Just do it. That was the message to Concord Academy students from best-selling author and longtime sports columnist Jackie MacMullen at last week’s assembly. “You have a chance to do some things right now . . . just go ahead and do it,” MacMullan said, describing how her reporting career began when she was just a teenager— the same age as the CA students seated in front of her.
Growing up in Westood, Massachusetts, MacMullen noticed her local paper printed mostly stories about male high school athletes. It seemed to MacMullen that the paper largely ignored female athletes like her. At her father’s urging, MacMullan picked up the phone and called the sports editor to complain. Her persistence paid off. She eventually gained a byline in the local paper.
MacMullan described her hometown as a great place to grow up and play sports. A former athlete in her own right, at the University of New Hampshire MacMullan was the starting forward for the women’s basketball team, which she led in scoring her sophomore year.
Shortly after graduating from college in 1982, MacMullan started working at the Boston Globe as a sports reporter. In the beginning, she was often the only female in the press box and in the locker room. Fast forward thirty years or so, MacMullan has now traveled to forty-eight states and four continents covering many of the major sporting events of the past few decades. She has also gained a reputation as one of the top basketball writers in the country.
MacMullan is also the best-selling author of four books including the New York Times bestseller, When the Game Was Ours. The book was co-authored by former NBA All-Star Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics and former Los Angeles Lakers star “Magic” Johnson.
After decades covering all-manner of sports figures from the sublime to the ridiculous, it seems natural to wonder if MacMullan has a favorite. While she wouldn’t name a favorite, MacMullan did disclose that Shaquille O’Neal star basketball center for the Los Angeles Lakers and later the Boston Celtics was generous, hilarious, and “the most complicated” athlete she had ever interviewed.
This past August, MacMullan spent fourteen days covering the London Olympics. Asked for a favorite moment, MacMullan said she was “moved” by the judo player Wojdan Shahrkhani who lost her match, but became the first female ever to compete for Saudi Arabia at the Olympics.
During the Q&A portion of the assembly, one student asked MacMullan about the use of performance-enhancing drugs by athletes. MacMullan said that she was concerned about the problem in professional sports, but even more concerned about the use of performance-enhancing drugs by high school students. Another questioner asked about the “persecution” of Lance Armstrong by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. MacMullan, however, said the evidence was almost irrefutable that Armstrong had, in fact, been doping throughout his cycling career.