I don't know how the news escaped me, but it wasn't until yesterday that I heard of Dark Star's passing. By now I've had time to process it - I've watched the tribute videos out there, listened to the interviews with people who knew him, and taken time to remember what I liked so much about Dark Star's evening radio program on WCCO back in the day.
My tribute needs a little bit of back story. When I was growing up, my parents decided (rightfully so) that TV had little to offer young children...so they got rid of it. From the time I was 9 or 10 years old, there was no functional TV in the house. So what did I do? I bought myself a little handheld radio and immediately fell in love with the AM dial. It took me no time at all to find The Good Neighbor (WCCO for those of you not familiar with MN radio) which, at the time, was a mostly-sports/news station. They were the home of the Twins, they had radio personalities like Steve Cannon, Dark Star, Tim Russell, Dave Lee (still there), and everyone's favorite weatherman, Mike Lynch. My bedtime as a kid was usually sometime between 7pm and 8pm which afforded me a good amount of time to listen to Dark Star's show.
I liked his irreverence, I liked his optimistic attitude, I liked the way he joked around with everyone. I admired the way he handled people who didn't like him. I liked that he was respectful of those who disagreed with them. I liked it that he knew when to be serious, but never took himself too seriously. I liked that he was unpredictable. There was no doubt that he was a diehard Twins and Vikings fan. Truth be told, he put me to sleep a lot of nights - not in a bad way - and usually I went to bed smiling.
In watching the interviews with people who worked closely with Dark, you can tell he was a well liked guy. Paul Allen broke down when he was interviewed, Reusse wrote a very nice tribute to his fallen friend, hell, even the guy at Canterbury Park was distraught. I guess its in seeing the real emotion in those who knew him that lets me know that his personality wasn't just a radio thing - its a tribute to him that those he knew closely are so affected by his passing. I don't live in Minnesota anymore so I haven't been able to listen to him for awhile, but I will miss tuning in to hear him when I visit. Rest in Peace, Dark Star, and thank you for what you brought to sports talk radio.