By: John Molori
December 14, 2006

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MacMullan?s career marked by talent, toughness and tact

In a field cluttered with ego, machismo and braggadocio, Jackie MacMullan is a refreshing alternative. The veteran Boston Globe scribe and local and national sports commentator is one of sports media?s true pros.

She signed a contract with ESPN last March to cover the NBA and is a regular contributor to the network?s ?Cold Pizza? and ?Around the Horn.? In addition, she is a panelist on NESN?s ?Sports Plus? and 7NBC?s "Sports Extra." Despite these many outlets, MacMullan believes that overexposure is a four-letter word.

?I get tired of me, so I think the viewers could too,? says the self-effacing MacMullan. ?(Boston Globe colleague) Bob Ryan told me that it is important to make sure that never happens.?

MacMullan was born on Long Island, but raised in Westwood, MA where she played for the highly successful Westwood High School girls basketball program as well as track and field hockey. It was high school sports that gave her the entry into sports media.

Says MacMullan, ?The Daily Transcript newspaper (Dedham, MA) never covered girls sports. My father (Fred MacMullan) told me to call the sports editor and see if they would let me write for the paper. They agreed. I started writing my stories in long hand and passing them in to the newspaper office.?

MacMullan was recruited as a basketball player by Brown University and badly wanted to attend the Ivy League institution. When she was not accepted into the school, she chose UNH, played basketball for the Wildcats and graduated in 1982 with a major in English and a minor in Political Science.

Along the way, it was MacMullan?s parents, not any athlete or writer who inspired her. ?My dad was a sports junkie and never missed any of my games,? she relates. ?My mom Margarethe was a good athlete and an extremely competitive person. Dad was born and raised in New York, but loved (legendary Boston Globe writer) Ray Fitzgerald. He always covered the human side of sports.?

MacMullan started as a Metro/Region news intern at the Globe in 1982 working the 11:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. shift. It was here that her desire to cover sports blossomed.

She states, ?Ian Thomsen, now of Sports Illustrated, interned with me at the Globe at that time. He is my best friend in the business and a very underrated writer. I really wanted to be in sports. I was only 21 at the time, but I took a deep breath, went into (then-Globe sports editor) Vince Doria?s office and asked for a chance.

?He told me I needed some experience. I went back and covered UNH sports for two weeks and gave him those stories.?

Right around this time, Bob Ryan left the Globe for a full time job at WCVB-TV 5. MacMullan was there for the opportunity.

?They hired me and I was covering crew, Boston University football, Northeastern basketball and the NCAA Final Four. Ian (Thomsen) was hired then as well.? MacMullan counts former Globe scribes Lesley Visser and Leigh Montville as mentors who helped her at the Globe.

With the continued excellence of the 1980s Celtics, MacMullan became one of the most influential and respected basketball writers in the country. In 1999, she collaborated with Larry Bird on ?Bird Watching,? a book delving into Bird?s perspective on the game as a player and coach.

MacMullan blanketed the Celtics through the salad days of 1984-1987, and through 1994. She credits the players for allowing her important access.

?Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale and Dennis Johnson gave me a chance. They were all great to me. Robert Parish was the best of them all. I have had great relationships with athletes over the years. Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest and David Ortiz stand out.?

Not all of MacMullan?s dealings with athletes have been positive. ? (Former NBA star) Larry Johnson was absolutely terrible, a real jerk,? says the 46 year-old MacMullan. ?At one of the World Championship tournaments in Toronto, he grabbed his crotch in front of me and was a total disgrace.

?One of my first assignments was a UMass football game. When I got to the locker room after the game, security stopped me and physically prevented me from going inside. One of the coaches came and reamed out the guard. I was in tears.?

Like other trailblazing female reporters, MacMullan felt the sting of sexism from all sides.

She relates, ?Ninety percent of the time early on, I was the only woman in the locker room except maybe for (Boston Herald writer) Karen Guregian (Former New York Giants GM) George Young was against me being in the locker room and Lawrence Taylor once threw a hair dryer at me.

?Bruce Hurst was adamantly against female reporters in the locker room. Red Auerbach didn?t want me in there at first. I had to work at getting Grady Little?s respect and I still wonder if Bill Belichick will ever take me seriously.?

Ideally, MacMullan would like to see gender eliminated from any discussion of her career. She states, ?I hope I?m passed being known just as a woman who knows sports. I want people to listen to me and say that they like my opinions regardless of gender.?

MacMullan left the Globe in 1995 and joined Sports Illustrated. She left SI in 2000 and relates that this marriage seemingly made in sports writing heaven was never a good fit.

?It just never felt right. SI wasn?t breaking news. It was a different culture. I made more money than I ever dreamed possible, but it got to the point where I had to get off the merry go round.?

Indeed, family has been a running theme in MacMullan?s storied career. She has been married for 20 years to husband Michael with children Alyson, 14, a freshman sports aficionado at Westford Academy and son Douglas, 10, a theater and music lover.

MacMullan eventually took two years off to stay at home and be with her family. She also enjoys traveling, hiking, camping, cooking and working in her vegetable garden.

Now back at the Globe as a columnist, MacMullan?s career flight is hardly in its final approach. She explains, ?I did a week-long visiting professorship at UNH in journalism last year and I loved it. It would be great to try teaching full-time sometime in the future.?

In truth, MacMullan has been teaching us the right way to cover sports and voice an opinion for nearly a quarter century. While local media colleagues like Gerry Callahan employ hate and hurt, and national commentators such as Michael Irvin have zero credibility, MacMullan?s talent and knowledge is surpassed only by her class.

She is a must-view, must-listen and must-read, and continues to be a standard-setter in terms of dignified and insightful sports talk. MacMullan counts the 1988 Seoul Olympics, 1985 NCAA Finals, 1986 World Series and 2004 World Series as some of her favorite stories.

She is a huge admirer of trailblazing distance runner Joan Benoit Samuelson and that is fitting. For women, and for that matter men, who want to excel in sports journalism, MacMullan has been a superb role model, albeit a humble one.

?I never looked at myself as a trailblazer,? says MacMullan. ?I was just doing what I liked. I really hope people think I?m fair. I understand why athletes view the media the way they do. This is a tough business and we need to take our responsibilities seriously.?

John Molori?s columns are published in The Boston Metro, Patriots Football Weekly, ColdHardFootballFacts.com, Boston Sports Review, Boston Baseball Magazine, Methuen Life, TheRemyReport.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportsReview.com, BostonPressBox.com, BostonSportsMedia.com and BostonSportz.com. Email John at MoloriMedia@aol.com.


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