Tim Horgan was one of the greats of the Boston Sports Media.

While I read plenty of Horgan’s stories towards the end of his career, most of my recollections of him are actually as a guest on sports radio shows in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but hearing him on those shows, and the history that he had in his 44-year run as a sports writer was a privilege. He could tell stories about Ted Williams:

From "Ted Williams: Remembering the Splendid Splinter."
From “Ted Williams: Remembering the Splendid Splinter.”

In the days before sports coverage was all about hotsportztakes, Horgan was in the business for another reason. Glenn Stout, in his forward to the 2010 edition of his The Best American Sports Writing series wrote:

Twenty years ago, in the forward to the inaugural edition of this book, I repeated an anecdote I heard Tim Horgan, long time sports columnist for The Boston Herald, tell at his retirement dinner. He said that when he was approached by aspiring students of sportswriting he always asked why he or she wanted to write about sports for a living. Invariably the students would respond to Horgan by saying, “Because I love sports.”

“Wrong,” Horgan would admonish. “You have to love the writing.”

Do modern sports columnists care about writing? Does Dan Shaughnessy? It’s a different era.

Tim Horgan passed away yesterday at the age of 88.

Tim Horgan penned a lifetime of memories – His friend and former colleague Joe Fitzgerald remembers Horgan. He closes the article with another sign of the changing times:

If he had a fitting epitaph it would be the one he gave himself: “I was a nag, a scold, and a great second-guesser, but I was never a hatchet man and I say that proudly.”

As news got around yesterday, various sports media figures paid tribute to Horgan.



Derek Sanderson a fine subject for NBC’s documentary kickoff – Chad Finn looks at the first subject of NBC’s version of “30 for 30” which will feature a Boston legend. He also touches on the passing of Horgan.

Holy Cross football, basketball are heading to WEEI – Bill Doyle reports on the games switching over to 1440 AM WEEI. Broadcasts will also be streamed live on weei.com/holycross.


21 thoughts on “Former Boston Herald Columnist Tim Horgan Passes Away

  1. Bruce et al.

    I am sad today learning of Tim Horgan’s passing. I always liked reading his stuff…of course that dates me…yes Virginia I am old.

    Bruce you told a great anecdote in your piece and you ended it by asking:

    “Do modern sports columnists care about writing?”

    My short answer is no. My longer answer is because “writing” has changed so much over the last 20 years that very little of what these guys do is actually “writing”. It started with the USA today and their 1 paragraph recaps and 3 paragraph story limits. Then with the advent of the web bullet points, quick hits and “thought provoking takes” became the rage. Twitter enters the game and now these pros have to be interesting and witty in 140 characters. They don’t care about writing any more because they are not asked to write.

    Bill Simmons, proving he is a dinosaur, goes and starts Grantland because he truly does love writing. He finds that people read the first 5 paragraphs and move on. That frustrates him to no end. Long form expository with considerable research and creative writing is a dying art because there are fewer and fewer markets for it. Never mind sports, look at what passes for news writing in formally storied papers like the NY Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal or Washington Post. I usually pick on the Liberal Media…today I will give you an example from the conservative media…to the best of my knowledge one of the most popular online if not the most popular daily features at the Wall Street Journal (*note it is my fav) is James Toranto’s Best of the Web (http://www.wsj.com/news/types/best-of-the-web-today). It is a short form essay 7-10 paragraphs followed by 20 witty observations/quotes out of context type of things. James is a wonderful writer, one of the best in news right now, and they have his doing quit hitters and web recaps.

    All the great long form writing used to be done in the weekly and monthly publications where the writers had time to ferret out a story, do in-depth research and then craft a piece of writing to suit their mood. Those publications are either gone or a shell of their former self. Sports Illustrated 50 pages of ads separated by a few poorly written fluff pieces about something that happened a week ago. Sport Magazine disappeared in 2000…having only been around since 1946. The Sporting News, after 122 years as a weekly publication, switched to a biweekly publishing schedule in 2008, and to a monthly schedule in 2011. In December 2012, the magazine announced it would go digital-only starting in 2013. (I got that info from Wikipedia). I could go on. Time, Newsweek, Life, Saturday Evening Post, Harpers, etc. All places that demanded quality writing have disappeared as the talking (radio), visuals (TV) and short attention spans coupled with overwhelming content (the internet) have changed the way people consume information.

