Michael O’Brien ‘23
Such as how sports are, life is unpredictable. This is something valuable that I was reminded of during my summer job working as an intern for NBC New York. Every Sunday, my boss, sports anchor Bruce Beck, would have a guest on his show to talk about New York sports, and beforehand would walk down to the lobby to greet the guests while I tagged along.
But one Sunday, Bruce was running behind and asked if I could go down and receive the guest myself; it’s a minor task in the grand scheme of things, but I felt excited to be the one to welcome a professional in the field of sports journalism into 30 Rock. Bruce told me that the guest was named Dave Lennon, and that he worked as Newsday’s baseball columnist. As a big Yankee fan, I was excited about the opportunity to get his thoughts on the team and learn about the experiences he’s had throughout his career.
After we chatted about baseball, we struck up some small talk about where we were from, our other favorite hobbies, and then Dave asked where I went to school. As I tell almost everyone I’ve just met when they ask me this question, I responded “I go to College of the Holy Cross, it’s a small liberal arts college in Worcester, Massachusetts.”
Dave paused for a moment to digest this information, and I expected the usual response of “Oh, I’ve never heard of it before, but that sounds nice.” Instead, Dave responded with “Which dorms have you lived in before?” This response surprised me as I thought that if I told him “I lived in Brooks freshman year, Lehy sophomore year, and Figge junior year,” this would be pretty useless information to him. But, he responded with “I lived in Lehy too!” No kidding.
As it turns out, not only did Dave go to Holy Cross, but he was the Chief Editor for the Sports section before becoming the Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper; which is the exact same path I’ve taken during my time at The Spire as well. We couldn’t get over this coincidence, and giddily relayed the information back to Bruce when he caught up with us later on.
After Dave wrapped up his segment with Bruce, I reconnected with him and told him I’d love to pick his brain about his time at Holy Cross and Newsday sometime in the near future. If we didn’t have a shared connection of both being students at HC, Dave may have just told me he was too busy, but as I’ve come to understand, Holy Cross really is an extended family where people make time for each other, no matter how long they’ve known each other beforehand. So, Dave happily obliged, and I was able to catch up with him on Zoom last week.
First, I wanted to know how it all began for Dave, even before Holy Cross. I can remember writing about my picks for March Madness for my middle school newspaper, The Hill Herald (honestly, a pretty good alternative name for a newspaper at Holy Cross), and was curious as to when Dave started to realize that he had a passion for sportswriting. He told me, “That goes way back, I can remember when we made a newspaper for our elementary school. I have vague memories of that, and then in high school, I was the editor for that paper, and while I did that I also worked for a local newspaper. I went to Xaverian in Westwood, MA, and I would write about our football team for the Dedham Daily Transcript, which I think barely exists anymore. That was probably my earliest start to sportswriting, and then when I got to Holy Cross I joined the student newspaper, which was called The Crusader at that time.”
While we may have rebranded ourselves, I was eager to learn more about what Dave did during his time writing for the school newspaper at HC and hearing more about the overlap between our experiences. Dave described his time at the paper as “I think I started writing about men’s soccer and women’s basketball, then I became the sports editor, and then became the Editor-in-Chief my senior year. I’ve pretty much worked up the ladder at every place I’ve been, so I came up in a very traditional journalistic sense.”
Dave’s journey of “climbing the ladder” from writer at the Dedham Daily Transcript all the way up to Newsday is an inspiring story to me as I navigate my way through the world of journalism, and anyone else trying to break into the field would certainly agree as well. I asked Dave to describe how he stayed the course on the climb, and what things he learned at Holy Cross that helped him to do so. He told me “I just always knew that it takes so much enthusiasm, energy, and hard work to really get where you want to go. And luck; I know how people talk about luck being the residue of design, and that definitely plays a part. And honestly, I wasn’t a great student at Holy Cross, but I was so involved in everything else I did, like in the newspaper. It took so much of my time; I would pretty much be at my desk up in the office every night. All of the stuff I did at Holy Cross was a big part of my experience there, and I poured tons of hours into the newspaper. I even think I argued for us to get paid at one point!” I don’t hate that idea Dave…don’t hate it at all.
Dave’s anecdotes reminded me of the adage that “hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard,” and this applies to so many things in life, whether you’re an athlete or not. Dave’s comment on luck struck me too, as after all, how we me really was dumb luck. Had my boss gone down and welcomed Dave to NBC NY himself, we may have not had the opportunity to discover our shared Crusader connection. So I asked Dave about that; what is it about Holy Cross that makes members of our community want to be there for and with others, inside and outside of his job?
Dave responded to this by saying “I think that when you’re in this job, you have the opportunity to tell stories. You can tell stories of someone that’s going through a tough time or suffered losses and recovered in a way that’s been an inspiration to other people. Before I started writing about professional baseball, I was writing about younger athletes that were going through things; everybody always has some sort of hardship or difficulty where there’s a story to tell. And it’s not just about their performances on the field; so I think that the ability to tell those stories can really connect people. While sports may seem like games purely for entertainment, there are stories within it that give you the opportunity to be a person for others.
And as far as helping out people within the industry itself goes, I think it’s important for anyone who’s been through life at this point, not just the business, to help out the next people who are trying to come up; that’s the least you can do. People did it for me, and nobody does it by themselves. You always need help from somebody else, whether you realize it at first, or whether you come to understand that later. And you can apply that to everyday life, it’s not just some big, grand gesture; I think I could be doing that kind of stuff more often, but I think that’s something that Holy Cross taught me during my time there.”
While talking with me about his time at Holy Cross and beyond may have not been a big deal to Dave, it meant the world to me to gain helpful and informative information from someone that’s not only well established in a field I’m looking to immerse myself in, but someone who’s had a strikingly similar collegiate experience to mine. Who knows if I’ll ever cross paths with Dave again someday, but one thing became clear after we talked– that Crusaders have each other’s backs.