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RIP Jack Falla

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff September 15, 2008 08:46 AM

Jack Falla never forgot a face.

Many of his colleagues would tell you the same. Most of his students would welcome it as one of his most endearing traits.

Falla, a former hockey writer at Sports Illustrated and one of the most popular professors to roam the halls of Boston University’s School of Communication, died of heart failure yesterday in Maine, leaving a void in the Boston hockey and BU communities.

Of those students who took Falla’s 8 a.m. sports journalism class, few would complain about the early wake up call. He taught sports writing with a veteran enthusiasm that often can be missing in many of today’s lifers. His hockey work bled passion for the sport, and it is indeed somewhat fitting that the just-released book, “Reflections and Confessions of a Hockey Lifer,” will be his final work.

I first met Jack at a career workshop in Boston during my junior year at St. Michael’s College, from where his daughter had recently graduated. Three years later, upon enrolling in the master’s program at BU, I leapt at the chance to take a class with the man, always taking the opportunity to get there 15 minutes early, when Jack would be all too eager to delve into a range of topics with a respectable amount of early-morning enthusiasm. Except of course, for Grantland Rice’s famed lede, for which he showed no love.

He was honest about the business of sports journalism, yet nor did he ever hint that the negatives ever outweighed the joy he got from his chosen work, which in life was only secondary to his family. The two were poignantly combined for his 2001 book, “Home Ice,” which dealt with Falla’s appreciation for the backyard ice rink, and the memories the venue stirred in him.

The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell wrote the following about Falla’s latest work on Friday:

That there is simply no more talented hockey storyteller on the planet is clearly evident after reading Open Ice. One of Falla’s many talents as a writer is his ability to take his reader deep inside the event and experience all the same emotions he is feeling. You feel as though you are sitting in the passenger’s seat as he drives home from Maurice Richard’s funeral, that your blades are digging into the ice on the Rideau Canal beside him, that you’re going through the same angst while trying to find the perfect pair of skates.

The insights he gives you are always, always poignant. He talks about the drive back from Richard’s funeral and how he burst into tears and cried like he had only a handful of times in his life.

“I cried less for Maurice Richard and his family and the French-Canadian people than for my own losses,” Falla wrote. “For a mother loved but incompletely grieved, for a grandmother loved but inadequately thanked, for a sense of my own Frenchness – the dominant half of who I am – nearly lost in the dark aftermath of death.”

In an interview with Pensburgh.com earlier this summer, Falla has this to say about his forthcoming work:

Open Ice is a collection of 13 essays that deals with mortality, as witnessed in my first essay about attending Rocket Richard's funeral. This wound up being an essay on my own French-Canadian heritage from my mother's side. My mother died young but the French-Canadian blood pumps hard through my veins, and when I went to that funeral I had a tremendous emotional reaction that I never expected to happen. There's one that deals with aging. I talk a bit about my backyard rink again – I took a trip up to Georges Vezina's grave up in Quebec and that led to a whole treatise on why we do what we do and how we choose to spend our lives. I guess it's taking hockey as a lens and looking at life through the lens of the game. Home Ice was my backyard. I sort of wrote it from the inside out. For Open Ice, I go out and I skate the Rideau Canal and that was a reflection on aging and health and things of that sort.
Jack Falla leaves all of us with a hockey book on mortality. Today, a group of students in the BU COM building discovered the professor that some of them perhaps had just come to know over the past two weeks, is no longer with them. A mentor and friend, gone from their community.
34 comments so far...
  1. Jack was truly a wonderful friend, teacher and mentor. As someone who spent time with him, and knew him, I know that he will be missed by so many people whose lives he touched.

    His family was his biggest passion, followed by his love of sports, and how they connect us as individuals to our community.

    Au revoir came to soon.

