Mike Lupica doesn't work. He never has. At least for him, writing critically acclaimed and fanatically sought after sports-themed children's books doesn't count as work.
The real work happens when he's out on tour to promote them.
The New York Daily news columnist, ESPN talk show host, and renowned children's author was in Wellesley yesterday to sign books and speak to a capacity crowd of children and parents in the Library's Wakelin Room yesterday afternoon. He was on the road to promote his new book, "Hero," an international adventure story that diverges from his typical sports-themed tales.
Though "Hero" does not involve Lupica's signature athletic tie-in, he spoke to the crowd of children – nearly all of them with their favorite Lupica book in tow – about how he stumbled upon a career in writing sports stories for kids.
"When I was growing up there was no ESPN," he said, drawing laughs from the crowd. "It gets worse: There was no Internet. No Wireless
"…There was no text messaging," to this, one child remarked, "what?!" "No cell phones. No video games….and most tragic of all, no Google. So what did I do for fun? I read books. I played sports and I read books."
Lupica still appears as a recurring panelist on "The Sports Reporters," a 23-year ESPN Sunday morning institution, but when one boy in the audience asked which he liked to do better: write books or be on television, the answer was out of Lupica's mouth almost before the child was finished asking the question.
"I like writing books better," he said. "Because let me tell you something about television: If I can be on television, anybody can be on television. I love writing these stories. I love making these kids come to life."
Lupica has a distinct rapport with children. Though he seamlessly interweaved messages meant exclusively for children and quips aimed obviously at adults as he talked, his thoughtful exchanges with several children who had questions served as the high point of the 30-minute speech.
Lupica told Wellesley Patch he's developed this easy-going demeanor by way of being a father of four.
"Being a parent is the best thing that ever happened to me," he said in an interview. "People tell me the kids in my books sound real. Well, they ought to. I've been having this conversation with my kids in my home, in my rec room, for years."
Even after two Weston stops, a radio interview on WEEI 850's "Dennis & Callahan" show early in the morning, and a few hours before an interview on "Nightside" with WBZ-AM 1030's Dan Rea, Lupica still had plenty of energy to sign the book of every child who brought one to the Library yesterday.
"[The signing] took longer than the speech did," he said with just a hint of surprise in his speech-hoarsened voice. "The response to these books has been great."
But if going town to town to sign his books and chat with his adoring young fans is the hardest part of his job, he'll gladly take it.
"It really doesn't feel like work," he said.