Remembering Tom Borrelli

This article was written by Bob Chavez of NLL Insider. Our sincere condolences go out to the Borelli family at this time.

The news of Tom Borrelli’s passing this morning hit me. Hard. All day long, I’ve been asking why. Why him? Why now? Why at all? And perhaps the most frustrating and maddening aspect of it all is that those questions will never be answered.

It’s at times like this that we reflect. We think back on our own lives and take stock in what we’ve done, or not done, with our lives. Today, I find myself looking back at the times I spent with Tom Borrelli and because of our jobs, every one of my meetings with Tom was in a press box or at an athletic contest. I think back to the times Tom helped me and knowing him the way I did, he probably wouldn’t even remember helping me. Not because he didn’t want to remember those times, but because helping came naturally to Tom. It was who he was, and he never thought twice to extend his hand.

I first met Tom sometime back in the late 1990s when, as a sports reporter for the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., I was sent to Buffalo to cover a Sabres-Senators game. I was still a pup in reporter years and had some trouble with my computer connection at HSBC Arena to send my story back to Rochester. With everyone up in press box scrambling to make their own deadlines, Tom took the time to help me and when it became apparent that my line wasn’t going to work, he let me use his. Considering we worked for competing publications, his graciousness is something I will never, ever forget.

And as it is, I might still be inside the arena to this day had it not been for Tom giving me directions around the cavernous building.

Over the years, with Rochester and Buffalo high schools often competing against each other, I’d see Tom at games here and there. He always seemed to be in a great mood and when you cover enough of these games, you can tell when someone is at a game because he was sent there, or because he wanted to be there.

Tom always wanted to be there. There was never a sense of burden from him; he truly loved the work he did and it showed in his product. His game stories reflected the fact that he wasn’t just covering a game, he was sharing the experience of witnessing the event. To me, that’s always the goal of reporting an event. Anyone can read the box score and see who scored goals. But it takes a real talent to explain how those goals were scored, what happened to make the game what it was and why we wanted to be there as fans.

Tom was more than a reporter. He was a story teller. He used his gift to color in the black-and-white world of game results, giving us all a sense of completion and finality when we read his stories. Even if you weren’t at the game, his words made you feel as though you were. And that’s why I’ve been asking “why” all day long. It’s just not fair. For as much as Tom Borrelli has done and accomplished, he had so much more to give. He wasn’t done. It’s not supposed to be his time.

Yet today, we mourn the passing of a friend. We remember a scribe who was a Hall of Famer for the National Lacrosse League. Yet let us also remember Tom as a human being, one with a heart the size of any galaxy. Were there a Human Being Hall of Fame, Tom Borrelli would be a first-ballot inductee.

I’ve been told the sign of a true professional is someone who makes his job look easy. Tom did that. It was effortless for him, and a ton of fun. He’ll be missed, but will never be forgotten. The way I see it, there must have been a lacrosse game in heaven being played sometime soon, and God just wanted one of the best sports reporters in the world to cover it.

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