    Posted by Adam Silverleib September 15, 08 09:57 AM
  1. Jack was a cherished friend whose engaging ebullience and unequivocal love of life will be deeply missed and long remembered. We met in 1979 when I was editor of Boston Magazine and the slush pile turned up his superb free-lance profile of Bruins coach Don Cherry. (His second Boston piece was a dearly prescient profile of Patrick Ewing, just then moving from his sophomore to junior year at Ringe Latin, called "The Inevitability of Patrick Ewing.") We continued to work together over the next few years producing, among other works, a history of Boston College sports, 'Til The Echoes Ring Again.

    Jack had his time in the Big Leagues of sports journalism when he was NHL beat writer for Sports Illustrated. But he walked away after a couple of years for the only other thing that meant more to him: spending time with his terrific wife Barbara and their two children.

    Every meeting with Jack, however brief, was a time to treasure. While, sadly, there will be no more, those that were will endure and be savored.

    Posted by terrycatch September 15, 08 10:37 AM
  1. Jack Falla wrote with style, clarity, and heartfelt passion about hockey. Jack also possessed nothing less than a Beliveau-like grace with words. He was always generous with his time for other writers and never failed to return a call or offer support. I am jealous of his many students for their good fortune at having had Jack as a mentor and imagine that the ripple effect of his teaching has and will echo for years to come in the polished prose of his many proteges. Farewell old friend.

    Posted by Richard A. Johnson/ Curator/ The Sports Museum September 15, 08 10:49 AM
  1. Jack helped me get my first job, and had a hand in a lot that I did thereafter. I took his class 10 years ago and we still kept in touch, and he recently sent one of his current students my way. He was simply the best teacher I ever had, and one of the greatest writers, especially hockey writers, to ever put pen to paper.

    I will miss my e-mails with Jack, and regret that I haven't gotten back to Boston lately to see him. His anecdotes we're the best and to this day those of us who took his class still quote falla-isms.

    Enjoy skating on the big backyard pond in the sky Jack!

    Posted by Darren September 15, 08 11:23 AM
  1. I'm just one of countless former students who lost a terrific mentor and a great friend when Jack Falla passed away this weekend. That's pretty impressive for a man who joked, "I don't want to meet anyone I don't already know."

    Anyone can correct your grammar on a sportswriting assignment, but Jack Falla brought something different to teaching at Boston University's College of Communication. He taught professionalism in the age of the slacker, integrity in the age of the B.S. artist, and what he called "ultimate reality" in a world where few even accept reality.

    When he wasn't building his backyard rink, the fabled "Bacon Street Omni", he was building his pipeline of students past and present, establishing a foothold in all corners of the sports industry. His name has opened hundreds of doors, and it will continue to open them for years to come.

    Jack e-mailed me several times on behalf of his best students to see if the Boston Celtics could give them their break, and early in my career Jack made a few inquiries on my behalf as well.

    Jack's 8 a.m. Sports Journalism class is famous for weeding out the pretenders from the contenders. He'd have it no other way, and it surely scared off students who wouldn't pass muster with him anyway. Jack's reputation is simple: he was among the toughest professors you'd ever have -- and he was also the best. His anecdotes from his days in the industry were insightful and revealing, and he leaned on his disciples to bring back recent lessons from the field.

    I was honored to speak to his class a few times about working in the business, and while I was incredibly nervous and very unpolished the first time I did it, Jack had my back. It had been ten years since I'd been his student, but there was always something to learn from him and he was always good for an assist. In this case, when I was stammering and talking in circles in front of bleary-eyed 20-year olds, Jack dished me questions, tape-to-tape, that I could one-time for an entertaining war story (score!) to keep the class engaged. He then critiqued my performance and I was 1,00 times better when he brought me back the next semester.

    It was also comforting that he was still telling the same jokes and everything was still a sports analogy. Specifically, I remember on more than one occasion last year, Jack joked to me over lunch that he was "looking at the game clock rather than the shot clock" these days.

    I e-mailed Jack just last week looking for another star student to fill an internship with me at the Celtics, but had yet to hear back before hearing of his passing this weekend. I'd also asked him if he'd be building the rink again this year.

    Jack Falla won't build another rink, but something tells me he'll be handing out assists for years to come. Thanks for everything.

