Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 6/23/12
Sometimes we forget that football is more than just a game. It is an entire entertainment industry.

While many fans look back with pride at the contributions that certain athletes have made to emotionally gripping moments on the field, few remember that the work on the side line contributes just as much. 

Perhaps even more.

The Detroit Lions have for years been a franchise associated with futility, mocked, and held in derision. Yet, year after year, fans poured their hearts into the product that was displayed before them. They displayed the passion and determination of knowing that things would improve. And they cursed vehemently when they didn't.

Yet through it all, there was one voice that helped us to continue... And he wasn't on the team.

He was a beat writer.

Tom Kowalski, affectionately called "Killer" by his followers, endeavored to bring a balanced view to the Detroit Lions and the directions they were heading. He was always willing to look at the frustrations that fans had with the team and direct them. He so very typically represented that uncle who sits down next to you and lets you rant. After you are finished with your ranting, though, he shows you where you're not really being realistic and shows you exactly why you should be mad.

He was very conversational with a wit about the way he presented things. He had an extremely likable on air personality that developed from coming on repeatedly as a guest to radio programs, to being the favorite featured guest, to co-hosting his own radio show in Detroit. I personally remember eagerly looking forward to when he was going to be on the air, and was disappointed when necessary work or life situations called him away.

Yet as laid back as he could be, he was also very pointed about exposing flaws in thinking, flaws in team philosophy, flaws from simply not following that philosophy, and the endless problems that coaching staffs and ownership desperately tried to hide. Tom Kowalski taught us not just how to watch football, but how to understand it. He helped us to differentiate between a player who was coached badly and a bad player. He helped us to see the difference between a bad collection of scouts and a management team (or individual) that refused to take their advice. When analyzing a team for an upcoming draft, or considering what the record of a team may be, or predicting how a player will pan out, it is his voice I inevitably hear in the back of my mind explaining the things to watch for.

These were the experiences that were a great part of the daily fabric of the life of many Detroit Lions fans...Until last summer.

Last summer, his life ended suddenly in his home as he slept.

Life in Detroit has not been the same since. Much as one grows accustomed to the sounds of running saws, when those saws cease, the echoes radiate in the ears of those who were the closest for the longest time. There have been a few who have tried to pick up where he left off. But the quality of the content, combined with the professionalism of the approach, blended with the warmth of personality created a combination that was unique and special. It is this that we miss the most.

Now Detroit can draw comfort from the knowledge that they were not alone in this assessment. The Pro Football Writers of America have announced a lifetime achievement award in honor of what he was able to do. From the keys of this writer, I cannot think of another individual who is more deserving in this town than Tom Kowalski. He was not only a credit to his craft, but was instrumental in teaching a desperate and loyal fan base how to cope and how to make the coping fun. If I ever am remembered for any positive contributions to writing on the game of football, I direct credit to Tom "the Killer" Kowalski. Now the nation of writers are adding their voice. 

People may not have realized the impact before, but to Tom Kowalski, a grateful town and a respectful nation now says, "Thank You."

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