by John Unrein
Growing up there were two must read sports writers for me. One was Peter King of Sports Illustrated, and the other was Bill Althaus of the Examiner. King’s insight was second to none when it came to the National Football League. He could bring professional football alive. Althaus captured a story with concise writing while setting up and working through quotes better than any other columnist. It made you feel like you were at the event he was covering. Something that is a gift.
Only one of those writers resides in Eastern Jackson County. More importantly, in the community of Grain Valley. Althaus and his wife Stacy are long term residents of Grain Valley and had an abundance of reasons for establishing roots here decades ago.
“We wanted a small town feel, but I wanted a community close enough to Kansas City that I could still make it out to the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City Royals as well as concerts downtown. We came out to Grain Valley on a weekend when the Eagles were playing football in the postseason. Buildings were decorated blue, and they had painted large Eagles in the street. It was something you would see in a Walt Disney movie,” Althaus said.
“We fell in love with this town. That same weekend we bought a lot in Brigadoon Estates and six months later became residents. We have never regretted it one moment. What the school district has done with its growth academically and with activities, I could have never in a million years seen that happening. It has been fun to go along for the ride.”
Jacksonville Jaguars head football coach Urban Meyer said during a 2018 interview that the most important thing to do in a leadership role is to build trust. That doing so would allow for what was being offered to be embraced. Key ingredients among the formula Meyer stressed was to be yourself and find a message that others would find meaningful and listen to.
The Twitter description offered by Althaus is an example of how he communicates with others. It is humble, straight forward, gracious, and displays longevity in the challenging profession of journalism.
Althaus shares, “Started with a manual typewriter and now I’m Tweeting. What a memorable journey it has been. Thanks for sharing it. Thirty-Nine years at the Examiner. Is that possible?”
Relationship building and treating everyone he meets the same way allows Althaus to gain trust. The faith put in Althaus by others in the media, public education, and by student athletes has been gained through consistency in character. Something that has not gone unnoticed by Grain Valley assistant principal Mike Tarrants and local media mogul Brian Johnston.
Tarrants was the activities director at Grain Valley High School prior to assuming the current role of assistant principal and being assistant football coach for the Eagles. Johnston is the owner of Sponsorship Focus and Preps KC, the founder of Vision Sports, has formerly worked for Royals Radio Network, and was the Corporate Partnership Sales Manager for the Kansas City Chiefs. Both men who have enjoyed a high degree of success in their own careers did not hesitate to shower Althaus with adoration based on the bonds they have shared over the years.
“I have known Bill for 15 years since I came to Grain Valley High School as an administrator. I got to know him through the various activities that I was supervising,” Tarrants said.
“Bill has also served as a mentor to my oldest son Blake (who is blind). Bill took him under his wing, mentored him, wrote a couple of articles about him, and has kept up with Blake throughout his college and early adulthood years. It was through this process that I saw the true qualities of Mr. Althaus. There was no benefit for Bill to help out Blake other than just being a good person.”
Tarrants finished, “When Bill was inducted into the Grain Valley High School Hall of Fame, I could tell that it was truly an honor for him. Bill was very gracious and considered it as a personal award, not just a professional one.”
Johnston echoed many of the sentiments shared by Tarrants when reflecting on his relationship with Althaus.
“I have known Bill for 25 years. It started when I began Vision Sports – broadcasting Blue Springs and Blue Springs South football games on radio. He was a big supporter of it and really helped us get it off the ground,” Johnston said.
“Bill is so positive. I have never known a writer to create positive stories about everything he writes. He makes people feel like they are super stars. When my dad was alive, Bill would talk Detroit Tigers baseball with him. Specifically, Al Kaline who was my dad’s hero. I have never forgotten that.”
Johnston concluded, “Bill is a good friend. He would do anything for anyone.”
Althaus deeply cherishes the relationships he has forged. A reward for four decades of work came full circle for Althaus on June 10th. The Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association, an elite fraternity that is guarded by admission selection, inducted Althaus into their 2021 Hall of Fame class. Althaus is the only newspaper reporter to be inducted during the history of the GKCFCA Hall of Fame.
“It was an honor. Anthony Simone, who started the Simone Award, David Allie who is the president of the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association, to see those people who have made such an impact in your life was a great reward,” Althaus said.
“Thirty-nine years in one place in the newspaper business is unheard of, especially for a smaller newspaper like the Examiner. We still put out an award winning newspaper every day of the week, even with a smaller staff. It has been so much fun along the way. Some of my best friends now are people who I met when they were student athletes during their junior and senior years in high school.”
“In the early 1980’s, I was the beat writer for the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City Royals. My family watched Christian Okoye’s daughter when he would come to training camp. We got to attend George Brett’s wedding. We were roughly the same age. The persona of the athlete has changed today. It is more sterile now. You do not get to know people like you did back then.”
Althaus added, “That is why I like covering high school sports so much now. A Friday night under the lights with a coach and team you respect, there is nothing better in the world than that.”
Grain Valley News selfishly enjoys getting to write Community Profile stories. The effort permits for the residents of our community to know about the fascinating people who call Grain Valley home. We are blessed to have individuals who give to those around them and deserve the spotlight. If you would like to nominate someone for a Community Profile, email firstname.lastname@example.org.