Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mike Lupica Discusses his Career as a Sports Writer at the Harvey School

At the Harvey School on November 16, the Golf Channel’s Jimmy Roberts sat down before an audience of about 160 to interview Mike Lupica on his life as a Sports Columnist, Novelist and ESPN radio host. The latter obviously raising Lupica’s profile in recent years, the articulation we’ve become accustomed to on the radio isn’t the one he had to go in search of to achieve true success.

“The whole trick is finding your voice as a writer,” Lupica told Roberts.

But shaking off those shackles, sports writers must always keep their eyes on the ball. “The next moment could change everything,” said the Daily News columnist.

​That lesson played out for him during the U.S. Hockey team’s magical Olympic run in 1980.  Inattentively eyeing Mark Johnson skating toward the Soviet goal in the closing seconds of the first period, Lupica remembered thinking, “Where’s Markie going.”

Tying the score, the goal turned the tide and the implications went far beyond the final score. For one, said Lupica, “Mike Eruzione told me that had his game winning goal gone wide, he would have been painting bridges for a living.”

A story that practically wrote itself, that wasn’t the case for everyone. “This is the second worst story I’ve ever had to cover,” a Soviet colleague lamented to him.

​Revealing the reporter’s response to the obvious question of what was the worst, the audience roared. “World War II,” Lupica deadpanned.

He also recounted memorable run-ins with pro athletes. “Daryl Strawberry threatened to stuff me in a garbage pail if I ever wrote about his personal life again,” said Lupica. 

Turning out that it was Dick Young who wrote the column in question, Strawberry embarrassingly changed it up. “Ok, if you ever write about my personal life, I’ll stuff you in a garbage can,” Lupica recalled  joyously. 

On the other hand, Lupica admitted a dust up with tennis Great Chris Evert may have been deserving. Referring to the women’s field one year in the U.S. Open as the “Valley of the Dolls,” Evert couldn’t resist hitting back after a titanic struggle against Martina Navratilova. Singling him out in the press conference afterwards, Lupica couldn’t duck her jab. “Good enough for you Mike,” Lupica conveyed.

But that was just a blip in his relationship with Evert. Another tennis legend sufficed as the greatest sportsperson he’s ever known. “It breaks my heart that Arthur Ashe didn’t get to see Barack Obama become president,” said Lupica.

He also credits Ashe with providing an insight that gave pause to the audience. “He told me it was harder growing up black in America than it was living with AIDS,” Lupica revealed.

​Thus the sportswriter didn’t hold back in designating the worst. “Alex Rodriguez,” Lupica stated flatly. “I don’t like to be lied to.”

​A trait Rodriguez is obviously in no short supply, but Lupica sees the game changing before our eyes – and not just in the shirt sleeves of bulked up sluggers. Citing the lower scores and power numbers, seven games in Kansas City and San Francisco encapsulated the return of traditional baseball. “I loved this world series,” he exhorted.

Otherwise, the NFL doesn’t have the same luxury in going throw back. “They sold violence for a long time,” he said. “But every former player lives with the fear that the day may come when all those hits to the head will come back to haunt them.”

Nonetheless, delving deep is all in a day’s work for Lupica, which engendered the obvious question from a young fan in the audience. “How do you manage your time,” he asked.

“Being busy doing something you love is never hard, and I hope you can find your passion like I found mine,” Lupica concluded.

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