The end of “The Era”

30 09 2010

When I found out that Daily Journal sports reporter Emanuel Lee was leaving the newspaper I love at the end of September I wrote him a quick email and told him that, as far I was concerned, I had just had my “Michael Jordan” moment.

You remember that one right? The one where he shocked the sports world when he retired (the first time) and you thought, wait, is he even allowed to do that? The best player in the game, just walk away?

If you know Emanuel Lee you know I’m not exaggerating in comparing him to Michael — as far as I’m concerned Emanuel, like MJ, is the best in the game. His Airness on newsprint. I challenge you to prove me otherwise.

I met Emanuel while working for the Daily News five years ago. I was a rookie on the scene, he was an established, award-winning journalist. I tell you, when you’re just starting off in the the newspaper game, it can be pretty intimidating. At least for me it was. I remember the first time I said more than a hello to him, as a fan and aspiring sports reporter, I felt like I had just talked to Bono.  Over time, and through covering the same sports scene, we built a decent friendship. I’d catch him at a game, we’d share a chuckle, the fist bump, the occasional meal, the chat about our significant others — he’d sit with me and the gf while watching baseball games at Washington Park in Burlingame. I tell ya, those were some fun times. Cold Fridays at South City. Drinking root beers at Aragon. Looking at each like “WTF” when Serra’s volleyball coach didn’t want to talk to the press (us) after a loss. Oh, and Chuck Rapp, sharing laughs from his quotes. It was those times that morphed Emanuel Lee into just “Lee.” Like, Pele.

But the nicest, most generous thing Lee ever did for me was get me my gig at the Daily Journal. Budget cuts and etc. at the DN were leaving me broke, and when a spot opened up at the Daily Journal for a production artist, I asked if he’d put in a good word for me.
Two years later, here I am — super bummed that I’m losing a co-worker. I feel like Pippen. I think at the Daily Journal, we all feel like the Bulls.

Proof of Lee’s greatness starts with his body of work. A search of his work online will lead you to over 2,000 stories. Walk into the Daily Journal office and his awards from the Peninsula Press Club fill our walls. 13-time winner for the Daily Journal. 18 overall. Stories like “Breathing Easy” in 2005, “Serra: Finally!” in 2006, “Attaway Rises Above” in 2007, “Champs at Last” in 2008 (which was a personal favorite after following that Burlingame team all season too) are just the tip of the iceberg’s tip. We can go on for days and days.

I don’t want this to read like a eulogy, because Lee is moving on to bigger and better things. But the newspaper, no, the Peninsula is losing someone who is the best at their craft. We are all at a lost — to not read his writing should feel like what it was like to not see No. 23 wagging his tongue down the court.

Some of my proudest moments at this newspaper have revolved around Lee. He’s never shied away from telling me how proud I’ve made him and how glad he was to have made that recommendation a little more than 2 years ago. Personally, I’m just relieved that I made his word stand. Lee, you’ll be sorely missed. Thank you for everything. Like I said, as far as I’m concerned you’re in Cooperstown, Canton — consider this my number retirement ceremony for you, my friend.

You can read Sports Editor Nathan Mollat’s farewell column here. He’s been friends with Lee for a lot longer. Brothers in battle. He writes: As a reporter and writer, there is none his equal around here. A multi-time winner of Peninsula Press Club awards, he set a standard to which I aspire. His knack for pulling the most intimate details from interview subjects constantly had me shaking my head in amazement, wondering what he said and how he said it that would make people open their souls to him. More than once I felt my eyes well up reading one of his stories.

That’s when Emanuel was at his best. But he wasn’t too shabby the rest of the time, either …

And one other thing. When Emanuel first told me at the beginning of the month he would be leaving, I told him this and I now tell the Daily Journal sports community as well: I may find someone as good as Emanuel Lee to replace him, but I don’t think I’ll find anyone better.

I’ll miss you my friend.

Agreed.

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2 responses

30 03 2012
Sports Fan

So where did he go?

2 04 2012
julitolara

Utah.

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