    Peter Stringer
    Internet Operations Manager
    Boston Celtics
    Boston University - COM '98

    Posted by Peter Stringer September 15, 08 11:42 AM
  1. Jack Falla represented everything wonderful about hockey.I coached against his father, a true gentleman, in the early 1970's in a rink in Melrose that actually had four pillars on the ice to hold up the ceiling. We were that desperate for ice time!

    I met Jack after the publication of Home Ice, having contacted him because I loved it so much. He visited me at my home in Maine so that we could swap hockey stories, particularly about his Dad. In July of 2007 we traveled to St. Paul's School in Concord, NH so that I could show him around and introduce him to the school for his research on Hobey Baker, for the next to final piece in his brand new book "Open Ice." That piece, plus the one on Maurice Richard, and several others are all the more poignant now. They will be hard for his friends to read with dry eyes.

    Now he is with his heroes.

    Posted by John Lorenz September 15, 08 11:55 AM
  1. Jack was the best professor I had at Boston University. He showed me what it truly meant to be a sports reporter and how hard it was to break into the field.

    I have him to thank for getting me to a Sports Information Director position at the age of 23. I will always miss his "Falla-isms" as we called them in class and the lunches we shared after I spoke to his Sports Communication class.

    Brad Davis
    Sports Information Director
    Merrimack College
    Boston University - COM '06

    Posted by Brad Davis September 15, 08 12:20 PM
  1. I'll never forget the funniest face I saw Jack make.
    I was a little early for class that day, and found my way to a seat in the back of the room. I sat down, and other students started coming in. Finally, in came Jack, bag in one hand, piles of corrected stories in the other. He set it all down, went to the board and wrote his morning quote in his classic journalistic scribble.
    He spoke for a few minutes with a few late-comers (late, of course, being on time), and began to sift though the papers on the table at the front of the room.
    Then, he noticed a stack of newspapers from Maine.
    "It's funny," he started to tell the class. "I have a former student who works at this newspaper. Who brought these in?"
    I raised my hand.
    Then came the face, a combination of shock and laughter.
    I graduated from BU in 2001. This was 2004. The papers were mine, and I was that former student.
    Only Jack.

    Posted by Justin Pelletier, Assistant Sports Editor, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine September 15, 08 12:29 PM
  1. Jack Falla was a great teacher and a great man. I got to know him when I attended The Rivers School back in the 1970's where he worked. He would hang out at our house after school on many days. My father, Gerry Sisto, was the Athletic Director then and the two of them became fast friends telling stories until the wee hours of the morning.
    God bless his family and I say goodbye to a man who was a great influence in my life and my profession.

    Chris Sisto
    Lecturer-The College of Education
    Texas State University

    Posted by Chris Sisto September 15, 08 12:46 PM
  1. Jack Falla always knew how to put a smile on your face. He was a special man and he will be missed.

    L. Jeffrey Lowenstein, DMD
    Rivers School
    Class of 1977

    Posted by Jeff Lowenstein September 15, 08 01:30 PM
  1. Thanks to Eric Wilbur for a very fitting eulogy - I know Jack would have been proud.

    As a current grad student at COM, there were few things I enjoyed more than Professor Falla's 8 AM class, every Tuesday and Thursday.

    He connected with students like myself on a personal, professional, and academic basis. I saw that Justin Pelletier left a comment above - Justin was one of the guest lecturers of my Spring '08 class. Fluto Shinzawa was another. One thing that stood out from Pelletier and Shinzawa's visits was their respect and friendship towards Prof. Falla.

    Jack Falla taught that class as if he were coaching a team. It was a great academic environment to be a part of. He always wanted the best for his students and his enthusiasm was genuine.

    I remember telling him that for my final class project, I wanted to write about the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium and how it was finally set to be demolished this fall, after standing dormant for over a decade.

    I also remember expecting him to tell me that this was too difficult a subject, too little too late.

    I am happy to say that I was wrong.

