Let’s face it- we watch sports for the entertainment, the athletes, and the competition. We listen to sports talk radio for information and debate regarding the sports we follow. Long before the WIP’s and WFAN’s of the world, we relied on the print media for the bulk of our information. Yet rarely do we talk about columnists or reporters in the ways we discuss the talkies and their shows, the pre-game hosts, and, of course, Joe Buck. To that end, I feel compelled today to not write about a game or a player, a coach, or even trade scenarios and free agency(or Joe Buck). Today, I feel the need to recognize a man whose writing inspired me to pursue my dream of covering sports in written form. Philly sports lost one of the best yesterday, with the passing of longtime Sixers beat writer, Phil Jasner.
Phil Jasner began covering the Sixers for the Philadelphia Daily News in 1981, and continued doing so until his passing. Phil was also one of the foremost authorities on Philadelphia basketball as a whole, as he covered The Big 5, and knew of virtually every high school star long before college recruiters. He would also, every so often, drop the name of top local streetballers, for good measure.
It would be easy to list Phil’s accomplishments, which, by the way, include being a former president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Pennsylvania Sportswriter of the Year(1999), the 2004 Curt Gowdy Media Award, presented by the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, for his outstanding contributions to the sport, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the PBWA. However, I’d rather speak about the man, from my perspective.
I met Phil Jasner on a concourse at The Spectrum. Recognizing him, I walked over and introduced myself, letting him know that I enjoyed his work very much, even though as a New Yorker, I didn’t get to read all of it (this was, of course, pre-internet). He was stunned that I had actually recognized him by face. He thanked me profusely, and stood and talked basketball with me for approximately 15 minutes. Three years later, I was outside the then Core States Center, about to view a Sixers-Bulls game. I heard someone calling my name. I turned, and realized that it was Phil Jasner. This time, I was the one who was stunned. “How could he possibly remember me?”, I thought to myself. I am simply a reader and fan. I learned a few years later that was just how Phil Jasner was. His readers mattered to him, so much so that he made it a point to try to remember each and every single one that ever approached him.
Every so often, I would drop an email, commenting on a column, or soliciting an opinion. I always received a response. After my first email to him, explaining who I am and how we met, I received a reply that he knew exactly who I was, just by what I had written. The email went on to ask how I was doing. In later emails, I would also preface by stating who I am. After four or so, I received an email asking why I always identified myself- that he knew who was writing, and that I didn’t need to. I am still stunned that he always remembered me. That spoke volumes to me about the man.
There are many things that can be said about Phil Jasner. Players, staffs, his colleagues and peers would probably speak of the respect he earned among them, his fair minded columns, and objectivity. Some may even speak of his friendship. I think one thing that sticks out in my mind is the respect given him by a specific player who has always had ups and downs with the media. Allen Iverson always simply referred to him, endearingly, as “Phillip.”
Philadelphia, the media, and the sports world as a whole are much better for having Phil Jasner be a part. He will be greatly missed.