Class of 1967
Sportswriters know when they’re up against a tough competitor. They’re always checking the other papers — and the other papers’ web sites — to see if they’ve been beaten on a story. This is what one fellow journalist, recalling the days when New York had newspapers that published in the afternoon, says about Neil Offen: “When I was writing hockey for The New York Times, and Neil Offen was my competitor at The New York Post, I waited for the afternoon papers to see what I had missed. Doggone if he didn’t have some insight or nabbed some player I should have had.”
Offen was born in the Bronx on April 25, 1946, and grew up near the intersection of Fordham Road and the Grand Concourse, “equidistant from the Loew’s Paradise and the RKO Fordham movie theaters,” as he put it. He attended Creston Junior High School and DeWitt Clinton High School, both of which were composed of all-male student bodies. When he finally entered City College, he said, he “couldn’t believe there were girls — in classes!” At City, he was sports editor and managing editor of The Campus. In 1967, not long after graduation, he joined The Post, then the largest afternoon daily in the country, and began covering the New York Rangers. He was 21 years old, reputedly the youngest sportswriter in the country to cover a major league team, at least for a big-city daily.
After also covering the Yankees and the Mets, he left The Post in 1971 and embarked on a series of journalistic adventures that many writers fantasize about. After freelancing for Esquire, Readers Digest and other publications, he moved to France in 1976 and remained there through the fall of 1985, enjoying a long stint in Paris as editor-in-chief of The Paris Metro, an English-language tabloid that became a must-read for many Parisians and American ex-pats. In 1980, he moved to Provence.
Offen wrote or edited more than a dozen books on sports and the theater. He collaborated with Walt Frazier on the New York Knick legend’s 1988 autobiography, “Walt Frazier: One Magic Season and a Basketball Life,” and he did the same with ex-Yankee Jim Bouton on a 1973 book about baseball managers, “I Managed Good, But Boy Did They Play Bad.” In 1975, he focused on the folks in the stands with “God Save the Players,” a look at “the funny, crazy, sometime violent world of sports fans.” One of his books, “Calling Dr. Horowitz,” a memoir about a doctor recalling his days as a medical student in Mexico, was made into a movie called “Bad Medicine.”
After Offen returned from Europe in 1985, he settled in North Carolina, where he became a six-time winner of North Carolina Press Association awards. In his time there, he has been news director of WCHL radio in Chapel Hill, editor of the Chapel Hill Herald, and metro editor of the Durham Herald-Sun, where he worked for 13 years as a reporter, covering higher education, and as a columnist. Offen was also editor of Stage Directions Magazine, a national theater monthly that produced a series of guides on topics ranging from working backstage to directing to staging Shakespeare.
Offen retired from full-time journalism in April 2013, but still writes a weekly column for the Herald-Sun. He also writes a humor blog at theneiloffencolumn.wordpress.com.