    Falla said "go for it," and I did. It was that kind of enthusiasm and passion for the profession that I'll always remember.

    I think I speak for everyone in that class when I say, "Thank you, Jack."

    Evan Lips
    Boston University - COM '08

    Posted by Evan Lips September 15, 08 01:39 PM
  1. Early in the semester, if not the first class, Falla would offer a reason for which he taught: to build a network of former students that he could use to help those still at BU. 8 a.m. attracts the right people and keeps out the wrong ones, he said. He would let you know if you earned "it" with a few words at the end of a feature story and, maybe, contacts for some former students.

    After class was over, Jack was responsible for some of the best months and most cherished memories of a young career. During that time, I was told by one of his former students that they might tell you to network back at school, but a reference from Jack Falla was one of the few that would ever truly matter. This remains true today.

    Always willing to talk, he took the time to deliver his greatest hits of advice to the sports department at the school newspaper on a frigid February evening. He would appear deep in thought during office hours, only to stand and yell your name upon arrival. Thirty minutes later, you would be walking with him to a class you were not in, and when he crossed the street without you, you were always left with a grin for the rest of the day. Each email had the same effect.

    Two weeks ago, this was the "Falla-ism" he finished the last email I received with: "I think writing is like golf -- you have to call the penalties on yourself. "

    8 a.m. attracted the right people because, every year, it most certainly had the right man. Thank you, Jack.

    Couper Moorhead
    Boston University - COM '09

    Posted by Couper Moorhead September 15, 08 01:40 PM
  1. I recently met Jack this past summer taking his Sports Journalism class. Though I only knew him for the short 4 week period, he became not only someone to look up to, but a friend to go to when more than just advice in sports was needed.

    Hearing his hockey stories wether they were about his backyard rink or about him drinking a beer with a former NHL great, I will always remember how he always made me laugh and taught me more than I could have asked to be taught. He will be greatly missed in all areas of the sports and college world.

    Posted by Chelsea Gardner September 15, 08 01:47 PM
  1. Early in the semester, if not the first class, Falla would offer a reason for which he taught: to build a network of former students that he could use to help those still at BU. 8 a.m. attracts the right people and keeps out the wrong ones, he said. He would let you know if you earned "it" with a few words at the end of a feature story and, maybe, contacts for some former students.

    After class was over, Jack was responsible for some of the best months and most cherished memories of a young career. During that time, I was told by one of his former students that they might tell you to network back at school, but a reference from Jack Falla was one of the few that would ever truly matter. This remains true today.

    Falla was always willing to talk. He took the time to speak to the sports department at the school newspaper on a frigid February evening. He would appear deep in thought during office hours, only to stand and yell your name upon arrival. Thirty minutes later, you would be walking with him to a class you were not in, and when he crossed the street without you, you were always left with a grin for the rest of the day. Each email had the same effect.

    Two weeks ago, this was the "Falla-ism" he finished the last email I received with: "I think writing is like golf -- you have to call the penalties on yourself. "

    8 a.m. attracted the right people because, every year, it most certainly had the right man. Thank you, Jack.

    Couper Moorhead
    Boston University - COM '09

    Posted by Couper Moorhead September 15, 08 02:37 PM
  1. Thank you, Eric, and thank you to all the people who posted comments and who will post comments. Jack gave so many people so much.

    Posted by Mark Leccese September 15, 08 04:22 PM
  1. I never post but I think I must here: I was one of his earliest editors and assigned him many of his early stories. I loved him. And I will miss him. The thing I most remember is his gentle kindness. REAL from-the-eyes kindness. Jack, you are missed.

    Keith

    Posted by Keith September 15, 08 04:58 PM
  1. I also had Jack as a professor. I'll always remember him telling us how nervous he got before a lecture, but it never showed. He knocked it out of the park every time. I was fortunate enough to be able to speak to one of his classes on web journalism, and for my 20 minutes of "work", he took me to lunch and we talked for over an hour. Never met someone who truly enjoyed his craft more. You will be missed, Jack.

