Alan Greenberg Memories, Part III

Here’s another batch of Alan Greenberg tributes. I continue to be amazed as these keep coming in from all over the country…

Bruce,

Alan and I became friends during the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics and shared one of my most enjoyable experiences as a sportswriter when we spent the day after the Games visiting Banff and Lake Louise. There we met up with Leigh Montville, Christine Brennan and others, spent the afternoon ice skating (Alan on his backside more than upright), and had dinner in the lodge overlooking the lake. One of those magical days after three weeks of mixed zones, horrendous deadlines and junk food. Virtually the same age, fairly new at the column-writing thing and soon to start families a little later than most, we established what I always thought was a strong bond that day. Any subsequent event at which I ran into Alan was a better work day, a chance to catch up with stories and photos, brag a little, share our anxieties, hopes and fears for the future. I am heartbroken by his passing because it feels like a true peer and a huge piece of my sports writing generation has been torn away. More so, for his family that he loved so much.

– Harvey Araton
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Bruce

I just couldn’t bring myself to write anything yesterday … but I tried to gather myself this morning and pass along some of my thoughts …

So many of Alan’s colleagues and friends (with Alan they were one in the same) have expressed perfectly what he meant to all of us. I’d certainly echo those sentiments and considered Alan one of my closest friends in that room. Not a single day past when Alan wouldn’t great us with a “Hello, PFW crew” followed by an individual “Hello PP” for me and “Hello SB” for Andy Hart. (That was a personal joke between the two). We’d follow with a “Hello Grampa Pigpen” a playful jab at both his experience and no-so-sartorial splendor.

I remember the first time I met Alan when I came to PFW in 1999. I’d never covered a pro beat before and I was assuming working for a team newspaper wouldn’t exactly endear me to the experienced beat guys. I knew a lot of the writers from my time with the Herald, but I did not know Alan. Nick Cafardo introduced us and later explained to me how extensive and impressive Alan’s career had been. I was rather intimidated and thought it would be wise to excentuate my experience at the Herald to justify myself in his eyes.

It took Alan 30 seconds to show me how foolish I was to think that way. He is the most down to Earth person I’ve met in more than 17 years in the business. He couldn’t have been more helpful. I’ll always remember the personal questions Andy and I used to tease him about (he once asked Mike Vrabel if his parents were proud of him. Mike laughed and said, “Alan, you’re always asking those touchy/feely questions”). Of course, the teasing was more from jealousy because we wished we could craft a feature in the manner that he seemed to do so effortlessly. I read where his editor referred to him as a wordsmith — never has that description been more true.

One personal moment I remember most, and not surprisingly not having anything to do with football … my wife and I were trying to start a family and things weren’t progressing as efficiently as we would have hoped. A doctor that we were consulting happened to be Alan’s neighbor, and I brought this up to Alan. Immediately understanding the situation, Alan was so encouraging and talked in such glowing terms about the doctor, not so much for his expertise as for his kind and caring ways, which turned out to be dead on accurate. Anyway, a short time later we were blessed with our first child, Will, who recently turned 2.

Everyone in Foxboro learned of Will’s arrival (mostly because his birth caused me to miss Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville), but Alan was particularly interested. I think in some way I gained extra respect from him for passing up the Super Bowl for something that was obviously more important. My wife and I are eagerly awaiting son No. 2 in April, and Alan seemed as genuinely excited about that as we are. Never a meeting went by without him asking about my kids, and me about his. In fact, I met his wife, Anne-Marie, when they were here at the stadium making arrangements for Alex’s bar mitzvah.

Alan, you’ll be missed, and may God give strength to your family in order to persevere through such a difficult time.

Paul Perillo
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Hi Bruce,

I realize I’m late to the table here, but I hope you’ll allow me to share my memories of Alan Greenberg.

Although we hadn’t been in touch since my days on the Patriots beat, Alan left a deep impression. What I remember best is how genuinely excited he was when my wife and I were expecting our first child. We’d always gotten along well, but once Alan learned I was an expectant father, a new bond was formed; he relished sharing in the wonders of marriage and parenthood.

