He found out that he didn't want to be a cop as he was being fingerprinted. This was awhile ago, when Gerry Callahan was 19. He had been riding around with four other young guys in a van in Nashua, N.H., and one of them had suggested that a road sign would be a perfect souvenir from the night. One road sign led to another and another and yet another. The van was pretty full when the police cruiser arrived.
"So what do you want to do with your life?" a policeman asked at the station, as he put Callahan through the booking procedure while parents were called, charges were filed and a prank became serious business.
"Tell the truth, I've always wanted to be a cop," Callahan said. "I had a grandfather who was a cop."
The police officer's response surprised him.
"He said, 'No, you don't want to be a cop,' " Callahan remembers. " 'You have to work nights. You have to work weekends. You have to wear a uniform. You have to salute. It's all political. No, be something else.' He convinced me right there in the police station."
In such random moments—O.K., a $550 fine was imposed on each of the five kids—a future can change. Fifteen years later Callahan may work nights and weekends as a senior writer for SI, but he doesn't have to wear a uniform, and he surely doesn't have to salute anybody, which, it turns out, is probably the best part. He is not now and never has been the saluting kind.
There was the time a Montreal writer threatened to throw him from the press box onto the ice at the Montreal Forum. It seems that Callahan, whose sportswriting career includes a six-year apprenticeship at The Sun in Lowell, Mass., and five years as an embattled columnist at the Boston Herald, had written that all the women in Montreal, with their white faces and black lipstick, looked like they were dead, and that all the men were trying to look like all the women. Then he blasted, among others, Spike Lee and Ken Burns's Baseball and soccer. "Soccer was the worst," says Callahan. "The Herald got more than a thousand letters about what I said about soccer. The soccer nuts always say it's the Number 1 sport in the world, so we must be missing something. Well, dwarf tossing is big in Australia. Does that mean we should start a professional dwarf-tossing league in the States?"
Callahan's well-written crankiness, most of it tongue-in-cheek, and versatility were among the things that brought him to SI more than a year ago. This week he deftly profiles the NHL's Niedermayer brothers (page 46) and drops some bombs on appropriate targets in POINT AFTER (page 94). A native of the Boston suburb of Chelmsford, Callahan lives in Andover, Mass., with his wife, Tracy, and their 22-month-old daughter, Shannon.
"I knew that Gerry could do the sarcastic criticism when we hired him," says executive editor Peter Carry. "But since coming to SI he has proved he's more valuable for his writing, his reporting and his humor than for his zingers."