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Mike Lupica Returns to The Heights

On Thursday evening, distinguished columnist and young adult author Mike Lupica '74 delivered a lecture entitled “The Next Moment is the One that Can Change Everything." He drove home that we must embrace every opportunity life throws at us, because any one of those opportunities could lead us on the path to the rest of our lives.

Lupica asserts that since high school, he knew that he all he wanted to do was write a newspaper column, “just wanting to tell [his] stories.” He had originally intended on going to Syracuse University, which houses one of the country’s most prominent independent student newspapers. However, a walk across the Boston College campus shifted his sights and compelled him to become an Eagle—a choice that would jumpstart what would become an illustrious career.

Between taking journalism classes and writing for The Heights, Lupica started to make a name for himself around campus. He shared that the late Father Monan, the president of BC during Lupica’s undergraduate years, knew who he was because of his writing. Lupica had nicknamed him “Skates Monan” in one of his columns. It wasn’t an ideal nickname for Fr. Monan, but it gained Lupica status around campus.

His work was further recognized when one of his columns ended up on the desk of the sports editor at The Boston Globe.

“It’s the first example of how the next moment can change everything,” said Lupica. "[The sports editor] called me up and he said, ‘Would you be interested in perhaps writing a piece for the Globe?’ I had an interior dialogue and I was thinking, ‘Yes, I think I can find time in my extremely busy schedule to maybe write a piece for The Boston Globe.’”

Between writing at Boston Magazine, the now-defunct Boston Phoenix, and spending nights at the Globe, Lupica was chasing his dreams faster than he could realize what they were. The people he met and the experiences he had provided him with a vision into what was to come in his career, as well as reinforced that he was doing what he enjoyed most.

He later moved to New York and began working for the New York Post, where he wrote four features in his first week.

Being so young, he explained that he was “just writing and keeping [his] head down,” wanting to do whatever it took to move his way up in the ranks.

Before he knew it, the Post had hired him to cover the Knicks, further progressing his career as a columnist.

“To say that I was hired out of complete obscurity is insulting to actually obscure people,” joked Lupica. “I was far more obscure than that. I was 22 years old and my life changed in that moment.”

Lupica borrowed a line from an ESPN colleague to describe the beauty of sports, saying that “you can’t rent tonight’s game.” Sports always provide an element of surprise, with each play and each game as unpredictable as the next. He chronicled the “Miracle on Ice,” Doug Flutie’s miraculous Hail Mary pass, and the Red Sox comeback 2004 ALCS series win to exemplify just how untamed the nature of sports can be.

“Whether it’s Gieselman’s pass, or Mark Johnson’s goal, or the Red Sox win their first World Series in 2004, it’s the beauty of sports,” said Lupica. “You can’t rent tonight’s game.”

His move to becoming a young adult novelist follows the same mindset. He never expected how radically successful his novels would be. The basis of his first novel came when his son was cut from a travel basketball team for being too small. Lupica responded by starting a team of his own containing all of the kids who had been cut. Despite a mostly unsuccessful season, the last game of the season provided Lupica with just the story he needed for a novel.

“If you’re in my world, you’re looking for great stories, and I knew I was watching one,” said Lupica. “Last game of the season, we win by one point on a free throw with three seconds left. [The boys] run around the gym like they’ve won the championship of the world, and now I’ve got my Hollywood ending.”

The novel Travel Team became a New York Times best seller for three months, further inspiring Lupica to pursue writing young adult sports novels. Outside of this being a life-changing career moment, Lupica expressed that the most rewarding aspect of writing books for kids was that it made them want to read—a sometimes difficult task for young students. Lupica mentioned that his wife believes “writing inside the mind of a 12-year-old was a perfect fit” for him.

“Moms and school librarians are telling others ‘There’s this book!’ and ‘He never wanted to read before!’” said Lupica. “It’s been the coolest thing to ever happen to me.”

He ended his lecture giving praise to his time at BC, explaining that everything that has happened to him has been a result of going to this school. Writing for The Heights, forming relationships with professors, and being a Boston College student have made him lucky enough to get to where he is today.

His story gave hope to the students in the audience that they can emulate the success he has had. Now a veteran sports journalist, Lupica plans to move along in his illustrious career by continuing to author more novels.

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