I had great respect for him as a reporter and writer, but every time I saw his by-line, every time I heard him on air or saw him on TV, my first thought was, There’s a guy who loves his wife and kids.

This is a terrible loss.

Vin Sylvia
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Bruce -

Very nice tribute to Alan. The first thing he’d tell you, though, is that you shouldn’t have done it. He’s probably cursing you and everyone else who did the same today. Just so you know.

Alan was like a Porsche Carrera or Formica – an original and impossible to duplicate.

While he was always a professional at work, he had the funny-kid-in-class demeanor. For the most part, I think Bill Belichick liked the guy. For one thing, he’d often smile at stuff Alan, who always sat about three or four rows back and dead center and inline with the head coach, would ask or say. I can safely say that Belichick had a harder time reading Alan than any offense Mike Shanahan could cook up. I’m not sure he knew how to read Alan and some of his questions at times. During his tenure here, most of Belichick’s pregnant pauses came after an Alan Greenberg question.

The Pats players enjoyed their give-and-take with him – especially Rodney Harrison, Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel. He would invariably be the one to ask the folksy question. And, he never had a recorder of any kind either. Just a large note pad covered with Alan’s own hieroglyphics.

You wouldn’t believe it if you ever watched his wiry ass eat. He had to have a resident tape worm. He should have looked like a white version of Fats Domino, too. The Pats treat the press to pizza on Wednesdays as you know. Alan would be sure to have a stack of the Papa Gino’s (greasy) wedges on his plate and would begin chowing down like there was no tomorrow. A couple of his good friends would sit with him just to have a front row seat to the Chow-athon. One of his best friends, Nick Cafardo, would sit there and count the servings and laugh. Alan couldn’t care less. His waist size, after all, was about 10-inches smaller than Nick’s. Then again, Nick was probably gaining weight just by staring at the pizza slices.

I knew Alan since ’94. To this day I’m not sure if he ever knew my real name – he’d call me “DP” with that voice that was straight out Seinfeld. That was alright. He was, after all, Alan Greenberg. An original. I’m going to miss not hearing call me by those two initials.

Thanks,

Dan Pires
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Bruce,

Thanks for honoring Alan by posting these emails. We’re all pretty numb here in Hartford, but it’s nice to read so many tributes from all over the country.

Tuesday was a strange day. Alan mistakenly emailed a copy of the speech he was preparing for his son’s bar mitzvah and it landed in my inbox. It was vintage Greenie — poignant and witty prose about the most important people in his life, his family. I left the office thinking about Alan, how he loved his kids and how he must have been relishing Alex’s bar mitzvah.

A few hours later, I heard he was gone.

But it’s fitting that my last memory of Alan was focused on his relationship with his kids. I remember spending time with Alan 12 years ago, when I started on the Red Sox beat and he was still a general columnist. He would gush about fatherhood and how it transformed him. I’ll never forget him saying — and I’m paraphrasing — that all of the stories he wrote would be meaningless (just yellow newspaper, I think he said) when he was gone, but his family would be his legacy.

I sort of laughed and said he was like some sort of recruiter for the suburban fatherhood cult (he liked that and seemed proud, by the way). When I saw him over the ensuing years he continued to talk about his growing family and he’d often end our conversations by saying, “You’ll see someday.”

So I wasn’t surprised when Alan contacted me after my daughter was born 5 1/2 years ago. The first time I saw him after the birth, he wanted pictures and he demanded graphic details — the delivery, the dirty diapers, the middle-of-the-night feedings, the crying, the chaos, the quiet moments, the early signs of personality traits. Every bit of parenting minutiae. He traded stories about his own experience and said the best moment of his day was when his baby reached for him from her crib in the morning.

That’s the Alan I remember.

He was supremely talented, a great reporter and writer, and guy who left his mark in this business. He was also a terrific teammate.

But more than a co-worker, he was friend and a mentor. I learned about perspective from Alan. He had it figured out — his kids were everything.

If you have kids, hug them. That’s the best way to honor the memory of Alan.

