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For more than a quarter century, the Cheap Seats column in Washington City Paper has been the place the District turns for the best stories in area sports. Not the breaking news, or the game coverage, but the tales of the businesses, institutions, legends, and most of all, people behind sports in the D.C. region. You didn’t have to care who won or lost to know that Dave McKenna would give you a good yarn when you picked up the paper.
Tomorrow will be your last chance to do that, though; McKenna has opted to stop writing Cheap Seats and move on from City Paper. As McKenna announces his decision in his column for this week’s paper, which will be his last:
This will be the last Cheap Seats column. In our 25 years and 51 weeks together, City Paper and I have gotten everything out of each other we’re going to get. I’m grateful for all the people who told me their stories, and anybody who ever read my attempts to retell those tales in this space, and, well, anybody who didn’t read but sued me anyway. Be well…
Editor Michael Schaffer sent staff an email about McKenna’s departure today:
This is a really sad day for City Paper. I’ve worked with Dave in various iterations, separated by a dozen or so years, and I can say he’s been one of the most consistently stellar journalists I’ve ever read, much less edited. In a way, it’s a shame that the last year has been so defined by Dave’s bravery in the face of legal threats from a billionaire celebrity, because so much of the real magic in his column was his ability to discover and champion the powerless and the forgotten. Yes, he’s often seemed to be the only one questioning the most powerful sports juggernaut in town. But when you go through his collected works, also look for one-armed superstar catcher Gary Mays, Kentucky Derby winner turned $8-a-race Laurel Park pony boy Ronnie Franklin, and the schoolgirl athletes whose sorry treatment Dave chronicled.
Anyone who’s had the fortune of editing Dave, or just shooting around ideas with him, also knows that Dave’s also one of those guys who manages, in just about every interaction, to make colleagues smarter, funnier, more suspicious and more empathetic—exactly what journalists should be. I first experienced this back in the days when a long phone call with Dave was likely to be interrupted by a guitar solo (amplified through a tube amp). These days, said calls are more likely to feature ambient noise from his kids, but the same thing applies. You laugh, you argue, and you underestimate his ability to fact-check the all-Met or NFL-veteran claims of elected officials at your peril. Bottom line: Dave’s someone I’m proud to work with. And, even though he’s dropping the column as a staff writer, I still want to get Dave’s voice in the paper as a contributor (and on the other end of my phone as a friend) as often as he wants.
Pick up tomorrow’s paper to see who earns McKenna’s final Unsportsman of the Year honors.