Matthew Keenan


Star writers among winners of KC Press Club awards, KC Star June 25, 2017

by on Jun.25, 2017, under Uncategorized

Kansas City Star staff members won top honors in seven categories — including investigative reporting, beat reporting and feature writing — at the Heart of America journalism awards ceremony on Saturday.

The contest sponsored by the Kansas City Press Club recognizes print and broadcast journalists working in western Missouri and eastern Kansas.

Star reporters Donna McGuire, Glenn Rice and Ian Cummings were awarded first place for investigative reporting, recognizing their work detailing how Kansas City police detectives failed to properly investigate some rapes, serious abuse and other crimes against the city’s children.

McGuire also won first place awards in the contest’s profile and feature categories.

Judy L. Thomas was recognized with first place awards for both beat reporting and business reporting.

Beth Lipoff won first, second and third place awards for magazine stories. Matthew Keenan won first place in the non-news column/blog category, where Sarah Gish won second place.
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Thanks for the memories …. 17 years of writing for the Kansas City Star comes to an end

by on Jan.19, 2017, under Uncategorized

After many years of writing in this space, today’s column is my last. I’m stepping away to dedicate all my energies to my first love — practicing law.

This excursion began in 1999, when an editor at The Star named O.J. Nelson took a chance on me. “Write what you know” he told me. And what I knew was the humor that comes with raising four children under the age of eight.

Through the years at the paper, I had seven different editors, all great mentors who trusted me to pick my topics and my tone. And I owe them all a debt of gratitude.

I also owe much to you the reader. Your e-mails affirmed to me and my supporters at The Star that there was an audience for a beleaguered dad offering commentary on such critical topics like what do when your son’s pinewood derby car turns in concentric circles, and the appropriate response when your aging dog gulps down two sticks of butter.

I also found an audience asking why college seniors are required to move into something called a “senior house” with nine of their closest friends, a rescue dog, and two cats left behind by an old girlfriend.

But more than anyone, it’s been my wife, three sons and daughter who tolerated my musings in which they were often described. I never used this space as a brag board; actually there were many times they were clipped by the bus.

Over the years, I relished sharing my viewpoint on the positive things that were a part of my life growing up. In some cases I was able to continue those traditions with our own children. Things like scouting. One of my favorite stories was joining my three sons at Philmont Scout Reservation ten years ago where we came face to face with a black bear. My scouting columns remain some of my favorite pieces.

In the early years my daughter was a frequent focus, like the time her diary — filled with fairy tales more elaborate than anything Walt Disney ever promoted — was confiscated by her brothers. As I noted way back in 2003,  boys have no appreciation for how a second-grander can wish for things that do not involve knives, BB guns or firecrackers.

Sporting teams gave me endless fodder, particularly basketball teams in the CYO league. You’ve heard of A, B, and C teams? Mine pushed the lower end of the alphabet. Every game my players had one goal — tossing up a hopeless three-point shot. Breaking news, we were terrible. But today those kids would swear we were undefeated.

From time to time I had the privilege to change the public narrative on a few important topics like when I wrote about the Irish priests who populated western Kansas in the 60’s and whose friendship with our family endures today.

Occasionally I wrote about the principal at our St. Patrick’s Grade School in Great Bend, Kan., Her name was Sister Mary Rose and to the students she was saintly but stern. Through my columns we reconnected. When she passed away five years ago at age 93 one of her last requests was for me to speak following her rosary. The essence of my remarks on that evening was that ‘everything I really need to know in life I learned at St. Pats from Sister Mary Rose and her fellow Dominican sisters.’

When I began this hobby as a columnist the President was Clinton, and we were just five years removed from the Today’s show question of “what is the internet?” Cell phones were in bags. And yes this newspaper had many pages of want ads.

I rarely received hate mail. But for the record, do not remotely appear to trash anything about Star Wars, that intersection on Roe and 435 – something called a diverted diamond exchange — or commentary negative about Bruce Springsteen concerts. “(How on EARTH does the KC Star give a smug little wuss like YOU an opinion column?)”

