foremost women’s college basketball reporters in the nation.
And he worked right here at the Sentinel-Tribune, and we were a better newspaper for his efforts.
“Damon was ahead of the curve, and through his efforts the Sentinel-Tribune was ahead of the curve in the coverage of women’s college basketball,” said Dave Hackenberg, who is currently the main sports columnist for the Toledo Blade. “I don’t know how many writers were covering women’s teams, home and away, at that time, but it wasn’t many. Damon forged a national reputation for his work back then and did it very well for a long time. He was tough competition for the rest of us who covered the MAC (Mid-American Conference).”
A Bowling Green State University graduate and a former staff member of the student newspaper, the BG News, Beck sought us out about covering the women. At the time we were publishing about five paragraphs and the box score on women’s games.
He thought the women deserved more, and he was right.
Beck was able to put a face on the women’s game when it was basically in its infancy and chronicled the Falcons through four different head coaches.
He made sure they were known as the Falcons. The use of ‘Lady Falcons’ drove him crazy.
“In 1990, Damon wrote a very insightful article lamenting the fact that so many people in the media and elsewhere called the BGSU women’s basketball team the ‘Lady Falcons,’” said Dr. Janet Parks, a former professor at BGSU. “He did a great job of explaining why our women’s team should be called, as he put it, “the Falcons, period.” For many years, that article was required reading in my sport management classes. It helped students understand the power of language in sport.”
Beck went through the highs with coaches Fran Voll and Jaci Clark, the lows during Dee Knoblauch’s tenure and the start of the rebuilding under current head coach Curt Miller.
“Damon had a passion for BGSU women’s basketball. He helped spread the word about our program even before our championship years. Damon was more than a sports writer covering our team, he was a friend of our program,” Miller said.
Beck had a passion for the Falcons. They were “his” team and he got to know the players off the court, along with their friends and families.
He was able to put a face on the players for our readers. His reporting gave our readers more than statistics. He provided insight into the players and the games.
And the players appreciated his efforts.
“Damon was always a kind and familiar face in the press room after a tough game,” said former Falcon Sara Puthoff, who is in the BGSU athletic hall of fame. “He was very sincere and passionate about his work and truly cared about the players he interviewed.
“He had a way of making you sound intelligent in the paper, even though you know it didn’t come out of your mouth that way. I appreciated all of Damon’s kindness and caring words during my time on the Bowling Green woman’s basketball team.”
While he was able to get close to the players and their families, Beck was able to maintain his objectively in game stories and features. He knew that the place for his opinions were in his column.
“Damon Beck was a huge ingredient in spreading the news about an exceptional program we were generating at BGSU in women’s basketball,” Voll said. “Damon took it upon himself with the encouragement of Jack Carle and all the fine folks at the Sentinel-Tribune to let the university community know that something special was taking place within the athletic department at the university.
“Damon took things even further as he reached out on both the regional and national level to let the sports world know that women’s basketball was a great game played with great players as he took his place as a national poll voter and gained a solid reputation as an authority of women’s basketball.
“No one had more influence on the BGSU women’s program from outside of the university than Damon Beck,” Voll added.
Many times during Beck’s first years covering the program, he was one of the few reporters in the post-game press conference. There might be a couple of student reporters and maybe a television station, but Beck carried the interviews.
His work became noticed on the national level by Mel Greenburg, who had started a women’s college basketball poll and Beck became a voter. When the Associated Press took over the poll, Beck continued to be a voter on the rankings and for All-American teams. His comments and opinions were taken seriously by many in the world of women’s basketball.
“Not only was Damon a great writer, he was a great person,” said Mike Cihon, who is the women’s basketball contact for Bowling Green’s athletics communications department. “He always seemed to enjoy covering the BGSU women’s basketball team, even in down seasons. Whether the Falcons were battling for a MAC championship or battling for eighth place, the quality of Damon’s work never varied.
“He was very much a friend of the program, and truly cared about the players, coaches and support staff as individuals.”
Beck’s kindness, love of sports and connection with young people went beyond his coverage of women’s basketball.
He was a coach in the Bowling Green Pee Wee baseball league for a number of years.
He was always gracious and kind to children of his neighbors and friends, many times taking them for a treat or giving small presents, like state quarters.
Beck also helped a number of college students, showing them the way to cover sports.
“I remember learning the ropes from him and how in awe I was of his connection to the entire program,” said Matt Schroder, who worked for the BG News and the Sentinel-Tribune. “Fran and the other coaches, players, even fans all knew him. And as a college kid, I thought Damon was God-like the way everyone knew him (and loved him!) at those games.”
In recent years the thing I’ll remember most about Damon was how his face would light up when he talked about his granddaughters, Shelby and Kelsey.
He touched many lives and will be missed by all.