John McNamara sized up the new guy.
Leaning in, he delivered unsolicited advice.
“You know, you really don’t need the tie.”
Maybe a month later, he caught me on casual Friday. This time, the offending article was a lime green polo shirt.
“You buy that in the men’s department?” he deadpanned past my desk at our old building on Capital Drive.
He never broke stride sauntering to the sports department.
It’s the moment I became a John McNamara fan. He was welcoming me into his fraternity.
As a recovering sports reporter, I appreciated the needling. It was a bonding moment. He was engaging me and inviting me into his world.
Tuesday, the University of Maryland Memorial Chapel overflowed with John’s universe. Hundreds turned out to pay their respects to one of five victims in the June 28 fatal shooting at Capital Gazette Communications’ office.
It was clear John reached beyond Annapolis and College Park. His lasting impact will be the lives he touched and improved. Fittingly, the University of Maryland, John’s alma mater, is working to honor the 1983 graduate and lifelong Terrapins fan.
In the coming weeks, announcements are expected from the university’s journalism and athletic departments that will cement John’s legacy. Maryland wants to acknowledge John’s influence on young journalists and his career covering Terrapins athletics, which began at the student newspaper, The Diamondback.
John’s friends and family described a man of varied interests. He had passionate and informed opinions about movies, music, politics, news and, of course, sports.
His wife, Andrea, was his favorite topic. Sports talk would be put on pause when John revved up about upcoming or previous trips to the beach, an Alaskan cruise or New York City jaunts for Broadway plays or the Macy’s Day Parade.
When the conversation circled back to the Nationals, Orioles, Capitals or the Terrapins, his passion and encyclopedic knowledge would drive the narrative.
I’ll cherish those moments. Two oldish sports reporters sharing war stories from the road. He had a great one about a Nashville bartender refusing to change the television to an Atlantic Coast Conference basketball game.
“This is an SEC bar,” the barkeep retorted.
A sportswriter from the Washington Post called his friend Eddie George - the bar’s owner - and the channel was changed post haste.
John’s friends and family revealed his depth of character. He was an emotional rock for his family and friends. He continually sought to lighten the load for his colleagues.
None of this is surprising. There was always more behind the salt and pepper bangs and black sunglasses than his biting wit.