    I am not sure a young David Halberstam or Bob Ryan or Leigh Monteville makes it in today’s world. Look at Tom Curran. He is as good a technical writer as there is out there. He covers a beat for a cable sports station. He writes mostly quick him “takes”. He does not get to do any long form expository writing. Even on Quick slants he does not get to explore topics in depth. Would someone like Bob Ryan be able to write as prolifically as he did. I am not sure.

    Lastly, I do think Dan Shaughnessy is in this business for the writing. he certainly is not in it for the sports. Knock Dan all you want (and I think I am up there as one of his more severe critics) they guy is at least literate. Its not like reading Shalise Manza Young…where when you are finished you realize you are dumber than when you started.


    1. Some issues today:

      1.) News breaks on Twitter/FB/social media and the < 35 generation consumes it entirely this way. Network news? 5-6 hours old. Newspapers? A day late.

      Problem is these people have to "keep up" and I think very few can. They were hired to "deliver news" and wind up being more editorial writers. I think editorial is a much harder style to master.

      2.) Most "media outlets" are controlled by some larger entity and are PR firms for whatever their employer's ideology/interests are. This complicates #1 and all "news rooms" wind up groupthink. (WSJ vs. NYT)

      3.) Longer-form writing is.. not dead but not what people want, have the time or would spend the time consuming. It's 140 character #HotSportzTakez.

      4.) I think the problem is also an incestual mentality in media. You have to always have "media people" on other forms. I get the credibility part but many of these people, given what the media is, live well outside the world of you and I. (Shaughnessy getting called on ESPN to be asked what the "Boston Fan" perspective is when the guy is so far from understanding it.) We rag constantly on Costas/Peter King because both trumpet themselves as some "man of the people" when they've not been even close for decades.


      1. I’d rather read LTD and BSMFAN than ANY local “scribes.” Great job guys. When I was 10 my Dad made me read the papers every day. I wouldn’t dream of making my kids do that now, so we read books and find quality online content. (Reading on a Kindle or tablet or laptop seems to sweeten the deal for them.)

        Sad to see the passing of a great. It’s like the greatest generation dying off only to be replaced by people pissing on our flag.


      2. Overall I agree with all this – I have to disagree with two points.

        Bob Ley’s grandstanding too – yeah, it’s easy for him to playact anger at FIFA because he doesn’t have to do anything else. The World Cup will still be held, nothing’s going to change, so he can be the man of the people theatrically tearing up an agenda, but it’s all just a different kind of pandering.

        The NFL’s as bad as FIFA – tax deals for stadiums, dismissing medical research – but nobody tears up THAT agenda. So when Ley goes off on the NFL, that’s when I’ll respect his little theater of the working man.

        And, your point about “academia vs. real world” is a bit of a straw man. The difference between King/Costas and Ley – and the real world – is money and peers. I would never ‘hang out’ with Costas or see him at a store. But theoretically, you could run into an ‘academic’ at a store/town meeting/whatever…yeah, they might talk about some esoteric theroy and wouldn’t be fun to hang out with, but they aren’t removed from normal society. But they are from more or less the same economic strata that you’re in – maybe a little more, maybe a little less. Of course there are exceptions, like all jobs.

        I work in academia, so that’s why I’m defending it…other than that, I agree with pretty much everything else you have to say.

        Oh – and finally, I don’t think long-form writing is ‘dead’ but we readers only have time – or maybe energy – to consume so much.So instead of 10 stories, I might read one story…so I think we all enjoy long-form writing, but we discriminate more than we used to.

        Good post.


        1. Quick clarification. I don’t think long form writing is dead. I do think the patience to research, develop and cull stories that used to result in in-depth exposé is dead. You can’t make money at it. NPR supported by the Feds does it and even they have changed…shorter pieces, more stories per hour. John Bachelor is the only for profit radio personality doing it nationally and I doubt his ratings are high (although I listen daily to the Pod cast). In print the monthlies are all gone. The weeklies are mostly gone and the dailies are dying. You would think with the web not being beholden to the confines of the page there would be more, better and more in-depth content being generated. The fact is it has gone the other way. 140 characters seems like an eternity to some people.


