Mary Schmitt Boyer edited transcript
[00:00:01.360] - Todd
Hey, Mary. It's you. It's really you. Mary, thanks so much for joining us on Press Box Access.
[00:00:07.990] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
I am so honored to be among your many distinguished guests.
[00:00:12.480] - Todd
Well, I don't know about honored. That's a big one.
[00:00:17.360] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
[00:00:18.060] - Todd
It's free. That's how we pay here. But I'm really thrilled to be talking with you again. We got to know each other a lot during the 18 years you spent at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland from 96 to 2014. I always enjoyed covering sporting events with you, Mary. You're a pros pro. You brought wisdom and a calming influence to an often chaotic atmosphere.
[00:00:41.890] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Well, thank you. Although people might think that's a high bar, they've never been in a press room.
[00:00:47.590] - Todd
Yeah. You always seem to be there when I needed some calming words. Thank you, Mary.
[00:00:53.400] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
You're more than welcome.
[00:00:54.910] - Todd
Mary, you were well known for NBA and Olympic coverage, but you covered a lot during your nearly 40 years at newspapers in Cleveland, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Kansas City, eugene, Oregon. Now, looking back, when you think about it, what was it like to be a sports writer?
[00:01:14.510] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
It was a hell of a lot of fun. I would have to say, overall, people say, do you miss it? I retired from the plane dealer in 2014. A lot of people say, do you miss it? And I would say no, because I don't miss waiting for LeBron to come out and talk to us or for practice to start when the caves told it or to end when they told us it was going to end.
[00:01:36.810] - Todd
[00:01:38.210] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
But it was a lot of fun. I never expected to travel the world the way I did. That was kind of a big bonus for me. And I think whenever I would talk to students, I would say, here's something I never thought of, but that you should, when they used to want to be sports writers back in the papers and things. Yeah. Here's another thing you might want to think about. But that was kind of a bonus. I think we all got to be a little bit of experts at traveling and finding that Marriott in the most remote corner of wherever, but it was just hell of a lot of fun, a lot of work. I mean, very regular hours. Phone is ringing. Toward the end when after Twitter. We could talk about Twitter if you want. Your phone would ring. It all hours of the day and night.
[00:02:41.140] - Todd
It's like being a firefighter, right? Yeah, a little bit. Dinner plans? Forget it. There go dinner plans.
[00:02:47.080] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Right? You try to go golfing. The thing was in the computer was in the back of the cart, but it was fun. A lot less that I have to say.
[00:02:59.290] - Todd
When you think about it, do you have a favorite moment, an anecdote? A story about the business itself that you think about when you think about sports writers?
[00:03:11.850] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Boy, that is a very good question. I can tell you one of my proudest moments was my last day was the 2014 NBA draft. And you know Woj and it's impossible to beat wage on anything on the NBA draft. Right, right.
[00:03:33.810] - Todd
Great. Agent, Mojornowski. Right.
[00:03:35.790] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
I beat him that night.
[00:03:37.550] - Todd
Cool. Your final day.
[00:03:39.290] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Yeah. My boss, Mike Starkey, was delirious and actually had the first pick and took Wiggins versus, I think Jabari Parker was the other guy they were rumored to be interested in. And other sports writers were coming to give me high fives because nobody beat him. And even Woach later on said congratulations.
[00:04:03.440] - Todd
Of course he did, because Woach is such a great guy that he had.
[00:04:06.560] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
The other 29 picks, and so, you.
[00:04:08.810] - Todd
Know, he'll give you one. Come on.
[00:04:11.660] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
So that was a very proud moment.
[00:04:15.750] - Todd
Great way to go out, right?
[00:04:17.420] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Yeah. I think people don't have any idea how hard we worked. I think even in our own newspapers, it was always kind of called the Fun and Games department. I worked for Bill Dwyer, who went to the I worked for him at the Milwaukee Journal. He went to the La Times and became a rock star. And he always called it the toy department, or said people called it the toy department. So I don't think people had any idea of some of the difficulties and even the trap. Not just the work, the amount of work, but when you figure in the traveling I've sent stories from phone booths in my back when you stuffed computer that you put the phone in couple of weeks. So from phone booths in my pajamas, I mean, all kinds of crazy. They sent me the PD sent me to member Rothless Burgers motorcycle crash. So they sent me first of all, I get lost driving in Pittsburgh. No matter what, I just get lost. And they're kind of dictating to me over the phone where I was going. I didn't have GP, I don't know, whatever. And then I sent that story sitting on a curb in front of the hospital.
[00:05:36.750] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
You just figured out a way to get it done, basically.
[00:07:28.050] - Todd
So you started we're talking 1970s. You're at Marquette, and you always credited one person for having a huge influence on your career that you chose. Take us back to your junior year at Marquette. You're the first female sports editor of the student newspaper, and you're covering the basketball team coached by the legendary Al Maguire. What was it like for you that year? How nervous were you about being a woman on the beat?
