Having a person through whose eyes you enjoy seeing the world, the part of the world that person chooses to show you, that’s a special person for you. And having a person who’s been able to do that reliably, consistently, with flair and spice for some 40 years, well, that’s Dan Shaughnessy for me. I’m so pleased and honored for him to appear on my podcast!
Growing up, I was an average athlete at best, but I was a whacked-out-crazy, pedal-to-the-metal, preoccupied, fervent, never-say-die, wait-til-next year fan of all the teams Boston boasted, which, in the 1950’s, the first decade of my life, included the Celtics, the Bruins, and the Red Sox. We didn’t have a football team back then, so, by default, I became a New York Football Giants fan, as that was the team that broadcast its games on TV into my little town at the elbow of Cape Cod.
I fell in love with watching, listening to, reading about, talking about, rooting for and in every other way imaginable (imagination being where sports fans live) involving myself in the lives of my teams. They were no more mine than the moon, but in my imagination they were every bit as much mine as my family, and I probably cared about them more.
I lived through their victories and defeats every week. In the case of the Bruins and Red Sox it was mostly defeats. In the case of the Celtics it was an embarrassment of riches. In the 13 seasons between 1957 and 1969, the C’s, as they were and are called, won 11 world championships, including one stretch of an unthinkable (but, yes, imaginable!) 8 in a row.
The ups and downs of these teams defined and determined my own ups and downs. School was a after-thought. My guides and teachers through all of these dramas, over which I lived and died every day, were the scribes, the writers who covered the teams. We had more newspapers back then, of course. I grabbed all 4 local papers every day, and devoured each sports section (and only the sports section) as if it were my daily bread. Back then the writing was of the “just the facts” school of journalism. Then, new writers transformed sports writing into writing period. They made their stories interesting in their own right. Increasingly, most of the readers already knew “the facts” and so needed some more compelling reason to read than to get information.
Dan Shaughnessy is of that tradition. He is a fine writer in his own right. I’d put his prose up against most of the novels I read these days. Not just for his style but for his bite. He doesn’t do boring. Shaughnessy possesses what may be a writer’s most valuable skill: he can get under a reader’s skin. He can inflame a reader, delight a reader, make a reader laugh, even educate a reader without the reader realizing he or she is learning something new. He’s the writer readers buy the paper to read. I’ve been reading him since the early 1980’s and I still look forward to his columns each time they appear.