As we’ve noted before, so many roads seem to lead to, through or back to the Olean area.
One instance is the number of accomplished sports journalists who served as interns/writers at the Olean Times Herald and/or attended St. Bonaventure University.
Examples include SBU grad and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, considered the quintessential NBA insider; Mike Vaccarro, a banner-carrying sports columnist at the New York Post; and ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, who recently has raised his profile with appearances on studio shows to discuss the NBA.
Another national sports journalist with a connection to Olean is NBA writer Marc Stein of the New York Times, who developed his love of sports rooting for the former Buffalo Braves as well as the Bills and Sabres as a young boy in Olean in the 1970s.
Stein was 3 when his family moved to Olean, according to a June column by Erik Brady, writing for the Buffalo News during the NBA Finals while Stein was in Toronto. “They left in 1978, when he was 9. As fate would have it, his family traded Western New York for the West Coast in the same year that the Braves did the same,” Brady wrote.
The family moved to Olean when Stein’s Romanian-born father, Reuven, was recruited from Philadelphia to work as an engineer at Dresser-Clark.
“All of my domestic sporting allegiances were cemented before we left Western New York,” he told Brady, who noted that Stein’s Twitter feed — @TheSteinLine — shows a color photo of Braves legends Randy Smith and Bob McAdoo in the old Memorial Auditorium.
Yet Stein never made it to the Aud as a boy, telling Brady his only lasting quarrel with his late father was not getting to a game at the Aud. “The family was offered tickets occasionally, but some of those offers came in bad weather — the Blizzard of ’77 comes to mind — when driving roundtrip from the Southern Tier to the Buffalo waterfront would’ve been tough sledding.”
The Stein family left Olean when Reuven found a job in Southern California — “in a marginally more favorable climate” — at the urging of his mother, Ruth.
For Father’s Day in 2015, Stein wrote a column for ESPN.com honoring his father, who had passed away a year earlier after a long battle against Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
“He certainly deserved better after essentially spending the first six years of his life either in a concentration camp or on the run after my genius grandmother and her little boy somehow escaped the clutches of the Nazis who came to their door in Bucharest, Romania, when he was 9 months old and transported them to a killing field called Transnistria on what was then Ukranian soil,” Stein wrote in 2015. “’The Romanian Auschwitz,’ they called it.
“Having survived that ordeal by incomprehensible means that were never fully detailed to me — no matter how many years I spent pressing them for a more complete picture — he made it back to Bucharest for the right to grow up largely masking his Jewish identity in communist Romania. Then, at the age of 20, his mother and father — who impossibly survived his own captivity in a separate camp — arranged for an illegal escape by sea to Israel.
“I promise you that, most of the time, I do maintain some semblance of perspective to understand how fortunate my brother Orren and I are. Most of the time I’m smart enough to remember that blessed can’t even begin to describe the childhood my father made possible for us. He did it through his survival skills, his crazy journey, his ambition and ultimately, his excellence as a mechanical engineer, which had a company called Philadelphia Gear itching to draft him in as an overseas import in the mid-1960s.”
And then to Olean, that cradle of sorts of sports journalists.