[00:08:18.000] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
I'm be honest, and I'm not the only Marquette person to tell you this, but I really went to Marquette to be part of that scene. And it's very difficult if you didn't know Al at all. It's hard to explain to, especially kids nowadays what he was like because the atmosphere I would compare to Duke. Just totally crazy is the key word because, you know but Shasheski was a pretty regular guy, kind of maybe even a kind of a straight mixed game. I was not it was kind of this carnival, and I just wanted to be part of it. And I was not the cheerleader type. And so I thought I could write about it. I always, as a kid, like, reading and writing. So I thought, okay, I'm going to try this. And it didn't occur to me at the time. There were no well, first of all, I wasn't a woman. I was, like, 1617 when I was in high school thinking about this, and it did not occur to me there were no women doing it.
[00:09:23.880] - Todd
[00:09:25.950] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
I went to him my junior year and said, Coach, I'm going to be covering the team this year. What would you like to do about the locker room? And he's like, what about I said, well, do you want me to wait outside? He said, Just come in with everybody else.
[00:09:49.260] - Todd
[00:09:49.890] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Okay, then, yeah. And I tell people if he had thrown a hissy fit and said, oh, no, that's not happening, I would probably not probably I would not be where I am today. I would not have filed a lawsuit to get into the market lock. That was not my nature. And I always tell people I would have been a I always say a nurse. I always said a nurse. Although I probably would have been a teacher, more likely. But anyway, I would not have put up a big stink. So I was a little anxious. But really and truly, people in Cleveland will recognize the name. Kevin Byrne was the sports information director at Marquette.
[00:10:35.150] - Todd
He went on to be with the.
[00:10:37.520] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Browns and Big Dog with the Ravens and throughout the NBA. Very, very good friend of mine. And everyone was very cool about the other sports writers who probably at that point, if I was 19, maybe 20, could have been my father. So I didn't really have one issue doing it that year.
[00:11:04.080] - Todd
On the beat.
[00:11:04.780] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Right, yeah. And players, we were students together, so you knew some of them from classes and actually went to class and things. Here was the problem covering Marquette. So the locker room was divided into three parts. The actual lockers, the shower, and then where Al did his interviews, which was in a separate kind of dressing area that they didn't really use to dress. The problem with that was it was covered with mirrors. So while you are listening and looking at Almouire, the mirrors look directly into a shower.
[00:11:51.380] - Todd
That's not a good setup.
[00:11:53.480] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Tad awkward, but people misread. I didn't become a sports writer to see naked men.
[00:12:31.770] - Todd
You just want to do your job, right. As a young reporter around the Marquette basketball beat.
[00:12:36.890] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Yes, exactly. And that's what I did. And the players, I think, and I would say till the day when I retired, I could have been most of their mothers, and I think they respected that. Now, was there some teasing? Like occasionally they would sing to me from the showers or Al walked me out with his hands over my eyes one time, which, you know, some there again. Some people might have filed some kind of complaint about that. Everybody just rolled with it, and it was so much fun. Now, they didn't win the championship that year. They did win when I was a senior, which I take full credit for.
[00:14:41.930] - Todd
Well. Tell us about Maguire. Maguire was a hall of Fame coach. Nathan Smith. Hall famer. And he went on to become a TV analyst of note. He had this unique vernacular, great stories. He really helped spread the popularity of college basketball in the late seventy s and early eighty s and onward through his work in television. That's where some people might remember him.
[00:15:05.720] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
[00:15:06.020] - Todd
He was also a hell of a coach. What was he like as a person, to be around on a day to day basis when you recovering that team? As a junior in college, he was great.
[00:15:17.250] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
You never knew if he'd be at practice. He often didn't do practice. Hank was hank Raymond and Rick Mujeres were the two guys who would really run practice.
[00:15:25.430] - Todd
They were the X and O guys.
[00:15:27.200] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Right. And he was known al was known for not remembering anyone's name. And so, for instance, I overheard him call Kevin Byrne once, and he said, Kevin the big guy. And Kevin's like drone Whitehead. No, no, the skinny, white big guy. Bo Ellis. But he could not remember Bo Ellis's name.
[00:15:50.870] - Todd
He's a small American. That's all right.
[00:15:55.280] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
He probably did things that would get him fired today. As far as Poland jerseys, there's a long kid who covers the I shouldn't say kid young man who covers the I almost said it the Golden Eagles today.
