Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 16, 2024

Dribbling irreverence into the Sports section

By MIKE FINGERHOOD | May 17, 2021



Fingerhood describes watching lacrosse as “a real pain in the ass” in April 1982.

My fondest memories of college are related to my time at The News-Letter. I had been an editor of my high school paper in Brooklyn, N.Y. that was released only six times per year. I already knew that I wanted to continue to write for my college paper, and then when I decided to go to Hopkins, the excitement grew, as I had been an avid reader of Russell Baker in the New York Times, and I knew of his Hopkins days.

I arrived at Hopkins in September 1978 by train from New York with two suitcases full of jeans, sweatshirts and rock-and-roll-themed T-shirts. Orientation was full of dorm competitions and an afternoon of seeking out extracurricular activities, during which I headed for the Gatehouse. Once inside, I knew this was going to be a wonderful hangout and a place for me to flourish — tattered furniture and a soda machine that dispensed Natty Boh from the far-right column, even though the display showed a can of Coke.

As a freshman, I did not get my first opportunity to write a brief news piece until about two months into the semester. I hung out, going to planning meetings, getting to know all the editors, eager to write news or sports. By my sophomore year, I was writing a piece for almost every issue and was asked to cover the basketball team, coached by Jim Amen, who had come to Hopkins from Long Island. We became friends as I continued to cover basketball for the next three years I was at Hopkins. Coach Amen had very limited success, with limited talent, and left Hopkins in 1983, returning to Long Island. 

Perhaps the highlight of the years covering basketball was Ralph Sampson, who later became the first pick of the 1983 NBA draft, playing his first collegiate game in 1979 against Hopkins, with a picture in Sports Illustrated of his being guarded by my Hopkins classmate Tom Tessitore. 

Hanging at The News-Letter became my respite from the pre-med classes I was taking. In fact, I was the only member of The News-Letter gang that was even a science major, and this felt great. At the end of my junior year, I was selected to be Sports Editor with my friend Steve Eisenberg, and the highlight of my News-Letter experience started in the fall of 1981.

Enhancing my writing skill, I had taken several Writing Seminars classes, including playwriting, during my time at Hopkins. My style lent itself to some irreverence, as did Steve’s, and we were determined to apply some irreverence to sports writing. This started with our decision to write a weekly sports column, and what better title than combing our first initials? S&M came out weekly, with us mostly alternating weeks. Most columns attempted to bring in some humor or irreverence, but there were serious ones as well, as we also tried to address issues such as Title IX and the (ab)use of college athletes by universities.

A big perk of being Sports Editor was the press passes that allowed us to sit in the press box for not only Hopkins lacrosse but for Baltimore Blast soccer games at the Civic Center, the Washington Capitals hockey games and Capital Bullets basketball games at the old Capital Centre in Landover. Still etched vividly in my memory is sitting in the press box and seeing Wayne Gretzky score five goals against the Caps. I got to know local Baltimore and Washington sportswriters, who uniformly were nice to this kid (I looked 16 even though I was 21) college sports editor from Brooklyn.

I live in the Baltimore area currently and wind up on the Hopkins campus a few times a year. I always make a point to walk by the Gatehouse, pause in front and reminisce about long Thursday nights spent downstairs in production. Drinking a beer, often the smell of weed in the air. Needing to literally cut two inches of copy to make it fit. Waiting for the photo to come out of the darkroom. And at 2 a.m., trying to come up with perfect headlines — with some irreverence, of course. 

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