But my default was the life and times of small town life in the 60’s and 70’s and drawing contrasts to the insanity of today’s parenting matrix.

And through it all I had the privilege of 700 words to tell stories and hopefully evoke your own memories. Many readers were blessed like me to be raised in a simpler, more innocent time by two loving, devoted parents who sent me and my two brothers outside every day to succeed or fail but more than anything else to discover an uncharted world.

I miss those days. I really do.

Going forward I will remain a devoted reader of the 913 section as it highlights the hopeful stories of our county and state.


Read more here:
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Heat + Dust + Humidity = Let’s Go Camping! (published in KC Star July 2016)

by on Aug.06, 2016, under Uncategorized

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Sluggers baseball: Old school meets new school (originally published June 2006)

by on Jan.05, 2016, under Uncategorized

There was a time, long ago, when every grade school had its own sandlot baseball

team. And every grade school boy played on it. In the ’60s and ’70s, countless

kids passed the time on summer days playing pickup baseball games. They filled

the lineup with ghost runners and other things passed down from older brothers.

In my western Kansas town, Homerun Derby was the time-honored tradition.


The chain-link fence was about a hundred feet from home and everyone had a

shot to “park it” as we used to say. Back then, we rode bikes to practice and carried

a wood bat signed by Babe Ruth. Never mind that he’d been dead for 30

years. We did other crazy things, like drink water from a garden hose and mow

yards. Seasons lasted 10 games, and after each game you went to Dairy Queen for

a slushie.


But between 1974 and today, something happened to youth baseball. It ceased to

be sandlot. Someone decided baseball had to be serious. That you had to play 40

games and compete in tournaments in cities like Omaha.

Coaches formed premier teams. That meant good players got cherry-picked and

bad players got cut. Every game players were not just competing against their

opponent, they were competing for a roster spot.


Equipment got complicated too. Kids started accumulating things like bat bags and

batting gloves. Coaches followed suit. Neighborhood teams began to go the way of

the dodo bird. And baseball as a sport, not surprisingly, began to suffer. Surveys

reflect that of all the team sports, baseball is losing players faster than any other.


Our Leawood neighborhood was not impervious to all this. So in 2003 through a

set of circumstances I hope to never repeat, I found myself coaching the school

baseball team. And on the day of the Blue Valley sign-ups, four of my best players

got “recruited away” by another coach. That day was one I would like to forget.


So that weekend I sat down with my fourth-grade son Robert and cobbled

together a roster of new players. Experience, and talent level, was not a consideration.

And that summer the Nativity Sluggers, not surprisingly, went 1-11. The

next year we doubled our win total.


Yet, somewhat to my surprise, everyone was having fun. None of the players

knew or cared about our standings. Any my wife reminded me this team would

never have a problem that curses other teams: No rival coach would steal these



And so in spring 2005, something quite unexpected happened. In early March,

while practicing at a neighborhood ball diamond I noticed a boy ride his bike to

the field. He lived nearby. But this was not just any kid.


This was the best pitcher, the best hitter in Nativity Parish school. One of the

four players who abruptly left our team for greener pastures. He also happened to

be my son’s best friend.


As I pitched batting practice he walked to the outfield and started shagging balls.

Later he picked up a bat. Ten minutes later he was still hitting pitches that were

landing in neighboring subdivisions. I quickly learned that he quit his premier

team. In fact, he was not on any team. And so at the end of practice I did what

any good coach at that point: I took him to Sonic. There I ordered the

usual—chili cheese dogs and a Sonic Blast.


When I dropped him off at his house, I played closer: “We have room for another

player if you are interested.” His response was quick. “I’ll play.”


And then one addition became two. Yes, the second best player in the school.

And the Sluggers won games we used to lose. Kids at the bottom of the lineup got

better. Kids at the top got a lot better. Parents came to games in droves and

brought brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends. Like the Royals. Only fewer errors.