[00:16:19.860] - Todd
[00:16:20.450] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
So you know where I stand on that but did a huge story recently bernard Toon died over the summer and he did a huge story on what is part of Marquette folklore about Al slapping Bernard Toon in the locker room before they won the championship. Not at the championship but an earlier round, which is a true story and he was very diligent to a lot of interviews and pretty much everyone said, yeah, that would get you fired today. So he was very hot Irish temperature. He was a showman before. He was kind of what's, the Villanova coach jake Dresser j.
[00:17:09.090] - Todd
[00:17:10.200] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Yeah. He was jay right. Before jay right. And carnations. And he famously, when Marquette came over, beat Wisconsin and he jumped up at the scores table and Wisconsin had Kim and Carrie Hughes twins. And there was a famous picture in the Sentinel, the morning paper of it looked like the Hughes father shaking his fisted out. And in the Journal ran the full picture, which was the Hughes father giving out a finger. So that was another famous times worked.
[00:17:43.670] - Todd
You could just run that photo I'm.
[00:17:45.920] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Pretty sure, if I'm not mistaken I think they ran them both ways but he was just such a showman. But where he excelled was personal contact with players knowing what made each player tick. Hank could get him in the right position. Hank could get him guarding the right guys. But Al knew what to say or how to challenge him. And so he was all about and then he was just fun. Like, after I got out of school and I was working for the Journal period, like, he had a big race every year to raise money for Children's Hospital in Milwaukee. And so every year we talked to him, and he would call you up, and he said, he does meet at some dive. Could be a dive Mexican restaurant. It could be a dive breakfast place. But you didn't negotiate this.
[00:18:43.130] - Todd
No, it was all I told you.
[00:18:44.520] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
When you were going to be there and then you would go there. So he was just a lot of fun and you know, he was quite a character.
[00:18:54.770] - Todd
I mean, when you think about it, he had such an influence on you because he was welcoming to the idea of you being around on the beat, treating you with respect as a reporter, a young reporter trying to get into the business. That really seemed to convince you that, yeah, this is something I do want to do and pursue and rolled with it.
[00:19:18.980] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
It was just wacky enough that he would be like, oh yeah, we're on this, we got this. You know, I don't think I've been trying to do it at Notre Dame. I don't think it probably would have gone over quite as well.
[00:19:31.700] - Todd
Right. It's funny how one individual can have such an influence on a young journalist trying to think about what they want to do with their career. It's pretty cool. Well, late in his life, Maguire had this habit. He would collect tin and metal toy soldiers, and he would sometimes sign them and send them off to people. And I know he died in 2001. In January of that year, and a few months before that, when he was dying, he was ill. You were covering a Chaos game at the arena in downtown Cleveland, and a package arrived for you. Right. Can you tell us about this?
[00:20:06.980] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Yeah. Given what I told you previously about how he never remembered anybody's name, this made me cry. So the PR guy for the cast at the time was Ed Markey, who had worked with Al at NBC. And I believe Ed had gone to see Al when it was clear he was going to pass away. And so he came back into the press room and called me out into the hall, and he said, Hold out your hands. So I just put my hands out, and he put this little cloud of tissue paper in my hands, white tissue paper, and he said, Go ahead, open it. And so inside the little tissue paper cloud was a tiny I have her here if you want to see her, but I guess this is not on.
[00:21:00.200] - Todd
Well, tell us.
[00:21:03.750] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
A little tin nurse, like a Clara Barton type oldfashioned nurse, and on the side of her skirt, he has signed it. And it made me cry because, first of all, he really did know who I was. He had clearly read I had sent him a letter when he went into hall fame and said, if you had not made this so much fun, so easy, I probably, you know, I owe my whole career to you, and otherwise I probably would have been a nurse. So to think that when he was dying, he remembered that that story and gave the nurse I'm still a little speechless about the whole thing. There's not a lot of personal things that happen to you during a career, but there's not much will top that. She goes with me to, like, if I speak at Marquette, I always take her along and reluctantly, we'll pass her around the room, afraid someone's not going to give it back. But anyway, I know it became a little bit of a USA Today, I think, did a story on it at the time, and it was very touching. And she really is one of my prized possessions.
[00:22:42.990] - Todd
Well, Mary, you didn't become a nurse. You became a sportswriter, a damn good one at that. And you did it at a time starting in the late 70s when there just weren't many female sports writers. And we touched on this a little bit. But when you think back on your early days as a professional in the business, what was it like being a woman, breaking into pretty much mostly a bunch of white guys in the media. What was it like for you at that time?
[00:23:32.720] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Right. I'm going to be honest. I would say they were pretty almost to a man, pretty welcoming. I don't really recall any incident, certainly let me say to my face that anybody did anything. I think, again, many of them maybe saw their daughters in me that, you know, my daughter wanted to do this, and there were just enough at that point. So I graduated in 77. So there were leslie Visser, I believe, was working. Tracy Dodds was here in Milwaukee. So there were just enough women around that it wasn't you weren't the only I mean, many, many times I was the only woman at a press table in a press room.
