Steve Rushin, a Sports Illustrated columnist whose second memoir will be published this spring, recently spoke to the newspaper club at Northwest Catholic in West Hartford.
Submitted by Maureen Scudder, Northwest Catholic High School
Northwest Catholic’s newspaper club recently welcomed a special guest. Journalist, novelist, memoirist, and all-around great guy, Steve Rushin, came to the West Hartford school to share his insights on journalism, podcasting, and the writer’s life.
Rushin is the author of the guide, Pool Cool; the travelogue, Road Swing: One Fan’s Journey Into the Soul of America’s Sports; the essay collection,The Caddie Was a Reindeer; the novel, The Pint Man; the who-knows-what-kind-of-book, The 34-Ton Bat: The Story of Baseball as Told Through Bobbleheads, Cracker Jacks, Jockstraps, Eye Black, and 375 Other Strange and Unforgettable Objects; the memoir, Sting-Ray Afternoons; and another memoir, Nights in White Castle, which will be published this spring.
Many of us know Steve Rushin because of his storied career at Sports Illustrated. He joined the staff of SI in 1988, only days after graduating from Marquette. Three years later he became the youngest senior writer on the staff. Rushin travelled the globe, covering some of the biggest sporting events in the world. His weekly column, Air & Space, ran for almost a decade; and although Rushin left his full-time gig at SI in 2010, he continues to be a contributing columnist.
The young journalists of Northwest News were prepped for Rushin’s visit, but it’s still unclear whether or not they understood they had the real deal before them. This uncertainty was crystallized when one student asked, “Wait, are you married to Rebecca Lobo?”
Rushin began his talk at Northwest Catholic harkening to his start as a writer. He mentioned the time his mother fished from the trash a crumpled story that she circulated through her bridge club. When Rushin returned home to the hoopla, he was mortified. But as the women complimented him, he realized he’d just met his first audience and the experience wasn’t half bad. Rushin continued his chat with the students reminiscing about countless hours writing as a child, filling up pages, publishing a “fake” newspaper, and practicing the discipline of the writing life.
Rushin had his audience shaking their heads in disbelief when he said he was squeezed out of his high school journalism club and chuckling as he described sweating and staring at a phone, mustering the courage to call a source.
He told the story of his father encouraging him to join Marquette’s newspaper staff and the verve with which he dived into his first assignment – four paragraphs on the school’s flag football intramural. Rushin likened his enthusiasm to the thrill of writing a lead story for Sports Illustrated.
As the years unfolded, and Rushin’s nerves evaporated, he came to see that a press pass gave him license to ask questions and that, with patience, he could get anyone, even a petulant Dustin Pedroia, to open up. He mentioned breakthrough stories like his 1991 account of the Minnesota Twins winning the seventh game of the World Series and his articles that have been the longest pieces published in single issues of Sports Illustrated.
As the meeting wound down, Rushin’s final remarks centered on his podcast with wife, Rebecca Lobo, (yes to the student who asked!) and what it’s like to carve out time from work, their four children, and a myriad of responsibilities to sit at T.V. tables in the basement and, well, to put it simply, talk. He explained to the students the process of recording a podcast, the contributions of his sound editor, and maybe the most exciting part of the project – seeing how it reaches across the world. Rushin appreciates how it resonates with strangers everywhere and checks the number of downloads with humility and awe.
On that February morning at Northwest Catholic, Rushin’s central messages were clear – write anything and often, talk to anyone about everything, eschew fame for passion and purpose, and, remember, the best stories are about people. Still, the biggest takeaway might not have been his sage advice: it might have been that there are good people doing good work (and good works) everywhere, and Steve Rushin is one of them.
Steve Rushin is a writer living in Granby, CT with his wife, Rebecca Lobo, and four children. His eldest is a freshman at Northwest Catholic High School. NWC in West Hartford is a diverse, Catholic, co-ed, college preparatory community, educating the whole person – mind, body, spirit, and imagination since 1961. Learn more at northwestcatholic.org.
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