    Gary Dzen
    Boston.com/The Boston Globe
    COM '06

    Posted by Gary Dzen September 15, 08 05:26 PM
  1. Jack Falla's 8 a.m. class at Boston University was the only one where I would willingly stumble out of bed at 6 a.m., turning on lights in my apartment to wake myself up. His passion for writing and great stories were what brought me there, and he wrote me a strong recommendation when I graduated.

    Both the real and sportswriting world lost a giant in Jack Falla.

    Posted by Michael Griffin September 15, 08 06:27 PM
  1. I was checking the Rays-Sox stuff online when I saw the news about Jack. My afternoon -- I've crossed over from the press box, and now work for the Montana Attorney General -- was all but shot, as I sat at my desk with tears in my eyes. I was bouncing around from major to major when I took Jack's feature-writing class. That was it. I wanted to be a writer all along ... I just didn't really know until I had Jack as a teacher, editor and mentor. The routine in class was to turn in a story, he'd work it over, hand it back and you'd do a rewrite. I'll never forget the time one of my stories was good enough the first time around. He returned it to me with an "A" on it and I nearly danced my way out of class. In the years -- more than 20 of them -- since, we've exchanged holiday cards every year. He was one of my biggest fans and, I can say without hesitation, one of the main reasons I found my way into a career writing sports in the Northwest. Tonight I'm thinking of Jack and his family, listening to the Sox on the radio and flipping through some beaten-up copies of stories I wrote for Jack and stories he wrote for the rest of us. I'll miss him horribly.

    Posted by Lynn Solomon September 15, 08 08:21 PM
  1. Though tremendously saddened to hear of Jack Falla’s passing, I can only smile thinking about how beloved he was by his family, his students, the University he held so dear, his journalistic colleagues and his friends.

    Like so many others, I was a student of Prof. Falla’s and was a grateful recipient not only of his knowledge but also of his kindness and generosity as he helped me secure internships with the Celtics and Boston College. I owe much to the man, and hope that I can only repay him now by trying to inspire the young interns at my company the same way he inspired me.

    I’ll be thinking of Jack often this fall as the ponds freeze, the college games start up and I myself take to the ice in my men’s league and open-hockey games. And if I ever get the opportunity to build a backyard rink, as I’ve always wanted to, you can be sure that there will be a standing tribute to the man who brought all he met closer to the sport.

    My thoughts go out to his family, and I wish them all of the best during the difficult days ahead.

    Jared Sharpe
    COM ‘00

    Posted by Jared Sharpe September 16, 08 09:51 AM
  1. I picked up a copy of Open Ice for my son Nick's 18th birthday. I wrote Jack last week to let him know that I wanted him to inscribe it for Nick, and that I was not going to read a page of it first, because it was Nick's gift, and because I had drafts of some of the chapters anyway, so I was already at least a year ahead of the game in some respects. The email came back as undeliverable, which had never happened before. I kind of laughed at that, figuring that it figured; that Jack was a tech-as-needed guy, and whatever the problem was, if it was computer-related, he was pretty much on the wrong side of solving it easily anyway. I figured I'd call him on Monday or Tuesday, swing by, visit, and get it done.

    Then, I got the news. I am still stunned.

    That Jack took such an interest in my son and his hockey as well as in his writing, and that the two had remained in contact, with Jack treating Nick as a friend, mentoring and advising him in all things hockey, writing and college-related, will never be forgotten, and forever appreciated.

    After Nick had regained his composure somewhat from hearing the news, we talked a little bit. "You have today. You have this one life. Don't waste a minute of either one living someone else's idea of what you should be, or doing what someone else thinks you should be doing with your life. Follow your heart. Maybe that is the final lesson you are supposed to learn from this friend who was so grand that your friendship with him was high honor; from this friend who lived his own life that way."

    I wish that made it all better, made me all better, made Nick all better, made any of us all better, and that I could write Jack to let him know. Instead, the best I can do is write this commentary. Thank you for your blog, and for giving us all a place to share a little bit of how we are dealing with a loss so deep, I can't even begin to truly accept it yet.

