For my seventh birthday, I received a silver radio from my parents — one of those big “portable” ones with a handle on top and an antenna that extended two extra feet for better reception.
It was the best present I ever received. And it’s also the first thing I thought of when hearing that legendary Kansas broadcaster Max Falkenstien had died Monday at the age of 95.
I know this is going to be difficult to explain to my 4-year-old daughter, who’ll grow up with a phone that can deliver all the movies, TV and sports highlights she could ever want.
This wasn’t the world that many of us grew up with, though.
And I think that’s why I think so many KU fans were impacted once they heard the news of Falkenstien’s passing.
Twenty-eight years ago (and before), KU football games weren’t usually televised. Seeing Royals games on TV also was a rare luxury, even denoted by gold shading on the team’s pocket calendars.
A radio, then, was magical — a way to be transported to another place while following your local team.
Knowing this, it’s easy to see why Max meant so much to so many.
You didn’t have to know Max to know him; if you grew up following the Jayhawks, he was part of your routine.
Those were a majority of the memories shared about Max on social media the last two days. One KU fan remembered going to his grandparents’ house to listen to Max before road games were televised. Another said he fell in love with KU basketball even without cable ... thanks to Max’s descriptions that came through the living room stereo.
It’s worth noting here that Max was a better person than radio personality. Even in retirement, he’d show up to the Allen Fieldhouse media room with a smile, and one of the best compliments I’ve ever received was Max telling me a few years ago that he always made sure to read my stories. Separate Twitter posts from college basketball giants like Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale and John Calipari have only confirmed how much of an impression Max had on those around him.
Most Kansans will likely be left with a bit of nostalgia. Max represents a trip back in time, sending many to reflect on days they remember fondly.
Before iPhones and WiFi, there was the AM dial. And before Twitter and apps, there was a silver radio and a two-foot extendable antenna.
Without knowing it, Max was around me quite a bit growing up. He was on my porch, next to me doing yard work out back and once was even in Mrs. Fowler’s eighth-grade social studies class during a movie.
For six decades, Max was along for the journey in Kansans’ lives, providing not just game details but also the soundtrack for a state.
No, you didn’t actually have to know Max to love him.
And that, to me, is why he’ll be missed so much.