Something strange is happening to Chicago Sun-Times sports reporter Mark Lazerus.
The teams he covers don’t lose regular season games. As in, they’re 31-0-3 when Lazerus is in the press box.
Last year Lazerus joined the Sun-Times to cover the Notre Dame beat. To everyone’s surprise, the Irish went 12-0 before losing the National Championship Game to Alabama, the lone blemish on Lazerus’s record.
Then he switched over to the Blackhawks beat, and we know how that’s going for everybody. Combined with the two Notre Dame men’s basketball wins he covered, Lazerus has turned into something of a lucky charm.
We caught up with Lazerus to discuss the phenomenon.
Q: When did you realize this was a bit strange?
ML: Well, given Notre Dame’s recent history, and given the generally cynical nature of sportswriters, it was a little surprising when the Irish beat Michigan State and Michigan back-to-back to go to 4-0. The big win at Oklahoma, then the great (and lucky) escape against Pitt made me think something screwy was going on. But it really wasn’t until the Hawks won a few games right off the bat that I started really counting.
Q: Has anything remotely close to this happened to you before?
ML: Well, let’s see. I spent four years in college covering Northwestern athletics, including an 0-16 Big Ten men’s basketball season my junior year. Then my first job out of school was covering the Pittsburgh Penguins during the three years in which they were bad enough to be able to draft Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Then I came to the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana to cover a Valparaiso men’s basketball that had been to the NCAA Tournament in seven of the previous 10 seasons. In six seasons on the beat, I covered zero NCAA Tournament games. So, uh, wait, what was the question again?
Q: Do you remember how to cover a regular season loss?
ML: I always thought I wrote devastation a lot better than I wrote celebration. Maybe it’s because the emotions of those involved are rawer, or maybe it’s just because I had so much practice. But the last regular-season loss I covered was Dec. 29, 2011, when Valparaiso lost to Milwaukee 57-55. That was exactly 14 months ago. Hell, even the high school baseball team I was covering last spring won the Indiana state championship. So, uh, I forget. There’s usually crying and the rending of garments involved, right?
Q: What happened in the National Championship Game?
ML: Well, Louis Nix III looked me in the eye immediately afterward and vehemently insisted that the Irish were not dominated by Alabama. So I’m not really sure, because apparently I was watching the wrong game.
Q: Have the Blackhawks said anything to you about this?
ML: Not much… yet. But Hawks fans and people on Twitter have been trying to steer my career toward other Chicago teams. Mostly Cubs fans and Northwestern fans. But come on, I’m not a miracle worker.
Q: How much do the people at Valpo miss you?
ML: Considering they just clinched the conference championship and are the favorites to finally return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004, I’m guessing not a whole heck of a lot. My powers appear to work only within city limits. Also, I’m loud and obnoxious.
Q: So, what’s your secret?
ML: Buried deep within my laptop bag is a goat’s foot, a tuft of fur from a black cat, an old Honey Bears uniform, Bill Buckner’s Cubs batting glove from the 1986 World Series, a pot of gold I swiped from a leprechaun, Steve Bartman’s headphones, and one of Stan Mikita’s old pregame cigarette butts. Seems to be working so far. Just try not to think about what happens when the regular season ends. And don’t ask Louis Nix III about it, either.