ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio Was a Nobody in High School

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Illustration by Andy Friedman.[1]

Illustration by Andy Friedman.

My name is … Salvatore Anthony Nicholas Paolantonio. “Sal Pal” for short.

I was named after … my mother’s oldest brother, Salvatore Giardina, who served in the Army in World War II. He was legendary in my family.

I am a … reporter. My job is to find out new stuff and tell our audience about it. It’s really that simple.

I got my big break … when I got out of the Navy and was hired at the Albany Times Union. I was only at the paper 16 months when they sent me to cover the famine in East Africa, because I had been there for the Navy. Right after that, the Inquirer hired me.

My people are from … a little town called Calitri in Abruzzo, Italy. It’s a sheep-herding and farming town in the mountains. My grandfather came here in 1920 with his two brothers. The two brothers went back, and he stayed. Or else I’d be a sheep-herder.

When I was seven years old … we were all ducking and covering under our desks. Then Kennedy was shot. Thank God the Beatles showed up a couple of months later and gave us hope again.

When people don’t like what I have to say … they tell me about it, and I like that.

The next Philly team to win the championship will be … the Eagles. It’s easier to prevail in the NFL than in the other professional sport leagues. And they’ve just invested $30 million in Chip Kelly, so they’ve got no choice.

One bad habit I just can’t break is … ice cream. Chocolate water ice from Rita’s with vanilla ice cream in it.

People would be surprised to know … that I love to garden. I spend a lot of time planting flowers and weeding with my iPod in my ears.

My favorite Philadelphian … is Frank Rizzo, who embodied everything there was about the city.

The best Philly athlete alive today … is Chase Utley. Fundamentally great. Tough as nails. And instinctively knows what’s going to happen next. That’s rare. You can’t teach instincts.

If I owned the Eagles … I would make Ron Jaworski general manager. He’d win a Super Bowl in three years.

The farthest I’ve ever been from Philadelphia … is Diego Garcia, a Navy base in the Indian Ocean. I served from 1978 to 1983, and I spent the summer of 1981 chasing Russian submarines around the Indian Ocean.

I met my wife … in 1976, when I moved her into the dorm at SUNY Oneonta. I was the R.A.

Andy Reid was … respected but not revered. He got close but didn’t get the Super Bowl, and that’s how people will always remember him here.

My dad always told me … it’s not how you act; it’s how you re-act. In other words, don’t show on your face how your ass is getting kicked.

For Thanksgiving, I will … be working. We play NFL football on Thanksgiving. Just the nature of my job: I work on holidays. God bless my wife.

The most misunderstood Philly athlete of all time … would have to be Dick Allen, but only slightly ahead of Donovan McNabb. Not everybody gets to win a Super Bowl. Dan Marino didn’t win a Super Bowl. And remember: As a human being, as a teammate, as a member of the community, there aren’t any players better than Donovan McNabb. He finished a game with a broken leg.

In high school, I was voted … nothing.

Endnotes:
  1. [Image]: https://www.phillymag.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/OneofUs_011.jpg

Source URL: https://www.phillymag.com/news/2013/10/25/espns-sal-paolantonio-nobody-high-school/