[00:24:31.800] - Todd
Was that difficult for you?
[00:24:38.250] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
I'm going to say no, because usually you traveled with another. There was at least one other beat writer, and there would be, like, your PR person. So you had colleagues, you had friends that were in there with you. I guess you just got so used to it, you kind of didn't. I'll tell you, what you noticed was when there started being more women, and by and large, then women were so happy to see another woman that you introduced yourself and, you know, kind of and in 1987, we actually began an organization called the association for Women in Sports Media, which I'm sure Chris Brennan talked to you about to form kind of a sorority of sorts of professional association that exists to this day. Has funded a lot of scholarships for young women coming in. Rachel Alexander was one of our early scholarship recipients.
[00:25:45.380] - Todd
So there's a whole support group, and it grew, and you were on the front lines of that.
[00:25:52.200] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
I guess you got just used to it being that way. In a newspaper office, you were usually the only woman. I never really what about war?
[00:26:02.630] - Todd
What about the coaches and athletes themselves? How did they treat you?
[00:26:10.130] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Again, I would say if you act professionally, if you dressed professionally, I think they treated you as such. And I don't remember. I remember, and this was not that young. I covered chris Mullen would not get dressed once in a locker room. We were having, like, a standoff. I was waiting for it, put a towel on, whatever. It wouldn't do it. So I was like, okay, I'm on deadline. I'm talking to you naked out of it. I didn't say that, but that was god, that was in the 90s. I've been doing it 15 years by that point. That's the only really standoff. We've all had run ins with athletes, but I never had one because I was a woman. I got something wrong. I asked a question wrong. I had a New York Yankee player who I can't even remember now. Someone else had covered first base on a play. I thought it was him, and so he was screaming at me, but because I made mistake, not because I was a woman. And we all had that.
[00:27:20.480] - Todd
That was part of the gig. Right.
[00:27:23.400] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Very rarely was it an actual issue. And, I mean, I kind of guess, like I say, I was the only woman in almost every sports department I worked in, and you kind of just got used to how they worked and talked.
[00:27:42.980] - Todd
You mentioned the association for Women in Sports Media in 2008. They gave you the Mary Garber Pioneer Award. You were a real pioneer. Think about it.
[00:28:15.020] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
For the work that you did, statute approve it. Yeah, she was a treat. When I was the president of the organization, she came to I was working in Minneapolis, and she came to our convention, and boy, at the time, she was seriously 85, 86 years old. And she'd worked in Florida, I believe, her whole career. Oh, my God. Now, she had stories, but when she started, she would very much be like the player mother, like they treated her like her grandmother. I mean, she had some stories, and if you can imagine doing it in the south, she was a white woman, so she had that going for her. But she had some good stories about being the owner, and she didn't mind it.
[00:29:05.130] - Todd
Right. But do you take some pride in the fact that you were part of that generation that did make a difference in the sports media business?
[00:29:12.110] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
I do. And to be honest, I don't think young women today have any idea that there was a time when they did. But I just don't think they totally appreciate others who paved the way. I think they're not even really conscious that there was, they know what they know.
[00:30:07.710] - Todd
Yeah. They know what they know, which is right now. Right. Well, it was certainly different when you got in the business and you did make a difference. You and the other female journalists who dared to go into the world of sports, the macho world of sports, and take on a difficult chore and do it in a professional manner and earn your way in, earn respect.
[00:30:30.970] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Right, yeah. I have to say it got easier as I got older, because I would say, and I think a lot of writers, men and women would say that they were kind of shy and writing was a way to get your thoughts known rather than speaking then. But as I got older, I would not lash out, but I would speak on I would call guys on things. Let's just say let's just pick out Kyrie Irving just because yes, I was.
[00:31:11.730] - Todd
Going to say, give us an example of speaking out and putting somebody in the right place. Mr. Kyrie Irving, what happened here?
[00:31:19.100] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Mr. Kyrie Irving, probably the less I personally say about him, the better.
[00:31:26.330] - Todd
Well, come on now.
[00:31:30.080] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
I found him the most difficult athlete I've ever and I dealt with Leitner. Who else? I had a great relationship with his agent. I had a great relationship with his dad. The kid had wanted nothing to do with me, and I see now that's pretty much it. It wasn't me.
I'm trying to think when Mike Brown got fired, I thought it was Mike Brown who was in trouble. And we were asking players what they thought about who the coach, if the coach was going to get fired or whatever. And Kairi said, that's not any of my business. And I said, I beg to differ. You're the captain of the team. You represent the feelings of the team. I think it is your business. No, he wasn't buying any of it, and he definitely didn't like being called out to suggest he should have an opinion on this. I'm trying to think of other did.
