Glenn Papazian found happiness – and more work – in retirement

The former banker has found his true passion in retirement, writing game stories and features for his own website, PhillyCollegeSports.com.

Story by Drew Bishop

It was a cold, blustery day at The Pavilion, home of the Villanova Wildcats’ men’s basketball team. Marquette head coach Buzz Williams entered the press room as the reporters awaited his comments. 

Rather than walk to the podium, Williams approached two journalists, Big Five Hall of Fame writer Dick Weiss, and Glenn Papazian.

Williams, taken back by the legend of Weiss, began to lavish him with praise.

“Mr. Weiss, it’s a pleasure to meet you! I’ve read all of your stuff. This is a great moment for me!” Williams said.

“Ya know Dick, if this coaching stuff doesn’t work out, do you think you could get me a job as a writer?” he added.

Weiss, knowing the competitive nature of his work, calmly informed Williams that it’s a tough industry.

“Maybe I should start my own website,” Williams said,

It was in this moment that Papazian, the third party of the conversation, began to manifest his loftiest endeavor yet.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Papazian had a great desire to cover the realm of Big Five basketball; St. Joe’s, Villanova, La Salle, Temple and Penn. However, up to that point, participation in media was strictly a part-time occupation. Papazian was a career banker at Girard Bank while working on the side as a stringer for DM Communications, collecting audio for different radio stations.

This comment by Williams, as arbitrary as he saw it, served as the push Papazian needed to take the leap to cover Philadelphia sports full-time.

“And that’s when it hit me: Start your own site. Cover what you want to do. Live YOUR dream,” Papazian said.

Today, 13 years later, Papazian spends his retirement writing game stories and features for his own website, PhillyCollegeSports.com. One could say he was destined for this his entire life. But without that comment from Williams, he may have never truly found his paradise.

It was December 26th, 1960. Tinsel was still on the tree, some gifts had yet to be unboxed, and the Philadelphia Eagles were facing Vince Lombardi and his Green Bay Packers in the NFL Championship. A ring of snow surrounded Franklin Field, setting the mood for one of the coldest days in Philadelphia history.

The Eagles were leading 17-13 in the waning moments. Fullback Jim Taylor had a chance to help the Packers take the lead, only to be stonewalled by Chuck Bednarik as the clock ticked to zeros. 

Up in the stands, a nine-year-old Glenn Papazian waved to the hometown team screaming, “See you next year, champs!”

This Philadelphia fire and grit was a huge part of Papazian’s desire to cover the teams close to home. However, his path from diehard fan to Big Five reporter wasn’t as direct.

As a student at Millersville University, Papazian majored in history, with the intention of establishing a career more stable than broadcasting.

“My mom would say ‘always have something to fall back on,’” Papazian said.

In the end, he pursued a long-term career in banking instead of a full-time job in sports media.

In 1987, already deep in his day job, Papazian gained his first taste of professional experience in the media landscape. The initial introduction was a broadcast class taught partly by Philadelphia Flyers legend Gene Hart.

“I said [to myself], even if nothing happens, it’ll still be an interesting course to take, and it was!” Papazian said.

Shortly after the course, an internship at WNS, a TV station in Newark, Delaware, opened up. But it did not come without sacrifice. The gig was part-time, meaning that Papazian would spend his days working, then take an hour drive to Newark to cut highlights for the station in the evenings.

A few months into the internship, he was approached by the sports director, Paul Luongo.

“What are you up to tonight?” Luongo asked.

“I don’t feel so good,” said Papazian, with a flu virus forcing beads of sweat down his face.

“Well, get better quick. You have to do the sports tonight,” Luongo said, meaning Papazian would have to anchor a five-minute broadcast for the sports portion of the news.

It would have been easy to not show up that day harboring the flu. Hell, it would have been easy to avoid the internship entirely knowing the pressure of balancing a full workload along with an internship in another state.

Despite these obstacles, Papazian completed the sportscast, albeit drenched in sweat from his high temperature.

“I did it, and I loved it,”  Papazian said.

He loved it so much that following the internship, he applied and was offered a job at ESPN as a college basketball researcher.

“As a 20-something-year-old, perfect. As a 40-some-year-old, you have to make a decision now. I wanted to, but there’s sometimes in your gut that says it’s not the right time,” Papazian said.

However, that did not mean he would be forsaking sports media altogether.

Alongside his career at Girard Bank, Papazian got part-time employment with DM Communications as a reporter and stringer. That job would serve as the next step toward a greater venture.

It was another cold, blustery day. This time, Papazian found himself getting audio from John Chaney’s Temple Owls at McGonigle Hall.

Following the game, he returned to the 15th Street Lot to find his car encased in a thick sheet of ice. As Papazian violently chipped away at the sleet, a voice echoed from across the lot:

“Do you have another ice scraper?!?!”

He glances up to see who else, but Chaney himself, just as desperate as the next guy to get home.

“Yeah, coach, I’ve got one right here,” Papazian said, obliged to assist the future hall of famer.

While scraping, Chaney asked Papazian to put a tray of food in his back seat.

“A lot of people around here think I’m a rat, so they give me cheese,” Chaney joked.

This began what Papazian described as not a friendship, but a connection. A connection that led to his most cherished possession: a John Chaney tie.

A few weeks prior to the ice scraper incident, Papazian had been conversing with Chaney in the hallway of the Spectrum.

“Can I get a tie one day?” Papazian asked, being jovial with the legendary coach.

“You can’t have this one,” Chaney responded. “I’m winning!” 

Fast forward a few weeks past the cold day at McGonigle, to the Herb Good Basketball Awards Banquet, and Chaney approached Papazian with a box.

“Here’s your tie, but you’ve gotta work for it,” Chaney said.