And we made many return visits to Sonic.


And no we didn’t play 30 games, we played 15. But when the season was over we

went from worst to almost first in the Blue Valley League. So this summer, I’m

happy to say, that in one city, one neighborhood, sandlot baseball is back.

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Our family Christmas Card, 2015. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to all

by on Jan.03, 2016, under Uncategorized

christmas card 2015

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Old school Christmas cards vs. New School. The 411 … (published KCStar Dec 2015)

by on Dec.22, 2015, under Uncategorized

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What happens when your 14 year old dog eats a stick of butter? A column. (published Dec 2015)

by on Dec.22, 2015, under Uncategorized

Kids who still believe in Santa Claus have the best Christmas experience. That seems an appropriate reward for toddlers who think that a bearded old man who likes to hang out alone at shopping malls is cool. Then throw in that he knows when you are sleeping, knows when you’re awake, and then enters your house in the middle of the night by way of your chimney. Any child these days who can suspend that kind of reality deserves a great Christmas. And any man who actually attempted such a thing would be delivering presents at Leavenworth and sharing footlong sandwiches with Jared.

In our home, however, the family member who is having the best Christmas so far is our dog, Bernie. We love Bernie so much I’m almost inclined to get one of those political bumper stickers with her name on it. The man Bernie is from Vermont. The lady Bernie is from Land of Paws in Leawood, but they have one thing in common. They both seek your affection.

To be sure, the return of the out-of-town children is a tail-wagging bonanza. But the true prize for her is the dramatic change in her diet. She goes from staring at huge bags of dried pellets of Old Roy to chomping on succulent leftovers that are the product of a wonderful chef with many years of training feeding the brood. Some tidbits are deliberately shared; other servings are the ‘help yourself’ variety.

But for Bernie, this Christmas is already reaching epic proportions.

That’s because two weeks ago Bernie’s penchant to eat most everything — correction — drop the qualifier “most” — reached next level. Bernie ate something that shocked even us.

Bernie ate an entire stick of butter. And the wax wrapping for good measure.

Lori was the sole witness. “I was making chocolate chip cookies and the butter dropped to the floor. I got distracted when the UPS man rang the doorbell. When I returned, it was gone. So was Bernie. My first reaction was ‘no way Bernie ate the butter.’ But when I tracked her down to a secure location the evidence was clear — she looked like she robbed a bank. Her nose had a shiny veneer. She was licking her lips and appeared extremely content. I raised my voice — ‘Bernie did you eat the butter?’ She looked away. Guilty as charged.”

So, for those keeping track at home, one stick of Land O’Lakes butter is 810 calories, 92 grams of fat and 240 milligrams of cholesterol. All of which was consumed by a 42-pound soft-coated Wheaten terrier who is approaching her 14th birthday. That’s the human equivalent of 84. And it shows. She is hard of hearing, vision-impaired and yet functioning rather well. But if she drove a car it would be like Mr. McGoo.

But wait. There’s more. You see, in addition to these issues, Bernie has had double knee repairs courtesy of the Mission Med Vet. Her primary exercise is yawning and sleeping for hours at a time.

I mean — think about it — imagine if your 84-year-old Aunt Wilma ate a stick of butter in two seconds? What would you do? Dial 911? Call John Knox Village for a spare room? Hide the Miralax?

And like most 84-year-olds, Bernie’s lower GI tract is, well, quite audible and is single-handedly adding enough methane gas that it has melted two ice caps.

So when Lori called me with the news, I did what most people would do. I Googled “what to do if your dog eats a stick of butter.” There were 7.1 million hits. Curious, I Googled “what to do if your 84-year-old aunt ate a stick of butter.” Crickets.

Among the contributions:

▪ “At best, it may cause mild gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea, or vomiting. But a fatty meal such as that can actually cause pancreatitis. This is inflammation of the organ that produces some of the digestive enzymes.”

▪ “Abdominal pain, weakness, lethargy.”