        2. Maybe Ley was a bad example but he’s got tenure at ESPN, so I don’t see many others performing such an act (and yeah what he did isn’t exactly something Simmons-level where he gets called to the principals office).

          When I have seen ESPN, it’s either the [popular hot woman on twitter/local media] or some generic Syracuse/Northwestern J-school grad reading a teleprompter now. (Not much different than your average newscast) It’s as devoid of personality as you can get.

          Yeah, not much anyone can do about FIFA. I think he and others who do soccer care but up till the federations (UEFA, etc) start saying no thanks, its business as usual.

          Good clarification there. I looked my point over and doubt I’d want to submit it on the final. I think you got what I was hitting at, though. It does have to do with their world and money. Most “big time journalists” don’t do “normal people thing” nor have made a salary south of 100k for a decade.


          1. Yeah, Ley has earned the moral authority to make a stand that we recognize HIM for making. Most of ESPN’s current crop does what they’re told, hoping against hope, they get a crack at the brass ring.

            so Ley is grandstanding – but he can grandstand this because we know who he is, and he’s earned the right.


          2. From following him, though, I think he genuinely cares about soccer and knows it’s in a real bad place, esp with Blatter getting reelected. He can’t do much, like anyone here can, but I’d rather see some passion and honesty (why I brought him up).


          3. I am not going to comment on whether I think Ley is sincere or not when it comes to soccer. I will say I think he is naive. Further, the Baltter case fascinates me because FIFA effectively is a global entity that is not beholden to ANY jurisdiction. It controls the largest and by extension most profitable television event in the world and is the most recognized sports brand in the world. Nothing else even close…the NBA is second and it is so far off it is not even funny. The World Cup drew 900 mill viewers last time around. The Olympics will be lucky to draw 700 mill and the Super Bowl is lucky to get 150 mill worldwide.

            So there is this organization that appears to be above the law, whose senior members use it as an ATM machine…promising lucrative matches and events to those willing to pay up (can we go back and reexamine how the USA got the Cup in 1992 please) in exchange for cash and prizes…and the worlds press is shocked and chagrined. This is like the baseball PED story. Really…there was an open bottle of Andro in McGuire’s locker and the BBWA were shocked there was PED use in MLB. Qatar gets the World Cup…an African nation with absolutely no benefit to FIFA (no market looking to grow, no World wide industry looking for marketing opportunities waiting to happen), with no infrastructure (I believe they have had to build all 9 stadiums with slave labor to be used) and the world soccer press is dumbfounded when the US AG announces corruption. Then they are amazed when Russia and other small feds that have benefitted from the corruption come out and overwhelming vote for him to be reelected and defend him against the critics.


    1. If you’re on Twitter, why would you type out the word “hashtag”? Wouldn’t you just use the symbol?


  2. If Felger&Mazz are ranting and raving but nobody is there to listen, does it still make a sound?


  3. So, the Globe’s Ben “Trollin” has become the latest mediot to say that if Brady were innocent, he’d be talking. This is moronic, of course, and it’s been covered in the comments section of this site within the last couple of weeks. However, it’s good to see Mike Reiss, who remains one of the few voices of reason in this market, take people like “Trollin” to task in is Patriots notes column this morning with the following line: “When part of the media-based debate locally is whether Brady should say something publicly about his upcoming appeal, it makes me wonder if we’ve run out of meaningful things to banter about. I have trouble grasping why this is significant, especially given my sense is that some preparing to fight on Brady’s behalf might argue that Brady has already talked too much on the overall topic, specifically pointing to his marathon Jan. 22 news conference.” — The sad part of all this is that people like “Trollin” surely can’t be stupid enough to think that the accused in any legal or quasi-legal case should be front-and-center, with cameras rolling, proclaiming their innocence and taking questions from a media that’s just dying to hang them. Has “Trollin” never observed other cases where the accused refer all inquiries to their attorneys? Besides, Brady did try, back in January, to proclaim his innocence and all he got for it was accusations of lying from the media; accusations that continue to this day, despite the fact that the NFL has presented zero credible evidence that he had anything to do with any “illegal” activities vis a vis the PSI levels in those footballs. Man, I really wish it was easier to sue these media jackals and their bosses for slander. A few multi-million dollar judgments against them might actually force them to start practicing real journalism.


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