[00:32:46.830] - Todd
It get heated between the two of you?
[00:32:48.320] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
No. I mean, not really, because neither one of us was going to get to a screaming argument. I'm sure you saw your other people have talked about the changing of the media, where we used to go after practice and players would come out basically just checked.
[00:33:22.930] - Todd
[00:33:24.150] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
But it got outlawed, kind of where you told the PR people who was going to be available. You told them who you wanted to talk to, and then they would tell you who was available, and they selected people, and it was very much more controlled. Much more controlled and forced interaction because you had no relationship with a player. And prior to the private planes, you'd be flying, not coach necessarily, but you'd be in airports, sitting in lounges, waiting for your planes.
[00:34:11.440] - Todd
You could have some small talk. You could develop a working relationship with.
[00:34:14.880] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Somebody and they thought you were just a regular person. You weren't a national enquirer, filling something through the curtains kind of thing. So it was so much easier. But this was they want to limit any interaction. Of course, with the advent of twitter and everything else, instagram, any little thing they say can turn out to be a problem.
[00:34:44.840] - Todd
So it's much different.
[00:34:47.550] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Right. And that took away a lot of the fun. Like, I remember when I covered the timberwolves, we were stuck in a plane on the tarmac in minneapolis. I'm going to say like 6 hours, because literally we could have flown to europe in the time he sat on his plane. And sam mitchell was a player, and I believe he was threatening to take hostages, and we were sure he was kidding, but like, stuff like that, that never happened anymore. It was right.
[00:35:26.250] - Todd
Different world that way.
[00:35:27.660] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
[00:35:27.980] - Todd
Right. Well, you mentioned europe, and you mentioned earlier about being able to travel the world and going to europe in different places as a sports writer. Before we talk some more NBA, I wanted to ask you about the olympics in particular. We covered a few together. So when you think about your experiences in the olympics, what comes to mind?
[00:36:52.100] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Oh, god, mohammed ali lighting the torch in atlanta. I was sitting with my friend, my good friend don burke. He was with newark, I believe, at the time, and everybody had been rumored, and as he approached it, you weren't quite sure he was going to and everyone clapped. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen.
[00:37:24.230] - Todd
Why? What was it about that moment that got you?
[00:37:26.840] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
I was a big ollie fan to begin with, just because of how he conducted himself. He was unlike most athletes at the time, he was a political figure and made his opinions known. And he was really smart and really funny. And I was just a big fan of how he I actually stood in line the Super Bowl was in Minnesota in 1992 and he was signing autographs, and I actually stood in line to get his autograph. I was just a big fan. And so just watching him he did climb the steps, right? He climbed the steps.
[00:38:10.210] - Todd
I think he came out from behind in the shadows on the platform itself.
[00:38:15.360] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Anyway, his Parkinson's, you know, you weren't sure he could actually live. And just to see him overcome his physical liabilities, to do this unbelievably symbolic gesture and the reaction that he got from the crowd when the crowd realized it was that was probably my number one sports moment. It was just fantastic. Everyone clapped. Everyone stood up. It was unbelievable. Basically.
[00:38:52.680] - Todd
That was in Atlanta, Georgia. When you think about your overseas experiences with the Olympics or anything stand out.
[00:38:59.180] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
More than anything else, australia was a place I would never probably have gone on my own. The people could not have been more welcoming. They wanted you to have a good time. It is an unbelievable amount of work. You're going to bed at 02:00 in the morning and sometimes you're covering something at 08:00. You're covering stuff. You have no idea.
[00:39:21.680] - Todd
[00:39:23.100] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
I can't even buy athlon in the snow. We're shooting in the snow. Why would you do that? Why would you lay down and do that? If you're honey deer, maybe but anyway but those people, they work so hard. They get such little recognition. They're thrilled when you come to interview them and you know their name and you know where they're from and you're from there and oh my God, they're so appreciative. It's so different.
[00:41:21.970] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
We were chatting early about Leanne Parsley, the firefighter from Dennison from Granville, Ohio?
[00:41:40.000] - Todd
[00:41:40.750] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Made the Olympics in the skeleton, which is suicide.
[00:41:45.270] - Todd
Oh, yeah. That's basically like, let's take a cookie sheet, lie down face first and go down a mountain on ice. Okay. Sounds good.
[00:41:52.100] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Even though we're going ahead.
[00:41:53.150] - Todd
Oh, that's right. They have helmets on. Yeah. And they have life insurance, a lot of it.
[00:41:58.660] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
But she was a peach. Not only was she a firefighter, but she was just a wonderful human being. And she was selected to carry that was the Olympics after 911. And she was one of those athletes selected to carry in the flag from the Tattered flag from 911 that was also incredibly moving. And as opposed to ali, which was riotous, roaring Applause that was silent.
