Say It Ain’t So Paola

I am so mad at Paola Boivin.

Not for something she’s written.

I’m furious with Paola because, after the Final Four in early April, she may stop writing.

Well, at least for those of us who still pick up the Arizona Republic off our front porch or driveway, or look for her columns on azcentral.com.

I mean, how dare she leave the newspaper business to…..teach!

Why weren’t we consulted on this?

Doesn’t she understand we want her to share her thoughts on college sports, share her observations on sports media, and bring some sensibility to a part of our lives that so often doesn’t make sense?

I’m starting to sound like one of those villains in the Scooby Doo cartoons….

Insert maniacal giggle: “I had it all worked out…Paola was going to keep writing, and I was going to be able to enjoy her Sunday columns for years. It would have worked if it wasn’t for those meddling college students”.

Okay, I’m done venting. For now.

Yes, Paola is turning to educating the new generation of journalists, becoming a full-time professor (that may not be her actual title, but it sure seems like a good fit) at ASU’s Cronkite School. Before her next lecture or lesson, allow me to teach something to her students.

You best pay attention to your teacher. You’ll learn something, and not just how to make deadline.

Paola has herself learned a lot of hard lessons, and many of them things that a lot of us would not want to experience ourselves.

List the names – from Jane Dixon to Claire Smith, from Gayle Sierens to Beth Mowins, from Christine Brennan to Kate Fagan, and yes Paola, as much as you avoid personal acclaim, you’re a trailblazer. And like all trailblazers, the road has been bumpy, but you never took your eyes off what lay beyond the horizon.

Paola is an example of grace and dignity, while operating in a vocation that, when she entered, was perceived by many as a men’s only club.

She’ll really hate this next part (keep in mind I’m not done yelling at her).

Paola, along with many other smart, strong women, tore down the barriers that kept her gender from entering an area where, it was ultimately proved, they belonged. There are many others who, like Paola, had to deal with insults and threats from men in and out of journalism because (gasp) they were women covering sports.

Paola is a member of the Association for Women in Sports Media, a group that exists in part because it still should. Paola and Phoenix hosted the Association’s annual convention several years ago, and I know it was one of her proudest moments.

Not as important to Paola, though, as being a wife and mother. She and her husband Jay have raised a family, while both have dealt with the odd hours and pressures of working at a major newspaper, all while major newspapers are being told they’re dying. (Lesson 1 of Paola’s next class – print journalism will never die, if there are good writers).

Amid the pressures of her job and the continued murmurs of “go back to the kitchen” from those who are stuck in the past, Paola and her contemporaries have conducted themselves with the greatest of all working traits – professionalism. While I hate to exclude others, I know Paola. I’ve never seen her angry, I’ve never failed to get a hello from her, and I’ve always enjoyed our discussions.

Paola hates being the center of attention. She carries the greatest skill of any journalist – the ability to realize that she is not the story.

Come April, this may be it. No more Paola. What is it with you, Boivin? Your strength in writing and character led intelligent men to realize gender don’t mean diddly when it comes to sports media, and then what do you do? You tick off men by putting down your notebook.

ASU won’t let me in your classroom so I can ask you what you thought of the latest trade or coaching change. College students now get to hear your story of perseverance, your experiences covering historic games and athletes, and the rest of us have to find someone else to offer an intelligent, thoughtful perspective on the games we love and the people who play them.

I’m mad at you Paola. Don’t expect me to get over this any time soon.