    Posted by Gerry Hailer September 16, 08 10:26 AM
  1. This is a great piece. I also read his obituary in the Globe and couldn't help but feel it's missing one more line: he was also a mentor to hundreds, maybe thousands who gained professional and personal inspiration from having been in his classroom. It was Jack, as an adjunct professor teaching public relations in 1991, who helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my life: work some, write some, live some, be a Hockey Dad.

    I re-read Home Ice on vacation this summer, feet dangling in the warm water of Lake Winnipesaukee, mind thinking about how great it will be when the lake freezes and we can skate on it again.

    Goodbye old friend. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Posted by Larry Marchese September 16, 08 10:50 AM
  1. You guys are so lucky to have met someone like Jack Falla. I wish I could have met someone that could possibly inspire me the way he has for you. I'm so jealous!

    Teachers don't get nearly the respect they deserve and great teachers even more so. It's obvious that you let Jack know how much he meant to each of you. When he's reading his obituary and tributes like this wherever he may be, he won't be surprised. That's got to be a great feeling.

    Thanks to all of you for sharing during what has to be a difficult time. I'd never heard of Jack Falla before this but you can rest assured I'll be finding his books and enjoying them. Maybe it's not too late for a little inspriration.

    Posted by Possum Pete September 16, 08 11:58 AM
  1. Barbara, Brian, Kim, Tracey, Maury, Demetre & Ella,

    On behalf of me, Leah and the entire Adams family, please accept our heart felt condolences on Jack’s passing. For the past 25 years the Falla’s have welcomed us into their home and into their lives and we are all much better people because of it.

    There are too many words to say and not enough space to put them regarding my thoughts on Jack. His influence on me is greater than you know. He watched me grow up, mostly because I was always over the house either skating, playing wiffle ball in the off-season or being invited those tasty dinners he and Barb would create. He saw me go from junior high school to high school to college to the professional world and later married with children. He personally tried to make me famous with interviews on Natick Public TV, all of the segments for TV on the Bacon St Omni, and being mentioned in Home Ice. There was always a kind word or a note in Jack’s typical literary style. He made you think about those words he had written because he wanted to enlighten your thoughts.

    Over the past few days, I have read so many kind words about Jack on several blogs, mostly from his students past and present. They all spoke of his class and what he had done for them personally and professionally. They got to see and hear of his passion for journalism in the classroom. Well, I am honored to say that I saw all of his true passions for the past 25 years; his family, his profession and “The Bacon St Omni”.

    Godspeed Captain Jack.

    Posted by Matt Adams September 16, 08 12:48 PM
  1. Thank you Jack Falla for the inspiration, passion and confidence that you instilled in your students. You have encouraged many young writers to find their own voice, and those voices, in the absence of yours, will sustain us for many years to come. My son is one of those voices.

    Posted by MG September 16, 08 02:00 PM
  1. Not many get to sit and have Jack cook for them and share some of his stories. I was fortunate enough to have that happen a few times and it always seemed to be Jambalaya..........what Jambalaya. It was on one of these occasions where he explained to me why 3 to 1 is the most dangerous lead in Hockey. Great insight. Finally, it was in his book Home Ice that he taught me the importance of family, good music, and passion. It was there that I understood that the most important thing about your backyard rink isn't whether or not it has boards, but the people who skate on it. Take care Jack say hi to Pepere

    Posted by Family Friend September 16, 08 05:19 PM
  1. Jack Falla went out on top. An early retirement. The press conference will be held Thursday. Anyone who had him in class or read his books knew he was the master of comparing any aspect of life to an aspect of sports.

    I received word of Prof. Falla’s most unexpected and premature passing on Sunday while watching the Patriots-Jets game. As a former student in his sports journalism course—the “8AM death march” as he called it—there was a level of appropriateness in this.

