It is the winter of 2000.
I’m a young sports reporter at The Times Herald, my first job out of college, covering my first beat. St Bonaventure was playing a Saturday afternoon game at Fordham. We got to town on Friday night and stayed at a Marriott in New Jersey (Teaneck, I mean), and on Saturday morning I met one of the writers who used to have my job.
It was the first of many meals that I shared with Mike Vaccaro.
Over a Marriott breakfast, Vac shared stories from his time covering the Bonnies for the OTH. He gave me writing tips and career advice. And knowing what he was earning as a freshman writer at a small newspaper in western New York, he footed the tab.
A life lived in journalism is inextricably connected to people. Mike Vaccaro is one of those people.
Vaccaro earned a spot on the Wall of Distinguished Graduates at St. Bonaventure’s Jandoli School of Communication on Thursday, as part of our Dick Joyce Sports Symposium.
Simply put, Mike Vaccaro is the best of all of us.
His work history speaks for itself. Three-time New York State Sportswriter of the Year. Three fantastic books. Countless writing awards. A reputation as one of New York City’s must-read columnists.
But more than any award or column he’s ever written, Vac is simply one of the best people you’ll ever want to meet, in or out of journalism.
Much of my professional success is due to Vac’s friendship and mentorship. I have written before about how my life was changed by being introduced to Jimmy Breslin’s The Gravedigger column. When I was a reporter, he opened doors for me, introduced me to colleagues, lobbied me for new jobs, offered advice on writing and job hunting. As a professor, he has been a visiting professor in almost every column writing class I have taught and assisted in research projects. Whenever a student needed help with a job search or a story of their own, my first message was to Vac.
And he always helped.
And here’s the thing: what Vac has done for me and my career, he’s done for a generation of sportswriters. Especially the ones from the Jandoli School.
For so many people, Vac IS St. Bonaventure University. And with good reason.
It exemplifies everything that makes this place special. He opens doors. He helps people. Our founder, Dr. Russell J. Jandoli, used to say, “Much is given, much is expected,” and Vac lives it.
Mike Vaccaro is the best of all of us.
As a columnist.
Like a journalist.