[00:42:34.020] - Todd
Yeah. I remember I was sitting there. You could hear the helicopter blades above the stadium. It was like so solemn. It just moved you in such a different way. It was just like, oh, my gosh, that's the flag that was on the North Tower.
[00:42:50.640] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Yeah. And I mean, she's a firefighter. That was another very moving moment. And I don't know if it's because you're American, this is American team, you're covering. The Olympics just felt a little different inside, kind of, you know, and again, you never root for who's going to win or lose, basically. But that was really, really I loved covering the Olympics. I loved all the work. I didn't mind it at all.
[00:45:25.630] - Todd
That's right. Well, let's talk some NBA before we wrap things up, because you spent over 20 years covering the NBA and you touched on it a little bit. We talked some kairi and some travel. And when you think about your tenure as a basketball writer, how did the league change over the years? What was it like when you first started covering the NBA as a writer?
[00:45:51.430] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Let's see. My first NBA in Milwaukee, I had done some Sidebarring of the books. I did two stories that got a lot of attention. One was. The headline was a fine wine. It was about whining in the NBA. Whining yesterday a poll, and no surprise, Bill Lanier was the number one Whiner. And not a lot of players filled out. The little surveys that we put together, I put together, but there were enough great ones. And it just wrote the story.
[00:47:25.400] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
And then the other story I did that got a lot of attention back then was Julie Serbian was retiring, and one of my colleagues at the Journal was doing a story on how the size of his hands impacted what he could do with the ball, which makes perfect sense. But they sent me I was doing a general story on him because the Bucks always thought they had the rights to him, the NBA rights to him. Long story involving Wayne embryon. So I went to do that story, and then while I was there, they said, oh, yeah, and we need you to trace his hand.
[00:48:00.880] - Todd
Dr. Jay's hand.
[00:48:02.420] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Yeah. Like, you know, your kid makes a turkey at Thanksgiving.
[00:48:05.170] - Todd
[00:48:05.470] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
[00:48:05.810] - Todd
[00:48:07.180] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
So I went down to Chicago to do this ahead of him, coming to Milwaukee. And I was last person, as usual, very cordial, listen to all your questions, nice, thoughtful answers. And I pull out a piece of paper and I said, and now I have to ask you, could I trace your hand. And so he gave me a look like, you cannot be serious. And then he had a look on his face like, all right, I've done all kinds of other crazy stuff this year. So he puts it on his hand and I trace his hand. I'm super embarrassed. So I bring it back. I'm very proud of myself because that was above and beyond in my opinion. I bring it back and the person, right, maybe it was the editor said, you will, you trace it wrong. Let me see what his index finger was like, bent. He said, you trace it wrong. I said, no, his index finger is bent. And they were, like, arguing with me. So I had to do enough research to say to find when he'd broken his finger and how it had never happened. But then they ran it in the paper full size.
[00:49:16.930] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
My hand didn't even fit in his palm, basically.
[00:49:19.570] - Todd
[00:49:54.580] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
But my first beat experience was in Minnesota with the Timber Wolves, the start of the Timber Wolves. Bill Muslim was the coach again. Sam Mitchell was on that team, sidney Lowe was on that team. Scottie Brooks came later and much of that team had been muscleman's team in the Aba. No, not aba. What was the precursor to the NBA minor league? I can't think of the name. The minor albany pardon? I can't remember. The minor league, NBA league, whatever it was called. They were with the Albany patrons. So these were guys who were just happy to be in the NBA. So they didn't care if a horse was covering them. They're getting NBA salaries and NBA per diem, so they had no problem at all. They were great to COVID and muscleman was totally nuts but easy to COVID Wait, totally nuts?
[00:51:14.670] - Todd
Give us a nuts. Bill muslim on story.
[00:51:20.900] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Let me think. He used to run this like, suicide drill at practice. He picked guys up to play one on one, like to the deaths, basically while everyone sat around watching. Let's see what was his crazy, crazy stuff, though. He was constantly he's a coach, he wants to win, but you're an expansion team and you're supposed to be accumulating draft choices. And so he's getting all this pressure from above. The GM was Bob Stein, who was the son in law, the owner a.
[00:52:04.750] - Todd
Little complicated, little complicated.
[00:52:07.020] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
And he just couldn't blame himself to not try to win the game.
[00:52:11.540] - Todd
They lay off the gas. They're telling him.
[00:52:16.850] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
There was a game. So Poo Richardson was their number one pick, and Pooh was not playing very well. So Scottie Brooks had played the majority of the second half, and he was on one of those tears that Steph Curry would get on where the ball he could throw the ball from his ankles and was going in. I mean, he was just on one of those tears. Final two, three minutes, he takes out Scott Brooks, puts in Poo, and they lose. So after the game, I said, you think maybe you should have left Scott Brooks in there? See, I got bolder with my questions as I got older, and he's like, well, you know, Mary, we're an expansion team. The whole party line right on the bus. And that was the day you could ride the bus, like from the arena or to the hotels or to the airport, whatever. He gets on the bus, he leans over and he says, mary, you were right. I should have played Scotty.