    It’s been less than a week since my final conversation with Prof. Falla. I mentioned to him that I’d like to take his Sport Information class in the spring; he said it fills up quickly. But then he realized that I’d be a second semester senior, meaning I’d “have a top draft pick.” Later that day, I happened to walk by the room in which he was teaching. I stopped outside the door for a minute to hear what he was saying, and left excited at the prospect of taking another class with him.
    Students were his priority. On the final day of class last fall, he gave out his home phone number and offered himself as a reference. I was fortunate to have him in my corner on several occasions, and even when you didn’t ask he would vouch for you. Each time I asked him for a reference, I offered to send him something I wrote for his class to refresh his memory of me. He never took it, never needed it. He knew who I was. And he knew who each of his students were.

    The first time I truly understood how spectacularly gifted Prof. Falla was as a writer came as I read a piece he wrote that was set in his backyard rink. He described the warmth of the hot chocolate on a frosty winter evening, his wife Barbara by his side, his teenage children engaged in romance and skating on the ice with friends. The language pulled me in. I could see it. I could feel it. He painted the picture so eloquently.

    I read his recent work, Saved, which he was in the final stages of writing when I sat in his class. Every day he shared the trials and tribulations of writing a novel. A man with the utmost expectations, he often expressed doubt in his own writing. This was a man who wrote two Sports Illustrated cover stories on Wayne Gretzky. What could he possibly be worried about? To many students, it was Falla who deserved the moniker “The Great One.”

    Just last month, hours before leaving for vacation, I needed a book to read. Since I worked in COM, I knew there was a copy of Saved in a display case at the entrance of the building. My boss began a 15-minute search of the key to open the display case, snatched the book from the sleeve, and replaced it with another random book of similar proportions.

    I finished Saved in three days and felt like my former professor was with me on vacation.

    Jack Falla hung up his skates early Sunday morning. But everyone who knew him wishes he could be here today. The goalie was pulled from the net much too soon.

    Christopher Moyer
    Boston University COM '09

    Posted by Christopher Moyer September 16, 08 05:32 PM
  1. I was a student of Jack's in 1989. A few months ago, out of the blue, a client of mine said he wanted to write a hockey book. I phoned Jack and spoke to him for the first time in nearly 20 years. Late into the conversation, I checked my gut, found the nerve, and told him how important he was to me (he was gracious as ever). God knows what I'd be doing now if it weren't for Jack's encouragement and insight; he knew which buttons to push to make me a better writer. I'm not surprised that so many others feel the same way. But I'm still heartbroken.

    Stephen Petit
    Boston University COM 89

    P.S. Whenever someone asks me about writing professionally, I hand them Jack's "So, You Want to be a Hockey Writer?" from USA Hockey magazine (August 2005, I think -- available online). Strip "hockey" from the headline and insert the topic of your choosing. It's solid advice for anyone and a great way to hear Jack's voice again. (I keep a copy taped to the inside of a cabinet above my desk.)

    Posted by Stephen Petit September 17, 08 01:40 PM
  1. I am deeply saddened to learn of Mr. Falla's passing. My sincere condolences go out to his entire family. I grew up in the neighborhood on Bacon St and remember when the backyard rink was first being built. My brother and I often reminisce about what a special time and place that was. I remember Jack being so friendly and sincere to all of the kids. Those are some of the best memories of my childhood. He had a special family and they created a safe haven there for all of us to enjoy. Thanks to you and your family for such wonderful memories.

    Posted by Jon Sirois September 17, 08 03:15 PM
  1. I was one of the few who did NOT have Jack for sports journalism at 8 a.m., but rather a regular writing class at COM in 1989. I picked his class by chance and it changed my life. Not only was Jack one of the best teachers I ever had, but we became friends and kept in touch long after graduation. I had lunch with him less than two months ago and he was exactly the same – an all-around great guy. His premature death has left me extremely sad, but I truly am a better person (and writer) for having known him.

    To this day, I remember much of what Jack told me. In one of my first assignments for him that was maybe 400 words, he told me to cut 20 words out. When I finished he said, “Now cut another 25 words out.” I got through it and he said, “How many of those were adjectives and adverbs?” They almost all were. I never forgot that lesson, plus his loathing of exclamation points and love of sports metaphors. There are many good writers, but not all of them have the skill to teach writing well. Jack did.

