Mike Lupica's ego is to sportswriting what Milton Berle's cock is to comedy. It is an occupational totem, around which colleagues spin fantastical-seeming yarns that just so happen to be true. Here are a few such tales.
NCAA Final Four. (I think it was the New Orleans Fin4 made famous by Keith Smart's buzzer beater.) Lupica is walking up and down the front row, looking for his seat, starting at center court. No Lupica. Goes to second row, No Lupica. Getting pissed now. . .Third Row. Finally finds his name tag around the Super Dome entrance reserved for Katrina. Storms off to find a Media Honcho. Points to a name tag for a guy from some peckerwood upstate daily in Bama or Miss. Says words to the effect: "This guy is not a First Row Guy (speaking in capitals). I'm a first row guy and I better be there." The backwoods scribe who was giddy with his good fortune came back from a press conference to find Lupica in his former front row seat. Mike says something like, "Take it up with that guy over there."
We were doing a radio show at the ESPN Zone in NYC. Ben Curtis had just won the British Open two days earlier and a PR company had him doing a bunch of in-person media hits in NYC. The PR person walks in with Curtis to do his scheduled radio interview. The show "The Sports Reporters" was also there that day. They were taping segments for their weekend show on the other end of the ESPN Zones.
One of the panelists, Mike Lupica, sent a producer over to ASK the PR person to have Ben Curtis come over when he finished to do a segment with them. The PR person politely said that they couldn't do it as the schedule was booked. The producer said 'ok' and went back to break the news. Curtis finishes the interview and he and the PR person pack up to head out.
Lupica quickly walks up and just airs-out the PR person. He was upset that she said no....he really freaked out on her. She kept her cool and told Mike that they had a schedule and that if they had planned in advance, they could have scheduled Ben on their show too. That made him more upset. He eventually walked off. The PR person was a bit shaken up. She left with Ben Curtis who looked like he just triple bogeyed 18.
Somewhere around the year 1988 I was working as a producer on the "Bill Mazer Show" at Mickey Mantle's Restaurant on WFAN. A sports story in New York broke and Mike Lupica then wrote a column about the subject. I can't remember what the subject matter was, but my memory suggests it was clearly significant because Bill Mazer asked me to contact Mike Lupica to get him on the show to discuss.
It is important at this point to understand a little history. Bill Mazer was a legendary sports anchor in New York, known by everybody in the business. With that being said most people in the media were very cooperative when it came to joining him as a guest.
Mike Lupica however had other ideas. Upon my calling him at his home, he berated me for having the audacity to even bother him. He would let me know, in no uncertain terms, I was to lose his number and never call him again.
It would not be the last time we spoke. Soon after his latest book was released he found a way to get in touch with me. He wanted to see if he could be a guest on the "Bill Mazer Show" at Mickey Mantle's restaurant to publicize his book. This time, it was I, although far more politely, who had to decline."
Illustration by Jim Cooke
Have you been berated, undermined or otherwise manhandled by sportswriting's cranky hobbit? Have you witnessed a Lupica tantrum firsthand? Tell us about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.