[00:53:26.600] - Todd
He was a character. And in the NBA, you had quite a few characters. When I think about your years in Cleveland and we'll talk LeBron before we finish, but you had some different people. I mean, you had Ricky Davis, Sean Kemp. You had Shaq for a year. You had quite a few characters coming through Cleveland in those days. The coach is John Lucas. Well, the owner Dan Gilbert. Who's your favorite character?
[00:53:59.770] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Oh, wow. Favorite character. He wasn't a character, but my favorite player was Z, just because he was such a great human being. I would always tell people, if my car ran out of gas on Lake Road, I would call Z, and I know he would come and get me. I mean, that's the kind of guy, if he was not 73, he would have been a teacher or something or coach a character, though. Clarence weatherspoon I never totally quite got you were always a little afraid in Luck room he might go off on you for any unknown reason, wearing a green sweater or something. Let me I'm sure there's I think I went a year without interviewing Balan Murray. I didn't get him either.
[00:54:47.600] - Todd
A whole year without just talking to him?
[00:54:49.420] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Yeah, pretty much. That was very professional. I just thought, he didn't bring anything in.
[00:54:56.780] - Todd
There no reason to talk to this guy. He's not bringing anything to the table. Character, though, Sean Kemp. I remember showing up when I was in Columbus, and I showed up in the late 90s up to Cleveland one night. Sean Kemp had just joined a team. And I walked in, I'm like, this guy is like, £400.
[00:55:17.900] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Yeah. My husband had just moved to Cleveland from Seattle, and when I got the call that the Cavs are going to trade for Sean Campbell no, don't do it.
[00:55:39.010] - Todd
Well, they traded for the goodyear blimp. That's what happened.
[00:55:41.440] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Oh, my God. That was such a you know, that was a disaster. And that was ownership. Clamoring for Tela and his staff had put together kind of a list of superstars I think they thought were going to be available. So Michael Jordan was not on there, and Charlotte Camp was at the top of their list. And Wayne was kind of ordered to.
[00:56:06.580] - Todd
Order to bring him to town.
[00:56:09.050] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
That didn't work out too well. That was too bad. Shaq was very pleasant to deal with, surprisingly. To be honest, I am amazed at his staying power. I feel as though, first of all, I thought he used to pimp us because he practically whispers in the locker room. And I was always the shortest at the back of the path. I could never hear what you're saying because people you pass your tape recorders up, right, so people in front could hold them for you. But I'm amazed at his staying power. Like, I love the TNT broadcast, but I feel like the ball is zipping back and forth, and then when it gets to shack, it just stops it in the commercial. I turn my television on. He's doing commercial for cousins or something. I mean, subway, I don't know. I'm amazed at his staying power, but God bless him, he was pleasant, very pleasant to deal with.
[00:57:12.200] - Todd
Well, all these years are covered in the NBA. There's one player we obviously want to hit on, and that's LeBron James.
[00:57:18.860] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Who could that be?
[00:57:20.530] - Todd
LeBron James. And the man you were in Cleveland covering those cabs for 20 years. You were covering the cabs before LeBron. Covering the cabs when LeBron comes to town. When he leaves town. When he comes back.
[00:57:34.330] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
What was LeBron's game losing streak when he was gunned?
[00:57:39.130] - Todd
That's right. Think about that. How many games?
[00:57:42.910] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
26, I believe.
[00:57:44.750] - Todd
So when you think about your tenure in Cleveland, what was it like to COVID LeBron James as a writer?
[00:57:53.450] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
I'm going to say flat out, which I say I really liked LeBron. I'm very proud of the person LeBron I should qualify. I don't really know. I don't know him away from the court at all. I'm proud of the person he's become. I'm proud of the fact that he will take a stand on certain social justice issues.
[00:58:18.380] - Todd
[00:58:20.530] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
I'm extremely proud of the loyalty he has to his hometown with the school that he started. His commitment to Akron is real, and I thank him for that. So he wasn't always as a young player. Certainly he was not always the easiest to deal with. I did think the Calves did him a disservice, and all of us a disservice by not the calves did not lay down the rules. They pretty much let LeBron lay down the rules. I e. He would not come out and speak. You had to speak to him in the locker room with 50 people around, and that was just ridiculous. It was disrespectful to the players on both sides of them. They come out and get their clothes out of their lockers and go in.
[00:59:12.040] - Todd
Logistically, it was just crazy.