Though it wasn’t directly relevant, I did find this tidbit:

▪ ”My dog ate an entire month of birth-control pills once. Didn’t turn him into a female, though.”

So Lori shooed Bernie out the door. The invisible fence went in overdrive. We monitored her every movement, which was easy since she laid down for hours while we waited for the, well, you know. No dramatic change in anything. Bernie slept a lot, but there was no gastric volcanic disturbance. None. Just lots of tail wagging. And in no time she was back in business, which meant returning to our bedroom for napping sessions.

Here’s hoping your Christmas rivals Bernie’s.

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The married life of Mr. Clutter and Mrs. Organized, published in the KC Star, Jan 2, 2103

by on Jan.20, 2013, under Uncategorized


In two weeks, the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) will hold their annual meeting in New Orleans. I am not invited. Neither will I be participating in their ninth annual Get Organized Month, which is designed to “focus national attention on how getting organized empowers people to take back control over their time, inboxes, paperwork and possessions.”

I’m not interested in getting organizationally empowered. That’s not me. Neither am I a clean freak, germaphobe or anything else that burdens my daily routine, which includes looking for my wallet and car keys. I’ve never been to the Organized Living Store or Containers and More. Lori, on the other hand, could be an officer of NAPO. When it comes to managing clutter, we make Felix Unger and Oscar Madison look compatible.

My habits are the product of a minimalist youth, when your possessions could fit on three hangers. No one needed California closets to organize a couple T-shirts, jean shorts, a pair of Chuck Taylor’s and Boys Life magazines. And with the computer age, if I consider it important, it’s scanned and on my laptop.

So Lori and I have managed our contrasting styles over the years. But every once in a while something happens that serves as a flash point. Like what happened last month.

The trouble started when we rented a storage unit. These things are the rage these days, popping up all over the city, but especially along Interstate 435, U.S. 69 and on the western edge of Shawnee and Olathe.

The upscale residents go for the PODS — where someone takes your worthless possessions and moves it far away. Everyone else goes for the storage units, as we did. Our unit is in Martin City, which raises the prospect that our unit once was used to produce an illegal substance worthy of a grand jury subpoena. Storage units have risen in the pop culture index thanks to “Storage Wars” and reality TV episodes that aren’t real. But our unit would never make prime time unless someone wanted to do a special on tents with missing stakes and fishing lines tangled beyond hope.

Our storage complex requires a code to open the gate and is encircled by an 8-foot wall, which is comical because nothing on the property has value. This is the land of broken man-toys — rejects from E-bay, Craig’s List and garage sales. There is an open area where renters park/abandon items that remind me my life could be worse: things homes associations/spouses/girlfriends won’t tolerate, including bass boats well past their prime, snow removing trucks, tailgating grills, RV’s, portable campers.

And so when our junk needed a home, it was my job to fill the unit. NAPO would have created a spreadsheet with categories of things in certain places in the 30×10 storage area. Me, on the other hand, started stacking and pushing, stacking, balancing — everything but organizing. This could be a case study during a break-out session from the NAPOconvention. The door shut and everything was great, provided no one else ever laid eyes on the looming nightmare.

And then two months later Lori uttered the words that threatened our holiday spirit: “We need something from the storage unit. The ski gear.”

At that moment, marital harmony jumped on a Mega Bus. A cold breeze rattled the windows, the thermostat dipped and things got really quiet. “I will go with you to help find it,” she offered.

And on Saturday, Dec. 15, we rolled up the door to Unit 134. Lori stared at the stack of plastic tubs, cardboard boxes, tents, sleeping bags, those folding chairs you take to soccer games, patio furniture, fishing poles, shovels, picture frames, computer monitors, extension cords, holiday lighting wrapped in a knot, and stacks of other things escaping identification. All the way to the ceiling, hanging in a precarious balance that would make Cirque de Soleil envious, there was a narrow passage way down the middle. “This is a real life Jenga board. Move those fishing poles and everything will collapse. They’d find us after Christmas.”

