2007 Michael Farber

by Red Fisher

Montrealer Michael Farber, who is now a senior writer with Sports Illustrated, likes to tell the story about the time he applied to The Montreal Star sports editor for a job in 1979. Six years earlier, he had graduated from Rutgers University in New Jersey, Phi Beta Kappa. He joined the Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton, N.Y. Among his beats — would you believe it — was covering the Broome (Co.) Dusters of the North American Hockey League. Then, he landed a public relations job with World Championship Tennis in 1974, and joined The Record, in Hackensack, N.J. the following year where, for the next few years he covered the fun and games of the biggest names in the New York area.

Michael Farber

Michael Farber

Eventually, Montreal caught his eye. Or, more to the point, Montrealer Danielle Tétrault did. That’s really why he applied to The Star. The 2007 Sports Media Canada Sportswriting Award winner insists my reply was short and swift. Something like: “You idiot … this newspaper has been on strike for months!” I must confess that to this day I don’t remember (hey, I’m 81) receiving Farber’s application.

What I do recall was that Michael eventually landed on the Montreal sportswriting stage with The Gazette like a badly-needed breath of fresh air. He joined what was then the only English daily as a beat writer and in hardly no time at all became a daily columnist. Hasn’t missed a step since. He remained with the newspaper until January 1994, when Sports Illustrated made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. He has covered eight winter and six summer Olympics for The Gazette and Sports Illustrated, as well as every Stanley Cup final since 1994 for the magazine.

His two National Newspaper awards tell you all you need to know about Farber, the wordsmith. Allow me, however, to tell you about Michael, my friend. It’s 5 a.m. in Pittsburgh following Game 2 of the Penguins-North Stars 1991 Stanley Cup final. I’m perspiring profusely. The hotel room is spinning. In my mind, the bed appears slanted at a 45-degree angle, so I’m frantically gripping the mattress to avoid falling to the floor. Minutes later, I was on the telephone to the front desk, inquiring if there was a doctor in residence. “No, but there’s a hospital a couple of blocks away,” was the reply. “It’s only a short walk there.” I called Michael’s room. “Don’t move,” he said. “I’ll take you there. And don’t even think about walking to the hospital. We’ll take a cab.” As it turned out, Mercy Hospital was a long six blocks away. The good people there conducted tests for the next four hours before announcing they couldn’t find anything wrong. “You’re OK to fly to Minnesota,” I was told. “No, you’re not,” insisted Michael. “You’re flying back to Montreal, and I’m flying with you.”

How can you not love a guy like that?

NOTE: Red Fisher, recipient of both a Sports Media Canada Outstanding Sportswriting Award and a ‘lifetime’ Achievement Award, was that Montreal Star sports editor in 1979.