I hope you’ll pardon my use of this space to tell you about someone you’ve probably never heard of. Then again, I do think it relates.
If you happen to think I have any merit at what I do writing about sports, then I ask that you thank Mark Leary, my first sports editor “who died last night of cancer”:http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061121/SPORTS01/611210365/1034/SPORTS.
I’m not sure where I fit in in the grand hierarchy of sports journalists, but I think for the most part I’m doing OK. And that’s because of Mark. He hired me from a part-time position at The Journal News back in the days when part-time reporters simply didn’t get hired full-time; and later he promoted me to national golf writer, sending me to places like Augusta, Ga. and Scotland, and actually paying me to be there.
By the time I took over the Rangers beat, Mark had already taken leave because of the cancer that had come out of remission in 2005, but he always knew what the game meant to be. A running joke between us was the number of bangs and bruises I walked into the office with because of my own late-night hockey games.
I’ve never known a better motivator, and Mark did it in two ways: he believed in me. And he scared the crap out of me.
He was a tough editor, but he was also brilliant, and unpredictably kind. When my wife and I were expecting our little boy, there was a chance the birth was going to conflict with the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. I wanted to talk about contingency plans, but Mark would have no part of the conversation. “There’s no way you’re missing that,” he said. “You’re staying home.”
I made sure to bring pictures of little Charlie when I, along with our Yankees writer Peter Abraham, visited Mark’s hospital bed last week. Mark smiled at the photos and pulled them closer to his eyes.
My little boy has a house, a yard, even a couple of hockey sticks now that we bang around in the driveway. I’m one of the lucky ones in life who can pay for all that stuff thanks to a job that I absolutely love.
Without Mark Leary, I’m not sure I’d be able to say that. And I know for sure that I wouldn’t be able to do that job nearly as well.