Jackie MacMullan at the 2019 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony
Jackie “Mac” MacMullan was awarded the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing at the 2019 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony. Watch her speech and read the transcript below.
Good evening. I’m a little overwhelmed to be up here with so many incredible writers and poets, and I want to thank PEN America and ESPN for this award, the past winners of which literally take my breath away. And I’m just really incredibly honored to be part of this celebration. I was 21 years old when I was hired by the Boston Globe, completely oblivious to the fact that I was about to be immersed in a newsroom so skillfully run by Vince Doria and Don Squire.
It was literally an incubator of excellence for my industry. Breaking news? Bill McDonna owned that. Eloquent prose? Lee Montville showed us how to do it, on deadline no less. Writing with unbridled joy and passion? My good friend, Bob Ryan. He cornered the blueprint on that. Bob is here somewhere this evening. He’s not only a past winner of this award, he’s someone who’s been a great friend and mentor to me, and I can’t tell you how much he’s taught me.
There are also a whole bunch of young writers that I learned from while I was at the Globe, including Ian Thompson and Steve Fanero, who wrote so beautifully and so long, for sports journalists. We all did. It was absolute journalistic heaven, frankly. And as the years passed and I switched jobs, I wondered if I would ever get an opportunity to spread my literary wings like that ever again. But at the urging of the great John Walsh, I plunged into a full-time job at ESPN, where I had the pleasure of working with the innovative Henry Avett, and later his successor, Christina Dagless, both of whom enthusiastically supported this idea of recounting meaningful stories.
Our business, the sports business, is changing very rapidly. We’re trending toward instant analysis and quick hits and pithy tweets, and I want to commend ESPN for being committed to long-form journalism, and I’m really proud to work at a place that’s still willing to do that.
As you can imagine, working with a sports writer on deadline has its trying moments. So I want to thank my husband Michael and my children Allison and Douglas for all those unexpected deadlines, those tortuous rewrites, and the two words in our home we’ve all come to dread, which is: Another book? [audience laughs] I love you guys very much. My sister Susie’s here also, and I love her as well. There are so many colleagues and good friends that are here tonight that I would like to single out, but I’m trying really hard to stay to two minutes, so just know that you mean the world to me.
For the past two decades, I’ve spent a great deal of time on television. It’s a medium that is incredibly powerful and a bit intoxicating, for sure. But as my career begins to wind down, the one thing that I always hoped that I would remember first and foremost as a writer, and thanks to these PEN judges and every single one of you in this room, my dream has come true. Thank you.