    Throughout the years Jack served as a reference, mentor and drinking buddy. He never said no to anything. When I found an athlete who I thought had a great story I told Jack, fully confident he would send out the word to his minions in the sports world who would be interested in the story. Naturally he found someone, and the athlete was profiled in the Sunday Globe. When I was applying to grad school a few years ago, I put Jack on standby as a reference in case one of my former bosses couldn’t pull through. Sure enough, my old boss went AWOL and Jack delivered a reference even though he had taught me over 15 years ago. That’s the kind of man he was; always willing to help out and eager to swap stories.

    After Home Ice, I learned much more about Jack’s rink and his family. His love and care for them was evident throughout its pages. Of course I will be reading Open Ice with a heavy heart, but he told me at our last meal together how pleased he was with it and he was very proud of some of the essays inside.

    It’s been said that you can tell a man’s worth by what he leaves behind after he passes away. Jack leaves a stadium full of professional and amateur sportswriters and others who all seem to have identical memories of this amazing family man, teacher and coach. I can truly say my life is better for having known him well.

    Posted by David Jacobson (COM 91) September 18, 08 01:42 PM
  1. On behalf of our family, please accept our thanks for the stories and words of sympathy. I must say that I didn't realize Jack touched as many people as he did. He spoke a little to me about teaching - always concerned he had "enough material". Whatever he did, he did 110%. I was unaware that he had (and maintained) such close relationships with his students. If anyone could teach writing, it was my brother. In the typical brother/sister relationships, someone has to get the last shot in, This one is to the upper left hand corner -- "thanks for being the Linus to my Lucy. Love you Jack! "
    No more left for the rest of the year.

    Posted by Elizabeth (Falla) Verrill September 19, 08 02:17 PM
  1. Jack was a close, close friend of my older brother (who himself was frequently mentioned in Home Ice), so I was lucky enough to correspond with Jack over the years. We emailed each other a handful of times when he didn't list Robert Gordon Orr as the greatest hockey player of all time, but when I pleaded with him to look again at the old TV38 tapes, he finally emailed me back a five-word response: "Good God, I had forgotten."

    He never could understand why I loved baseball over hockey, but he was gracious enough to send me a heartfelt, congratulatory email the day after the Red Sox won the World Series back in 2004. I stopped by Bacon Street one winter afternoon in 2005; we spent a wonderful afternoon conversing about everything under the sun from Doug Mohns to Brian Wilson.

    As I write this, my younger son, Max, is putting on his hockey equipment before his travel hockey practice. Jack would heartily approve.

    Thank you for the gift of your words and friendship, Jack.

    Posted by jacklamabe65 September 19, 08 02:54 PM
  1. I knew Jack from the bank. He was the only one who seemed to really care out of all the customers. He gave me two books (inscribed) and a Patriots media guide for one of my sons. I knew it wasn't just to promote them. He wasn't like that. He knew I loved to read.
    He cared about people he didn't even know. One of my son's friends was thinking about going into journalism. Jack printed up copies of what he had wrote and gave the kid his cell phone number so they could talk. All this for someone he had never actually met!
    I will greatly miss seeing him.
    A man too good to leave so fast.

    Posted by Rose Shannon September 20, 08 07:22 PM
  1. Last week I stood in my favourite pub in Dublin and eulogised Jack Falla to a kid who had just started work on our sports desk a few days previously.

    I told him that he was the reason I made a career out of sports writing. I told him Jack was one of the most decent people I had ever met. I lost contact with Jack a few months ago. Tonight, I decided to send him an e-mail, but just found out he has passed away.

    Thanks for the advice, the encouragement, and most of all, thanks for always being there. A dheis De go raibh anam dilis.

    Brian Murphy,
    BU, Comm '06.

    Posted by Brian Murphy October 25, 08 03:36 PM
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