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Forever Orange

Mike Lindsley recently sat down with longtime sports journalist and author Scott Pitoniak who has a new book out, Forever Orange: The Story of Syracuse University. Scott is an alum of SU and this book is a must for any Orange fan during the holiday season!

ML: Scott, you love history, and now you have co-written (with Rick Burton) a book about your alma mater called Forever Orange: The Story of Syracuse University. How special is it to do this considering your love of history and your school?

SP: It was a true labor of love because, as you said, I love researching and writing about history and because of the impact SU had on me. Syracuse truly was a place where I blossomed as a student and a person; a place that launched this five-decade-long story-telling career of mine. Those SU years were some of the best years of my life. I was blessed to make lifelong friends and to learn from some world-renowned professors. To be able to do a deep-dive, and tell the story of this place that’s influenced my life and the lives of countless others was an amazing experience.

ML: There are wild stories in this book about people who have come through SU. Tell the readers a couple of the best in short form.

SP: The thing that strikes me most is the number of world-changing people SU has produced. Since its inception in 1870, SU was ahead of the curve, opening its doors to females and students of color long before other institutions became inclusive. When I think of prominent alumni, I don’t think just of Jim Brown or Dick Clark or Bob Costas, but also of pioneers such as Ruth Colvin, who founded literacy volunteers, and Belva Lockwood, the first woman to argue cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and run a full campaign for president. I think of Dr. Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the first artificial heart, and literary giants such as Joyce Carol Oates, Shirley Jackson and George Saunders. I think of Hollywood and Broadway heavyweights, like Vanessa Williams, Aaron Sorkin and Detective Columbo himself – Peter Falk. I think of SU’s strong ties to NASA, especially astronaut Eileen Collins, the first female pilot and commander of the space shuttle. The list of extraordinary people in all walks of life goes on and on.

Detective Columbo himself – Peter Falk.

ML: Picking a favorite book you have authored is like picking your favorite child, so everyone tells me. Where does this one rank with your others?

SP: I’ve been blessed to write more than 25 books, and I’d rank this one near the top. It was an awesome responsibility because you’re writing a book with a quarter-of-a-million alumni in mind. The problem was never about having enough material, but, rather, having too much material.

ML: What do you remember most about your days on The Hill and when did you graduate?

SP: I graduated in 1977. I remember outstanding professors, such as David Bennett, who took a theatrical approach to teaching American history. At the end of each semester, we would give him standing ovations, like you would a great actor. I remember pizzas and beers at the Varsity and sitting in the middle of the rowdy Manley Field House Zoo student cheering section. I’ll never forget how crazy it was on campus when Rudy Hackett, Jimmy Lee and Jim “Don’t Call Me Bug” Williams upset top-ranked North Carolina as the Orange earned its first trip to the Final Four. Fun times.

ML: What do you hope people say about the book?

SP: I hope they come away, saying, “Wow! I didn’t know all these incredible people and events had Orange roots.” I hope they come away feeling this is by far the most comprehensive and entertaining book ever written about the University that put Syracuse on the map. I hope it evokes many fond memories, and makes their connection to this complex, remarkable place even stronger.

STS-93 Commander, Eileen M. Collins shown wearing an orange Launch and Entry Suit (LES) with helmet. Collins was the first woman to command a Space Shuttle mission.

ML: How good can Syracuse men’s hoops be this season?

SP: They’re a relatively young team that’s probably going to wind up in the middle of the ACC standings and be on the bubble for the NCAAs. But I wouldn’t be shocked if they exceeded expectations. They often do when the pundits aren’t expecting much.

ML: In the changing social media age, what has been your biggest challenge as a sports journalist?

SP: There’s a greater sense of urgency to get your stuff out there quicker than ever, and that includes not just information, but also opinion. There’s more immediate and widespread interaction with readers, but also much more nastiness. You see more personal attacks from people who disagree with you or don’t like the fact you told the truth about their favorite player or team. There are times when Twitter, in particular, becomes a cesspool; times when I choose not to get down into the mud.

ML: Scott, thanks for doing this and good luck with the book. I have always looked up to you in the industry!

SP: Thanks, my friend, for doing this interview and for your kind words. They mean the world to me.

You can buy Forever Orange here:


and follow Scott Pitoniak on Twitter @scottpitoniak.

Table Hopping sports writer Mike Lindsley has been in sports media for 20 years and is the host of the ML Sports Platter Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Mike Lindsley
Follow Mike Lindsley on Twitter @MikeLSports and download his podcast the “ML Sports Platter” on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Spotify.