Baltimore Sun newspaper columnist Susan Reimer appeared
proud but slightly amused to find herself alone on stage last
week, facing a crowd of admirers in the Homewood campus' most
elegant auditorium, Shriver Hall.
"If any of you had seen my SAT scores in high school," she quipped, "you'd know this is the only way I could get into Hopkins."
Reimer, who became one of the nation's first female full-time sports reporters in 1979, now writes a popular twice-weekly column about motherhood and family issues. Her Wednesday Noon Series lecture, originally scheduled for the cozier Clipper Room, had to be moved to Shriver when an overflow turnout of more than 200 fans showed up.
Her talk, titled "Not Exactly What I Had in Mind," traced the unexpected course her life has taken, from a ground-breaking job in sports journalism to her current role as a devoted mom who spends so much time at her children's school that some students think she works there.
"I am not who I thought I would be, who I planned to be, who I wanted to be," Reimer said. "I feel like a pinball some days."
Yet she added: "I like my life, crazy as it is."
Reimer, the eldest of four daughters, grew up in Pittsburgh and earned a journalism degree at Ohio University. Her father was skeptical of her career choice, suggesting that "teaching or nursing made more sense," she recalled.
After working for the Associated Press and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Reimer was hired by the Baltimore Sun to cover sports, a male-dominated field. Not surprisingly, she encountered resentment from other reporters and from many of the athletes and coaches.
She remained on the beat, however, covering horse racing's Triple Crown, yachting's America's Cup, the Super Bowl, the World Series, tennis's U.S. Open and the U.S. Open of women's golf.
When a lawsuit forced major league teams to open their locker rooms to female reporters as well as male writers, Reimer reluctantly trooped inside. At one point, she recalled with some regret, "I was sent in to create an incident and write about it."
During locker rooms visits, Reimer told the audience, she replaced her slim reporter's notebook with a huge, unwieldy legal pad, using it to block her view of any embarrassing parts of a player's anatomy.
Her sportswriting career continued through 1984, when she reported on the Baltimore Colts and their sudden departure for Indianapolis just a month before her son Joseph was born. After her daughter Jessica arrived two years later, Reimer limited herself to working part-time, bowing out of the travel required in sports coverage.
"I found that once I had (my children), I wanted to raise them, for better or worse," Reimer told the Hopkins audience. "I left sports, and I never looked back. Very unpleasant things happen to women in the world of sports. I would not choose to go back there. I never realized how hard it was until I didn't have to do it anymore."
Reimer continued to work as an editor at the Sun and helped manage coverage of major events such as the Olympics. She also began to compose essays about her family life. After several were published in the Sun, its editors asked Reimer in 1993 to write a regular column about her experiences as a wife and mother. The columnist, who lives in Annapolis, is married to Gary Mihoces, a sportswriter for USA Today.
Although she enjoys writing her Sun pieces, Reimer joked that "the column is so consuming that I am no longer a very good housewife."
Nevertheless, she continues to be involved in her children's sports and dance activities, plunging into the carpooling chores that she never expected to take on during her days as a college firebrand two decades ago.
Her columns often focus on her own family members. They have mixed reactions when Reimer recounts their words and deeds to hundreds of thousands of Sun readers.
Reimer said her husband copes with his concerns about public humiliation by following a simple philosophy: "If he doesn't read it, I haven't written it."
Jessica doesn't mind being mentioned in the column as long as Reimer doesn't publicly embarrass her in another way. "My daughter's only objection is that I don't dress well," the writer sighed.
Her son was worried about seeing his life unfold in a newspaper until Reimer explained what the family is able to buy with the money the Sun pays for those columns. "Now," Reimer said, "Joe is negotiating for a percentage of the gross."
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