Paul Doyle
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Bruce,

Thanks for the marvelous forum.

I wanted to add that it has been sadly quiet at The Courant the past few days and nights. Our friend who had more talent on his worst days than many of us will have in a lifetime has brought people to tears right there in the department, and the rest of us to tears at home and in our cars.

None of this makes sense. And our broken hearts go out to Anne-Marie and those three kids who Alan talked about pretty much every time he called in to check on his stories. With Alan, we never got right to the point of the call. First we joked, laughed, and made fun of each other. And then we made fun of ourselves.

It was with a heavy heart that I wrote the toughest headline of my career, under the overline ALAN GREENBERG: 1951-2007

Masterful Storyteller
Valued Family Most

Award-Winning Writer
For Courant Dies At 55

Nothing meant more to Alan than his beautiful wife and the three treasures they produced. God bless the family.

Scott Powers
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Bruce,

Thanks for providing a forum for the many folks whose lives were touched by Alan. He was tremendously gracious and kind to me as a young reporter when I worked at the Courant from ’89 to ’94. He wasn’t in the office much, but I the thing I remember most about the times he came in were his lengthy phone calls to Anne-Marie, often from underneath a desk to gain a measure of privacy in the wide-open sports department. The first time we met, he complimented me on a story I had written about Jim Calhoun’s kid, then in high school. At a time when I was trying to establish myself in a new job, it made a world of difference to me. We later covered the U.S. Open tennis tournament together, and he seemed to know everyone in the press box. He’d sing Dylan lyrics with Mike Littwin and trade witticisms with Tony Kornheiser, and always remember to introduce the “kid” from the Courant working alongside him. He made you feel like you belonged. My condolences go out to Anne-Marie and their children. Kids, your dad was one of the best in the business, both as a writer and as a human being.

Glenn Jordan
Portland Press Herald
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I met Alan when he was a rookie out of Syracuse, assigned – to his dismay – to a municipal beat at The Home News of New Brunswick, N.J. Later, he roomed with me when he was with The Trenton Times and I was covering the New Jersey Statehouse. I’ll take the blame for helping him get his first job as a sportswriter. I didn’t do much, just told him to put an ad in Editor & Publisher looking for a job in sports anywhere in the country. I’ve given similar advice to a number of kids since, but he was the only one who took it because he was the only one who didn’t care where he lived or how big the paper was as long as he could get his foot in the door. Who knew the offer would come from Marietta, Ga.?

Alan was a suburban kid from Baltimore who had never rubbed shoulders with the hoi polloi. He wasn’t an elitist in any way; he just hadn’t yet collided with Red-State America. He was, of course, great, probably the best sportswriter the town had ever seen. He also ruffled more than a few feathers, but that’s what you get for writing the truth. Some of the less advanced life forms showed their gratitude by sending him letters filled with anti-Semitic vomit. Alan, as always, rose above it.

The Journal & Constitution quickly stole him and the rest is pretty well documented.

When I switched from news writing to the toy department, the greatest benefit was seeing Alan at big events. He was the first person I’d look for, and it wasn’t a successful trip if he wasn’t there. When everybody else was pounding down the sportswriter’s favorite beers – Free and Free Lite – Alan was pounding down those diet colas; I don’t think I ever saw him drink an entire beer, and I know that he never saw the point of inhaling. He didn’t need to drink. Goofiness came naturally to him. I always envied that in him, as I envied his writing. At the L.A. Olympics in ’84, at the end of a long night of writing, he climbed down the steps of the L.A. Coliseum and running – okay, jogging – around the 400-meter track, sprinting to the finish and throwing his hands aloft as if he was Carl Lewis. He had that ability to find joy in life without worrying about who was watching or what others would think.

I’m not suggesting he was Sammy Sunshine. He couldn’t have been a writer without a healthy neurotic streak. But the things he agonized over were the things that matter – his job and his family.

I wrote a blog entry about him over at msnbc.com. If you’re interested, here’s the link.

Mike Celizic

Contributing Writer

MSNBC.com