The Makings of a Sports Journalist: Cerebral Palsy, the Yankees, and A Lot of Jokes Along the Way

“See I talk about sports, but I can’t physically play them.”

In a classroom full of people it isn’t too hard to categorize the students you see before you. There are the class clowns, who never fail to get a chuckle out of their classmates and their professors, alike. And there are also the intellectuals, who know everything from the specific date of important events in history to how to compose an A+ worthy paper without any effort at all.

And if you can find someone that can find a healthy medium between the two, well then, you’ve found yourself a good journalist.

Enter in: 26-year old, graduate student Nick Fodera.

“This whole grad school thing is about me learning to be an adult. This is me learning to fend for myself.”

Sitting in a wheelchair, due to being born with the condition of cerebral palsy, many might not expect much of him.

In fact, many might not even expect that he’s an aspiring sports journalist. But it’s true, he is.

“From the time I was old enough to understand how to love something, I’ve loved the Yankees,” said a very enthusiastic Fodera.

So where did this love for the New York Yankees come from?

Well, as many sports fans know, loyalty is quite an important quality in the world of sports — for both players and fans. And considering Fodera is a born and raised New Yorker it isn’t a surprise he’s loyal to the home team. It also isn’t that big of a surprise that he found his love for America’s pastime from none other than his father, who took Fodera to his first game way back in the 90’s.

“I remember my first trip to Yankees Stadium. It was the Yankees against the Mariners. They won 11–5. Derek Jeter made a home run. “

And to the untrained eye, this game might have seemed like any ordinary baseball game, but as any true sports fan would know… all it takes is one game.

“That was it for me. That was when I said ‘Yes, I am going to watch this team until I die’.”

And Fodera has, so far, stayed true to his word. An avid Yankees fan he still watches all of the games, still carefully dissects all the trade rumors, and even podcasts about the team with some of his friends.

But, has he actually played a game of baseball himself?

Though you might think the answer is no, due to the fact that Fodera gets around in a wheelchair, he believes there are other reasons behind his absence on the baseball diamond.

“…I like to talk about sports, but I can’t physically play them. Not only am I disabled, but, I have terrible coordination. It’s like watching a walrus trying to tap dance.”

Yet, while his ‘terrible coordination’ might have something to do with it, it’s important to not skim over Fodera’s condition.

Cerebral palsy shaped him into the person he is today, after all.

“This is the cards I was dealt, I’m going to play that hand. I’m going to play that hand seven days a week, and twice on Sundays.”

Fodera was born with the condition and wasn’t able to walk until he was the age of two. In addition, he’s been in therapy since he was five-years old.

His cerebral palsy has made his social life a little more difficult than most too.

“People treat me like glass. You know, they don’t want to offend me. They don’t want to say the wrong thing. So they don’t say anything at all.”

Though being treated like ‘glass’ and living with this type of isolation might convince most people to wish things were different, Fodera isn’t most people. Living with cerebral palsy, is part of who he is.

“If I woke up tomorrow and I wasn’t disabled, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. It’s been so ingrained in who I am. And my parents have raised me to not think of me being different than anyone else. So I don’t.”

And while that might seem like a mature way to look at a condition you can’t control, this wasn’t always the case for Fodera.

“When I was younger it bothered me not being able to play. My brother played football for high school. He was a fullback…I wanted something that people can look at me and say, ‘wow, he can do that’. I didn’t have that when I was a little kid.”

Clearly, from when Fodera was a child until now, his outlook has changed. In fact, while he may not be a fullback, he still found a skill for people to say, “wow, he can do that.”

His writing.

“I realized after a while I didn’t have to impress anybody. I just had to do what I wanted to do.”

In a style much more dignified than Barstool Sports yet, much more appealing than USA Today, Fodera’s writing finds a good middle ground. And with aspirations to write for DeadSpin, he might, in fact, be selling himself too short.

You can determine this from picking out any sentence from any of the many colorful articles he’s written:

“Amidst the pomp, circumstance, shed tears and frequent philharmonic of invective rained down upon Teflon-coated league commissioner Roger Goddell by an unrelenting Philadelphia crowd, the first round of the draft taking place last Thursday came stacked with solid players among college football’s best and brightest.”

Or even a simpler example:

“A positively herculean effort by freshman Ryan Macpherson helped the Islip Buccaneers capture the state title over the Brentwood Indians 2–1, in Cortland today.”

So what’s next for Fodera?

While there doesn’t seem to be any limit to the talent he has (you’ve read those examples, right?) he most certainly will face challenges along the way. Challenges that most people will never understand.

One thing is for certain though. If there’s a challenge Fodera’s facing — let’s just say, your safest bet, it to put your money on him.