For Bud Collins, Tennis Is a Love Game
A journalist now synonymous with the game is honored tonight
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In the video above, recorded at his home in Brookline, Mass., Bud Collins (COM’09) talks about something he knows and loves — tennis. Collins (below) in Newport, R.I., with tennis legends Martina Navratilova and Rod Laver. Collins is wearing trousers made from Bhutan flags he bought while traveling there in 2001. Photo by Anita Ruthling Klaussen
In 1954, rejection letter in hand, Bud Collins drove more than 700 miles from his hometown of Lima, Ohio, to Boston. The mission: convince Boston University to let him study journalism. The promise: if accepted, he would be an excellent student.
Collins (COM’09) made good on that promise, although it took him more than 50 years to get his degree.
Best known for insightful tennis commentary that changed the way the sport is understood and appreciated, Collins is an unusual journalistic pioneer. Even his clothing suggests that: colorful, custom-tailored pants that have become his trademark as he reported on a sport where wearing whites once was required.
Collins, who will be honored tonight with a Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Communication, kick-started televised tennis commentary for WGBH-TV in 1963, the same year he began writing for the Boston Globe. He became known for his sharp commentary as well as clever insights and monikers, calling Roger Federer “The Swiss Who Can’t Miss,” for example. Collins has published numerous books, most recently The Bud Collins History of Tennis: An Authoritative Encyclopedia and Record Book, which includes year-by-year summaries of past tennis seasons, biographical sketches of important players, and stats, records, and championship rolls.
Collins also has covered other topics, including the Vietnam War and interviews with Muhammad Ali, reporting on several of his most famous fights. His dispatches for the Globe’s travel section have been celebrated as well. In 1999, Collins won the Associated Press Sports Editors Red Smith Award, considered the highest accolade in sports reporting. His papers and memorabilia are among the holdings of the Howard Gotlieb Research Center at Boston University.
Last May, Thomas Fiedler (COM’71), dean of COM, presented Collins with a long-awaited official degree, a master of science in public relations. “I finished all of my classes in 1955, but lacked a thesis paper, because I got caught up with my full-time job at the Boston Herald,” said Collins. Fiedler accepted Collins’ book, The Bud Collins History of Tennis, in lieu of a thesis. Now with diploma in hand, Collins joked, “I might be able to find a real job.”
COM is honoring fellow alumni Franca Bertagnin (COM’90), Kevin Caliendo (COM’93), Maya Ezratti Rosenblum (COM’98), Scott Feldman (COM’90), and Arthur Marciano (COM’51), as well as Collins. Following the presentation, Bill O’Reilly (COM’75), host of television’s The O’Reilly Factor, and Bill Wheatley (COM’70), retired NBC News executive vice president, both past Distinguished Alumni Award recipients, will discuss A Bold Fresh Look at the Future of News.
The Distinguished Alumni Awards presentation takes place tonight, Friday, October 23, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the George Sherman Union Metcalf Ballroom, 775 Commonwealth Ave. On Sunday, November 1, Collins will sign his book The Bud Collins History of Tennis from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Longwood Cricket Club, 564 Hammond St., Chestnut Hill.
Robin Berghaus can be reached at email@example.com.