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Vol. 57, No. 4 • June 2020 • .pdf version
Dufresne had an eye for drama as national college hoops voice
By HERB GOULD / TMG Sports
We are all in shock at TMG College Sports. Devastated and grieving.
Our founder, Chris Dufresne, is gone.
Chris, who died at 62 on May 25, is primarily remembered as a college football writer. But he put his deft touch on a wide range of sports, including pro football, golf, Olympic sports. And he did some of his work covering college sports, where his talent for spotting drama, irony and understated humor served him well. That all came together on a piece he wrote about Bobby Knight after a tough loss in the 1997 NCAA Tournament.
I'm not really sure where to begin. I remember when Chris approached me four years ago with the idea of starting a freewheeling college football website. Four old sportswriter buddies would gather in one place from the four corners of the country. Chris in L.A., Mark Blaudschun in Boston, Tony Barnhart in Atlanta, me in Chicago – and put on a show.
We would write what we wanted when we wanted. Chris was taking a buyout at the L.A. Times, but still wanted to write about the college sports scene that he loved. And he correctly had the feeling that Mark, Tony and I felt the same way.
It seems like we were just getting started. But then, I feel that way about Duf, as he was universally known. Sixty-two years old? This is cruel and wrong. And words can't describe the empathy I feel for his wonderful wife, Sheila, who designing our website and guiding four old scribes through the modern digital obstacle course that went with it.
It's the same with their three sons, Danny, Drew and Joey, who have lost their father far too soon. I just want to give them all a hug, and a shoulder to cry on.
I am thinking now of the first time I really got to know Chris. A lot of laughs and meals and toasts would follow.
But the first time was when Duf delivered a marvelous story about Bobby Knight during the 1997 NCAA tournament. Over a late-night beer, he told me he had followed Knight walking alone in the rain back to his hotel after a discouraging blowout loss.
"Really?" I kept saying. "Then what happened?"
You know that movie Broadway Danny Rose, where the comics sit around a deli listening to a story and throwing in their two cents? You've got it. I just kept asking him things. He told the backstory so well. It was fascinating and worthy of a journalism class.
The enterprise he showed in finding the story and writing skill were what I admired about Chris Dufresne the sportswriter. He could be a gumshoe, he could turn a phrase, he saw the details and the big picture.
The wry way he told what he found and how he handled the story were what I cherished about Chris Dufresne the man.
He was cynical, a common trait among good newspaper people. But he also was gentle and understated. He was interesting, but he always was interested. He always had time for people. He had a great perspective on life.
And what a great life. This was a guy whose father drove a newspaper circulation truck, who worked his way up from the L.A. Times loading dock to become a beloved senior voice in the sports section.
And this was a guy who was a great friend to so many people in the newspaper business and many other arenas of life. If the measure of a person's life is, as they say, how many people he or she touches, there's no measuring stick big enough to describe the impact of Chris Dufresne.
God bless, you, buddy. Those last days were filled with cancer-caused pain that you bore with great dignity. R.I.P. We will miss you. Big-time.
(TMG Sports has established a sports journalism scholarship in Chris Dufresne's memory at Cal State Fullerton. give.fullerton.edu/dufresnescholarship)
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