“What do I have to do?” Papazian asked.

“Go to the kitchen, tell ‘em John sent you,” Chaney bellowed back.

Papazian headed to the kitchen, retrieved some food, and put it in the legend’s car. nly then had he earned an authentic, John Chaney tie.

Covering the Big Five for decades as a stringer, prior to the birth of PhillyCollegeSports.com, Papazian learned on the fly. A lifelong banker and history major, he siphoned knowledge about how to better present himself as a reporter from the legendary coaches he was covering, like Chaney. Others, like Fran Dunphy, Phil Martelli, Jay Wright and many more were vital in shaping a professional journalist andfurther shaping the man himself. 

Indirectly, even Buzz Williams was the spark for PhillyCollegeSports.com to be a reality.

The man who majored in history was getting a second chance at a journalism degree, but with the best of the best.

“I like to say it took my 30 years to become an overnight success,” Papazian

Buzz Williams may have made the comment to spark the idea, but none of it would be a reality without the late Al Shrier.

Before his death in 2019 at the age of 88, Shrier was Temple’s sports information director for more than 60 years before transitioning into a role that saw him become a special assistant to the athletic director. He was also a family friend of Papazian. Their mothers grew up together in West Philadelphia.

Shrier’s legacy cannot be understated. Through his decades at Temple University, his trademark was being ‘the man with the briefcase,’ a practice Papazian adopted with his own satchel.

One day, he had something to give to Shrier while at Villanova. He reached into the bag to retrieve it, as Shrier turned to his wife, Ruth, and exclaimed, 

“See? The bag works!”

The respect and admiration Shrier had in the media community, specifically in the Big Five, gave him the credibility to speak on the prospect of a solo website venture. The thought had always been in Papazian’s mind to dive head first into a media role, but there was always something holding him back, whether it be family or work.

Now with Williams’ arbitrary comment, coupled with a co-sign from the legendary Shrier, Papazian had all he needed to set forth into a new role as the owner, founder, and main writer of his own website.

In 2010, the first articles appeared on PhillyCollegeSports.com. Of course, Papazian was the central source of content, but he also brought along a couple of notable media figures to help.

The first to join was the late Jack Schuerer, the longtime Associated Press sportswriter who passed away in October of 2020 at the age of 88. Scheuer was affectionately known as the leading scorer in Palestra history because of the weekly pickup games he ran there from 1975 up until just a few years ago when he was in his mid-80s. Now the Big Five Hall of Famer was the author of the “Off The Boards” column for PhillyCollegeSports.com. 

Schuerer would discuss the college basketball teams in the area, how they were faring, give insight based on his experiences, and ask a trivia question, which was his personal favorite part of the column. Schuerer continued this series for 10 years before his passing.

Mike Kern was the next addition to the team. After 40-plus years of writing for the Philadelphia Daily News, Kern opted to take a retirement package. However, the offer to continue his “Fraud Five” column with PhillyCollegeSports.com was too tempting, and he became the next writer on staff.

“You have a hall of famer and a very well-known sportswriter helping you establish credibility. I’m not out there trying to spout opinions, I’m out there trying to present the best face I possibly can,” Papazian said.

Another vital part of the website’s identity was to cover multiple schools. Papazian did not want to be known as a homer or just “the guy from that school.” He wanted to show a balance, and the schools in Philadelphia provided that.

Now, in a COVID environment, he is able to cover an array of sports, including soccer, football, basketball, the Penn Relays, field hockey, lacrosse, among others. During the NCAA tournament and conference tournaments for basketball, Papazian had game stories on Temple, La Salle, Drexel, Villanova and St. Joe’s, on both men’s and the women’s side. While Zoom is not the preferred press room, it allows him to be in many places in one day.

For a one-man crew, this is a silver lining to the virtual world.

It’s April 24, 2021. President Joseph R. Biden releases a White House statement recognizing the deportation and killing of 1.5 million Armenians starting in 1915 as a genocide. On this day, 106 years later, the United States joins 30 other countries who have recognized the Ottoman Empire’s actions during World War I as a systematic plan to erase the Armenian people.

Glenn Papazian is Armenian. He has spent the better part of his lifetime engaged in the community as a leader, also coaching basketball teams for the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) in Philadelphia.

Acknowledging this massacre of his people nationally was an important milestone for him. Many of Papazian’s family died in the genocide. His great-uncle’s burial was left incomplete due to a German bomb raid in the area. His great-grandfather was forced to flee, to save his own life, rather than bury his own brother. Members of his family who survived went on to migrate to America, where his roots began.

Over the past decade, Papazian was working with the Armenian National Committee, trying to elevate the Armenian Genocide Recognition Bill to be proposed in Congress. At one point, he and others in the committee traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with the Pennsylvania delegation and plead with them to take the next step toward recognizing the tragedy.

“I’m not asking the congressman for something for his constituents. I’m asking the congressman to support justice for a million and a half souls that were massacred,” Papazian said.

The Armenian National Committee did not get justice that day, but the words of Papazian and others rang true all the way until April 24, when the genocide was nationall recognized.

In the waning moments of a conversation with  Papazian, he turned his laptop to the left, where a colored painting of William Saroyan, the Pulitzer-Prize winning Armenian novelist, hangs.

Papazian, citing the recent victory for his people, began reading an excerpt from Sorayan’s second book, Inhale and Exhale:

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.”

The imagery of resilience and strength. A people that have been written off as irrelevant or nonexistent refusing to go down quietly. No matter what transgressions fall upon the Armenian people, they will always find a way to rise from the ashes, to laugh, to sing, and to pray. 

According to this excerpt from Soroyan, what really defines an Armenian is their perseverance.

Remind you of anyone?

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