Reporter Austin Murphy, our Basketball's Week writer, doesn't mean to bite the hand that used to feed him, but the newsletter he mails to his seven siblings does gum, nibble and maybe even gently gnaw at it. In The Slumgullion Fortnightly, named after Mother Murphy's casserole ("one part ground beef; five parts anything else"), he seeks to solidify family bonds by keeping everybody up to date on everybody else, and it inevitably touches on a few of the folks' foibles. Hence this disclaimer from Murphy: "My parents have occasionally filched a copy from my youngest sister, Amy. I can't be held accountable for what they read."
The fact is that Murphy, 24, owes everything to his parents' generous genes. From Patricia, a former editor of the Reynoldsburg, Ohio Little Weekly, he got his writing talent. From Austin Jr., a onetime Colgate end and now a steel company president, he got his athleticism. Murph, who at 6'1" and 165 pounds gives up some five inches and 50 pounds to each of his three younger brothers, ruefully recalls that as a 12-year-old in the area finals of the punt, pass and kick competition, he was outthrown by a 9-year-old. But he survived that humiliation and put in two years as a Colgate jayvee wideout ("I think I averaged .16 of a reception per game"). After quitting football, he turned to rugby, and to writing for a campus newspaper, the Maroon.
Murphy made a brief stop in Langhorne, Pa. as a Nautilus instructor and sportswriter for the Bucks County Courier Times, then endured two months of unemployment at his parents' Chicago home. There, "in response to an ingrained need to keep a paddle wheel in the finger bowl of his [Murphy's] creative juices," Murphy published the Slumgullion Fortnightly for the first time. "Rather than bore the reader with piddling minutiae," the SF vowed, "it will concentrate on significant news and/or entertaining asides—then move on to its next victim." The 25 subsequent editions have not failed to amuse and embarrass.
While in Chicago, Murphy also sent a story to SI about his father's fanatical attachment to Austin's brother Mark, who is now a promising offensive lineman at Boston College. The piece, which was later published, earned him an interview with chief of reporters Jane Bachman Wulf, at which Austin appeared in the sort of wraparound sunglasses Jim McMahon would later make famous. Murphy's references stood by him, and we hired him away from the Batavia, Ill. Chronicle two years ago.
March 3, 1986
Since then, Murphy has written on everything from crossword championships to mascot camps and, just before getting involved in our basketball coverage, changed his byline from J. Austin to Austin. "I've admitted what my high school jayvee basketball teammates discovered long ago," says Murphy. "I have no J."