[00:59:15.580] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
I thought LeBron would have been better served had the Calves been paul Silas was his first coach, and in a lot of ways, that was a great coach because physically, he could you know, he commanded respect, and that was good for LeBron, I think. But as a whole, the organization, I thought, could have, instead of him running the show as an 18 year old, I think, you know but in the end, I mean, now I think he's kind of a father figure, almost. He's obviously one of the greatest players of all time. I quantify because people who saw Oscar Robertson will always say, oscar Robertson was the greatest player of all time. Different eras, different players, or Jordan.
[01:00:08.230] - Todd
Well, you saw so many players when he was a young player, did you feel like he was going to become what he was hyped to be?
[01:00:17.900] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
There were days where you were like, first couple of years. No, really. I mean, how could you? Jordan was still as a pizza. The one thing I always thought Jordan had over LeBron is that Jordan would run his mother over to score. LeBron wanted people to like him. I remember if it was his first All Star games and stuff, he brought, like, gifts for the other players, like party favors. I thought that was so sweet, but yes, I look on your face. I mean, it was very sweet. I don't remember what they were or something, but it was he wanted people like them, which is not a bad trait. It just that Jordan's competitive streak made him greater at the time. Now you can't deny anything LeBron said, how hard he's worked. Again, I personally always got along with him fine.
[01:01:16.030] - Todd
Did he treat you with respect?
[01:01:17.700] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Yes, he did, but by then what are we talking, 2003? There were a lot of women on TV by that time, and so it wasn't a novelty. And actually, I could have been his grandmother, basically. Almost. And he went to a good Catholic school. Respect his elder. No, I did always get along with him, and he lived up to the height. I wasn't sure I never thought he I didn't see it initially. I mean, you know, I saw in high school, like and you think he's great, but, you know, you think other players are going to be great.
[01:02:06.050] - Todd
Right. Not all time great. Right?
[01:02:08.080] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
[01:03:19.630] - Todd
LeBron leaves and goes to Miami and he wins a championship, but he comes back. It's the redemption story. He comes back home. What's your story about LeBron coming home?
[01:03:46.440] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
I know that was hard for him because he didn't care for the owner. He had a close relationship with the owner, but Gilbert, right, correct. I do think that it still showed his commitment to Northeast Ohio. Here's how what I remember is him on his hands and knees crying after that was all over because he'd done what he promised, even though it was so improbable against the team that they beat. That, to me, was the lasting impression of what he personally gone through to deliver on the promise that he made. And I respect him for that. I was not covering the team anymore.
[01:04:49.350] - Todd
[01:04:51.160] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
But watching on TV in my little Avon lake house, I thought that was a tribute to LeBron, frankly.
[01:05:02.490] - Todd
How are you going to remember LeBron from your time as a journalist and now that you're out of the business, when you think about LeBron, what do you think about?
[01:05:11.860] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
I like LeBron. I always did. Again, I'm very proud of the person he's grown up to be after a very difficult upbringing. I remember him as a dad. It was in the class. We were all in the interview room in the place, and he's carrying LeBron Jr. Out, who's wailing as a twoyearold? Can we just wailing? And I happened to be standing as they walked past, and he was patenting him out. He was holding him and he was patenting him on the back. And he said, It's not that bad, my man. It's not that bad. My own personal snapshot of him is that because he didn't have a dad to do that. His dad didn't do that to him. So I remember him fondly. He still gives me some street cred if I'm talking to classes because pretty soon there'll be no players in the NBA I covered. So I saw a little street cred by saying, I covered LeBron. And I did discover recently, or I realized, that I am the only beat writer in America to COVID Elm Maguire and LeBron.
[01:06:34.470] - Todd
There you go.
[01:06:35.670] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
How about that? I can put down my tombstone.
[01:06:38.790] - Todd
There you go. Well, that's a good bookend for not only your career, but our episode. And, Mary, I got to tell you, I'm so glad that Al Maguire and your experience with Al McGuire convinced you to be a sports writer, because you were a damn good one for many years. You're always somebody that I could count on. When I was in the press room and needed a calming voice, mary would always talk me off the ledge.
[01:07:32.560] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
I'm giving up my seat.
[01:07:34.590] - Todd
Yeah, right. You always had a good wisdom to you, and you're such an inspiration to many other women in the media. And I'm so glad that we've had a chance to talk about the great moments in your career. It's been a real honor to have you with us, and I really appreciate and I miss the time that we had together as colleagues.
[01:07:56.490] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
That's what I miss is the sort of the downtime in the press room and just laughing and telling stories and listening to Bob Fernandez complain about something.
[01:08:09.690] - Todd
Not just Bob. All complainers. Well, Mary, thanks again.
[01:08:24.780] - MAry Schmitt Boyer
Thank you so much for asking me. I'm really honored that you did.