Forty-five minutes later, we hit jackpot. A gray tub, naturally found at the bottom of a large pile, brimming with gloves, hats, pants, socks. The Jenga game was on.


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Matt appeared on KCUR “Up to Date” on Wednesday, January 2, 2013

by on Jan.02, 2013, under Uncategorized

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Feathering your nest can be an epic disaster, published in KC Star, November 21, 2012

by on Nov.22, 2012, under Uncategorized


Things always seem to happen to me. Bad things. Like what happened a week ago Sunday while I was doing something very important in the garage of our rental house. A rental that has a few mechanical issues, like a door to the garage that doesn’t shut properly. A solution squarely within the wheelhouse of some husbands. “Door latch problem! Let me get my door jam tools!” That dad has things I don’t have, like, well, everything. Including a wife who looks at him adoringly with his tool belt and thinks she is married to that guy named Ty on Extreme Makeover.

But my Titanic-worthy moment had commendable beginnings. Five hours earlier I was in Great Bend with my dad, brother and KU senior Tommy, plus five of his buddies. When your 22-year-old, who otherwise forgot you existed, calls you up and says “I want to go hunting next weekend with grandpa. And take five fraternity buddies with me.” You pause, exhale, gulp down three Tylenols and say ‘Sure. Let’s do this.’ And we did.

The hunting weekend was a success for one reason — no one pulled a Dick Cheney. There was an additional bonus — exposing dudes to the storytellers from the greatest generation, as we did over the dinner table Friday night, tasting various reds and whites with KC strips that Ruth Chris can’t touch. Texting took a holiday.

Still, this was a logistical challenge. Managing shotguns, shells, gear, multiple licenses, permits, hunter safety authorizations, and then figuring who was hunting where. On Sunday when I pulled up at home, the cargo included residuals from a successful hunt — plus two geese that fell out of the Suburban. And so at 3 p.m. I found myself in our garage trying to clean the game. Throw in Bernie who was in freak-out mode about these odd looking birds invading her space, and things were getting complicated.

But if the was the end of the story, I would be enjoying marital harmony and you would be reading the sports section. It’s what happened next that made this a Keenan moment. You see, that Sunday was a windy, blustery day. And cleaning large birds involves separating the feathers and keeping them bagged. When I started, Lori ducked her head outside and with a furrowed brow said, “You are going to clean those birds? The house is spotless, we have Thanksgiving coming up. Please don’t let any of those feathers get in here.”

And if you know where this story is going, add perceptive to your skill set.

My plan was to dissect the birds in a manner that would make Harold Ensley proud. Everything was going according to plan for maybe five, 10 seconds. That’s when Harold morphed into Clark Griswold. Bernie started barking, the wind started blowing and the knife I was using had apparently been used to cut concrete. There were other complicating factors. Fatigue of driving 250 miles while my passengers snored and some NFL games I was trying to follow on my phone.

To say things weren’t going as expected is like saying Custer’s last day was a good one. One thing was going terrific, however. The breast feathers were coming off easily. The pile was growing fast. They were also quickly taking flight, circling around, some moving outside the garage and likely heading to your subdivision. Others were accumulating on the floor, on my hands, face, shirt, plus Bernie’s nose. The pile was growing, and moving.

And then it happened. An event that would rival any disaster you can imagine — more horrific than the Chiefs’ season, the Royals’ last trade and the Jayhawks’ football coaching combined. The door to the house blew open. Ever seen goose feathers move through a wind tunnel? Few have. In a nano-second, those lighter-than-air pests began invading our kitchen, dining room, family room. Not everywhere, mind you. Just everywhere there was air.

This was a disaster of biblical proportions to be sure, but something elevated it beyond this dimension. At that second, my wife and daughter were watching a movie together in the room just inside the door. Their choice? The Notebook. Just when their tear ducts were under siege they came face to face with a white swirling cloud, Bernie yelping and a husband looking for the car keys to find the nearest Holiday Inn Express.

Anybody have a couch I can borrow?

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