Saturday, March 4, 2006

Mayer: Honest, Max set standard


With humble apologies to and immeasurable appreciation for Abe Lincoln ...

Fourscore and two years ago, Edith and Earl Falkenstien brought forth on this continent a new citizen, named Max, conceived in affection and intended as somebody who would leave the world better than it was when he became a part of it. Edith and Earl have good reason for pride.

Now we are engulfed by an overwhelming tsunami of tributes, testing whether this colleague or any other friend, acquaintance and observer enriched and entertained by Max's 60 years in his unique media sphere can say and write things as good as he deserves. We are met on a huge field of challenge, everyone trying to top everyone else. Yet this is a warming rather than unpleasant task, which we embrace because it is so easy to be laudatory. In view of the man's illustrious record, it is altogether fitting and proper that we do this.

In a larger sense, there is no way that any single utterances or treatises can summarize and lionize the accomplishments of our honoree. The Falkenstien history of communication and achievement far outstrips what poor powers we might have to add or detract.

The world will little note nor long remember what I write here, or what others may offer in appreciation of Max's career as a broadcaster and Kansas University icon. But society will long be aware, thanks to interviews, tapes, videos and other modern miracles, what he has accomplished as a broadcaster, hale fellow well-met and all-around good citizen that his parents hoped he would be. It is for those who follow to measure up to the tradition of warmth, lilt, professionalism and friendliness for which Max has set such high standards.

In the modern impersonal climate where close ties, personal touches and longstanding relationships are increasingly rare, it is well to reflect on the feats of Max Falkenstien and his devoted and beloved co-pilot, Isobel. How fitting if their legacy continues to smooth the hard edges and soften the outreach of athletics in general and Kansas University's athletic and academic programs in particular. This is the gentle approach the Falkenstiens have so nobly advanced and which should be maintained and expanded.

It is vital for all of us, present and future, to highly resolve that the examples set by the unmatched Falkenstien tenure shall not fade away but will receive the attention and emulation necessary for repetition and enhancement. The bar has been set high. It's been one fabulous hall-of-fame journey for Max and Isobel in raising that bar. Those of us who have been along for at least parts of the ride hope the lessons of the past are not wasted.

Ideally, the Falkenstien legacy will be used to help those who follow to make sure that eminence of the Jayhawks, by the Jayhawks and for the Jayhawks shall not dwindle on this earth.

So ... enough shameless theft from Honest Abe! A few more personal remarks, though you should know by now how I feel. What Max accomplished the past 60 years never will be duplicated, for many technical reasons but mostly because of the essence of the low-key kid from Lawrence. I feel honored to have gone through all or parts of seven decades in this business blessed by close associations with people like Max, Jerry Waugh, Phog Allen, Bob Timmons, Don Fambrough, Floyd Temple and the late Ray Evans and Dick Harp.

Max says he's been incredibly lucky. I'm just as covetous and appreciative to be linked to people of such substance and quality.


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