The early morning, at five or six o'clock, is when sportswriter Lisa Olson can leave her apartment with the least worry. She can walk the empty streets of her Boston neighborhood and buy her newspapers and her groceries. No one will gawk or point or shout at her. No one will notice her. This is her small window of freedom.
She usually has been awake for most of the night. She has worried and thought and worried some more. The phone? Who can that be? For a while she used a system of rings for friends and co-workers, just to know if a stranger was calling, but she has changed her number often and the latest number seems to be safe. For now. Who knows when that new number will land in strange hands?
"I have your number," a voice might say again. "I know where you live. I have battery acid that I will throw on your face. I know the way you go to work."
The whole thing is crazy. What did she do to anyone? The letters. The hate. A man wrote recently that she should jump off the Mystic River bridge, just as Chuck Stuart, the alleged murderer, had done.
She does not answer the doorbell. She mostly does not go out to dinner or to the movies. She does not do anything, really, except work and go home. She is covering the Bruins now for the Boston Herald, and the Bruins are in the Stanley Cup playoffs and this should be a wonderful time. But she covers only the games that are played on the road. There has been too much trouble at the Boston Garden, where she has been spit upon and otherwise demeaned and where the two mailboxes on Causeway Street have graffiti addressed to her written on them: LISA IS A CLASSIC BITCH...LISA IS A SLUT.
She stays in her apartment during the Bruins' home games, watches them on television, thinks of the stories that she would have written about them. The games end and the news ends and the scoreboard shows end, and she is left to fret through the night. At five or six, she can buy her papers and her groceries and come back to the apartment and close her eyes. Just for a little bit.
How did all of this happen?
"She appeared one day in my office," Herald executive sports editor Bob Sales says. "She said she was taking some grad school classes at Harvard, but what she always wanted to do was become a sports-writer. She asked if I had any jobs. I did have one. It wasn't much. I needed someone to do the horse racing agate part time at night. She took it."
She was from Phoenix, 22 years old then, in 1986, and as convinced as anyone could be about what she wanted from life. She had been writing sports since she was seven, when she made up her own little newsletter that reported on neighborhood sports events. She almost learned to read with SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and her brothers' Boy's Life. This would be the greatest job, writing sports.
She continued with school and worked at the Herald and sometimes did some stringing for United Press International. Her big chance to write came from doing the anonymous roundups of spoils news that the Herald ran daily. She wrote them, Sales noticed, with a nice touch.