A profound mystery in sports media circles has emerged since Tronc made bone cuts at the New York Daily News and its historically significant sports section: It’s been over three weeks since the massacre, and there’s been no word one way or the other whether its most famous sportswriter Mike Lupica remains at the paper.
Lots of tea leaves suggest Lupica is out. He hasn’t published at the Daily News since the July 23rd cuts, but he has written nine stories at MLB.com, posted podcast interviews with Mike Greenberg, Adam Schefter, and Michael Avenatti, and appeared on about a half-dozen episodes of the Sports Reporters podcast.
On said Sports Reporters podcast, Lupica announced himself as a writer for the New York Daily News in the introduction of the episode on July 23rd, but on episodes since then either said “I’m Mike Lupica of MLB.com, MSNBC, and other venues” or merely “I’m Mike Lupica.” (Bob Ryan and Mitch Albom announce themselves as writing for the Boston Globe and Detroit Free Press, respectively.) Lupica’s Twitter bio currently mentions MLB.com, MSNBC, his podcasts, and his books, but has no reference to the Daily News. He has not tweeted anything in the way of an update on his status with the paper, or any lamentations about what happened to his colleagues of many years.
[UPDATE: Lupica’s agency confirmed to the New York Post, after the publication of this story, that he is done at the Daily News; Lupica will be focusing his energy on writing mystery novels.]
Lupica has not yet responded to an email sent Wednesday asking for reflection on his time at the Daily News. I called the Daily News sports desk hoping for clarification. The man who answered, whose name I never got during a mildly contentious exchange, at first said that Lupica was still there but then when I presented the evidence above he changed his stance to that he didn’t know. I asked him if there were anyone who did know, and he referred to Lupica having a “private contract” with Tronc, essentially referring to the company as an amorphous being that doesn’t employ people whom he could have me contact who might know. We kept going around in circles because this explanation didn’t make any sense — how was the privacy of Lupica’s contract any different than, say, Frank Isola’s? — and eventually he admitted that even if he did know Lupica’s status he sure wouldn’t tell me.
This struck me as a little odd because Lupica and the Daily News sports section have relentlessly tracked the comings and goings of personnel on all the city’s major league teams for longer than I’ve been alive and then some, but trying to get a straight answer was nonetheless a wild goose chase.
Lupica did not attend the party/wake with 50 or so former (and some current) Daily News staffers in Manhattan on Sunday.
Even with these apparent context clues, it doesn’t mean beyond a shadow of a doubt that Lupica is out of the Daily News quite yet. There could be ongoing negotiations with Tronc, either for an exit package or to remain in some capacity. If you’ll recall, it was reported in 2015 that he was included in a round of cuts, but he evidently kicked out before the three-count. Maybe he does still work there but has some measure of survivor’s guilt, and is sensitive to a response along the lines of You fired a majority of your staff but kept him?
And then there’s this:
For people of a certain age, it’s crazy to even think about being here right now. For decades, Lupica was the most relevant sports reporter and later columnist in New York City. Like him or not, his voice on the back pages of the New York tabloids carried a lot of heft. To be chosen as co-author for Reggie Jackson and Bill Parcells’ autobiographies is a testament to his influence and the relationships he had in locker rooms for a long time.
Now, Lupica certainly has his fair share of detractors as well, and there are legions of people that he has mistreated or belittled over the years. That being said, a world without him as a presence at either of the New York tabloids would be very strange and for many years would have been borderline unthinkable.
If you’ve got a lead on Lupica’s status — whether it be that he survived, was let go, or is in limbo — please slide into my DMs.