Sitting in the basement of U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota, I had just filed my story following the Eagles’ first-ever Super Bowl win, a 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots in February 2018.
With deadline approaching, there wasn’t time to take the elevator back to the press box, so I filed the story while sitting on the concrete floor.
Deadline can always be a stressful time, and this was no exception. But once the send button was hit, this thought immediately crossed my mind: What would my parents be thinking now?
As more than 37 years at The Inquirer are about to end, with my accepting a buyout at the end of July, there are scores of memories. But my mind is again drifting back to where it was that night in Minneapolis: to my parents.
Agnes Narducci died in 2002, and Anthony Narducci in 2006. But few days go by without my thinking of both of them, especially now.
Because, in all the years of covering high school, college, and professional athletes, none of it would have been possible without the foundation set by my parents.
Anybody who goes through life with one dedicated parent is lucky.
That is being blessed beyond comprehension.
Count me at the top of that group.
The years of my father working two jobs so we could attend Catholic high school, or my mother returning to the work world as a teacher so we could have enough for college tuition, will always be so greatly appreciated.
Yet it’s more than that.
They set such a high standard of caring, sacrifice, dedication, and love, and their three children were the fortunate beneficiaries.
Hard work was their foundation.
My father, a teacher first and then an administrator, retired with something like 360 unused sick days. Upon retirement, he got paid for only about half of them. When I asked why he left so many sick days on the table, he simply replied, “They didn’t pay me to take sick days. They paid me for work.”
In any walk of life, availability is often the best ability. It was one of many lessons passed on by my parents.
Maybe that is why, in all these years at The Inquirer, I took only four sick days, all when a rapid heartbeat caused a hospital stay in 2015.
Family has been everything. In all the years, I had four heroes: my parents; my sister, Lisa Maniaci; and my brother, Blaise Narducci.
Does it get any better than that? It’s like hitting the family lottery.
Then, through the years, luck struck again with my wife of 36-plus years, Janet, an accomplished artist in her own right and a source of love, strength, and inspiration.
She understood early on that the life of a sportswriter isn’t a Monday-through-Friday, 9-to-5 job. For sportswriters, weekends often begin on Tuesday.
And, finally, there is the family at The Inquirer. Through the years there have been so many outstanding editors, copy editors, photographers, and, of course, writers, a group that will continue to form one of the leading print and digital operations in the country.
People often ask about my favorite memory. It was simply working with some of the most talented people in this industry on a daily basis.
Never the most gifted writer, I was a grinder who worked hard, kept his head down, and kept plowing along. I felt like a utility infielder on the Yankees among so many All-Star teammates.
There are too many people to thank, but some can’t escape mention. I was working in cable TV, and Sam Carchidi, who does such an outstanding job covering the Flyers, recommended me. I had done a few freelance pieces. But when The Inquirer started a South Jersey sports section in September 1984, I began working regularly.
I was hired by Don McKee, maybe the funniest human being I ever met. He also taught me more about journalism than anybody.
I covered South Jersey sports for two decades and would have been content doing it another two. But then-sports editor Jim Jenks moved me to covering pro sports, with a return at times to high schools, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The first major pro sports assignment was as a backup covering the 76ers, and our beat writer at the time, Ashley Fox, taught me the NBA ropes. She was so gracious with her time and knowledge.
I’ve been fortunate to work for many great sports editors, with the last few deserving special mention: John Quinn, and most recently both Gary Potosky and the legendary Pat McLoone, who graced this company with four decades of excellence.
They all cared as much about the person as they did the writer. Any instance for which time off was needed for family situations, there was never a question. I was told to just take care of business.
And that brings me back to my family.
I’m not sure what the next step is, but I realize no matter what happens, I’ve lived a charmed life. Most of all, I hope that my parents are looking down with pride, because making them proud and attempting to pay them back for all they have done continues to be the No. 1 driving force in my life. Even after all these years.