An Overdue Honor For Dan McDonald – From the Bird’s Nest
I was in a car, headed to Jonesboro, AR for a basketball game between Christmas and New Years, when I got the word Dan McDonald was headed to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. He, along with veteran TV personality and "Voice of the New Orleans Saints" Jim Henderson, were being given the Distinguished Service Award. It's the highest award any member of the media can get.
I sent him a text. It simply said, "You Stud."
Shortly after, we talked. It was only fitting that the call came when he was in Denton, Texas, visiting his daughter, Kristi McDonald Rose, son-in-law Mike and his four grandchildren. His wife, Mary Beth, was there as well.
The most important people in his life were with him when he got the call.
Saturday night in Natchitoches, the induction made if official.
Mary Beth, Kristi and Mike were in attendance. So were countless other colleagues and friends.
After working more than two decades as a Sports Information Director, most of those years at USL, after working at the Daily Advertiser for a decade and after spending the better part of a decade as a free lance writer and broadcaster, Dan McDonald is in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, joining Henderson, Dave Dixon Leadership Award Winner Sue Donahoe and fellow inductees Eddie Kennison, Juan Pierre, Calvin Borel, Ed Reed, D-D Breaux, David Toms and the late C. A. Core and Raymond Didier.
But he was already a Hall of Famer, having been inducted into the College Sports Information Director's Hall of Fame (CoSIDA) years earlier.
I remember the day he got THAT call, too.
Dan and Mary Beth are very involved with Looziana Basset Rescue. Basset Hounds have been part of their lives...well...forever. That same day, they had to put down their beloved family member Bogart. I don't use the term family member loosely. It was a really tough day. But after arriving home from that difficult time, the call came.
And that honor, just like last night's, was probably overdue.
In his more than 35 years in Lafayette, Dan served USL Administrators, Student-Athletes, and the general public with his writing skills. Yet, his name isn't exactly a household word.
Dan McDonald wouldn't have it any other way.
He's worked tirelessly to spotlight others as an SID and a member of the media at two different Summer Olympic Games (Seoul and Atlanta). And, even last night, he wasn't keen on having the spotlight on himself. Mary Beth and Kristi knew Dan would try and give all the credit to them. And, they were having none if it. Finally, in his speech, he asked them to meet him halfway and stand off to the side. (He really wanted them on stage). He spoke directly to them while they (and many others) wiped away tears.
In my 35 years with Dan, as a colleague and as a friend, I've marveled at his abilities.
His attention to detail when he was an SID was pretty incredible. Early in my career of doing Cajuns' sports, I would travel to some big schools. I'd get their game notes. The big boys were never as good as Dan in that regard. I never had to ask him for specific numbers or names...they were always there at my fingertips. I came to understand that Dan was as good, maybe better, than any SID in America.
But, despite being as thorough as anyone in his profession, he always asked the same question, not only of me, but everyone else in the media.
"Do you need anything?"
His consistency spilled over to other parts of his being.
On road trips, Dan was always willing to do early reconnaissance for restaurants. Every time it was a barbecue place. You know those folks who claim to bleed vermilion and white or purple and gold?
Dan bleeds barbecue sauce.
And, Dan never met a Cracker Barrel he didn't like. Momma's Pancake Breakfast, please.
And, way back when, Dan always had a cassette or two for music while traveling It was always Jimmy Buffett. I don't know if Dan can sing "Happy Birthday." But he knows the lyrics to just about every Buffett song ever recorded. Dan has seen Buffett perform on 21 occasions. I know that because I asked him. I knew he'd have the answer.
Dan and Mary Beth have been inseparable pretty much since I've known them. She worked in his department years ago. She still calls him "Boss." Unless she's mad at him. Which almost never happens. And, to this day, she, like Dan is quick to ask, "do you need anything."
He abruptly retired as an SID in late 1999. The opportunity to spend more time with Kristi, then a student at Southern Miss, was bigger than his career. He left Reinhardt Drive and went to work for the Daily Advertiser, where he spent a decade as the Cajuns' beat writer, as well as covering high school football and writing stories on golf. But he didn't have to travel as much and got to spend more time with his family.
Today, Dan writes for many newspapers and publications. He jokingly refers to himself as
a "journalistic whore." In addition, he's shown himself to be a solid broadcaster, broadcasting softball, baseball and golf for the Sun Belt Conference, in addition to doing baseball broadcasts for Townsquare Media and the stream broadcasts for the Cajuns. He still puts forth the same effort for those duties as he did when he worked full time. The only difference now is, he takes more time off to spend with Kristi, Mike and the four grandchildren, with Mary Beth at his side, as always.
Ever humble, he still hasn't figured out why he's now a member of two different Halls of Fame. He'll be the first to tell you there are others much more deserving.
But he'll be the only one to tell you that. The rest of us know differently.