After the sudden passing of San Jose State’s long-time sports information director, Lawrence Fan, this past February, many people in and outside of Sparta were set adrift.
After 42 years of unbelievable dedication to the job, life after Fan will especially reverberate this coming sports season at SJSU and across the Mountain West media corridors when the Spartans visit.
Mountain West broadcasters offer their tributes to Lawrence Fan
(00:00) Jon Sandler/UNLV - (00:29) Jim Arthur/Air Force - (00:59) Bob Behler/Boise State - (01:25) John Ramey/Nevada - (02:48) Ted Leitner/SDSU - (03:45) Scott Garrard/Utah State - (04:15) Robert Portnoy/Univ. New Mexico - (04:46) Brian Roth/Colorado State - (05:24) Paul Loeffler/Fresno State - (06:43) Kevin Richardson/SJSU - (08:44) Justin Allegri/SJSU
From Fan’s sports media family to vendors and suppliers to the generation of friends, many anticipated not having Fan around with the new season since his passing.
At visiting games, venues will honor Fan with a reserved seat in the press area, as in the press box area at CEFCU Stadium (the Portland State game would have been Fan’s 503rd football game).
“It’s going to be so weird in this first football game without Lawrence,” said SJS’ veteran broadcaster Justin Allegri. “He did so much more than we ever knew, and we won’t really know until we come across it on game days. Lawrence just handled it.”
The media was spoiled from Fan’s consistency and his level of care and detail. From long-lost sports or life details to his 30+ year run of personally baked “Fan cakes” labelled for each media member, it was all a unique San Jose State experience.
“The Fan Man,” “Mr. San Jose State,” “Stat Man,” Fan is a Spartan legend. Fan loved the people he served and supported, especially, the student-athletes.
To replace just the tangible things Fan did would take two full timers. Fan was estimated to average 80 hours per week – but really, Fan practically lived there. His identity was completely intertwined with SJSU over four decades.
Sky Kerstein, SJSU’s Director of Multimedia
“You never want to be the guy replacing the guy, especially one who’s been doing it for 42 years,” said Kerstein. “People love Lawrence and I know everything I do will never be good enough to what Lawrence did and I understand that.”
Kerstein in contrast is early along a 14-year sports media trajectory layered in collegiate and professional sports that bring him to this point.
“Lawrence and I were completely different, and I was very fortunate to work with Lawrence even if it was just for six months. I learned a lot from him.” said Kerstein.
“Sky will bring his brand of consistency, but obviously he has to do it his way,” Allegri chimed in.
Behind-the-scenes there are also many day-to-day tasks Fan never mentioned or wrote down.
“Like our lighting company reached out and I found out Lawrence would let them know of our night games ahead of time, so they would have the lights ready to go for the stadium,” said Kerstein.
A grinning Allegri added, “He’d also have a 30-minute conversation with them asking how their wives and kids were doing and go from there.”
Just as Fan and Allegri interacted for many years, the new pair of Allegri and Kerstein will faithfully carry on. Kerstein will share and feed game notes, statistics and other info-morsels for Allegri to weave into his various broadcasts.
“Wherever we go, whoever we talk to, someone is going to say, ‘Lawrence used to do it this way,’ or ‘Lawrence used to give me this,’” said Allegri of the devil-in-the-details with Fan. “After 42 years with Lawrence that’s the way it’s going to be.”
Kerstein’s style and personality is 180° from Fan, as it should be. There will never be a man whose poker-face presentation could unpredictably blend the genius of a walking encyclopedia, comedic deadpan, laid back support and relentless dedication like Fan.
“You always feel his presence. There’s no doubt about that. It’s really hard to get away from,” said a Kerstein. “And it’s going to be really weird not getting a ride with him in the golf cart on the way to the stadium, though I’ll probably be a little safer now.”
As one who also experienced Fan’s golf cart driving skills, this writer took comfort with his seamlessness behind the wheel, fast or slow. It was one of so many skills, attributes and quarks.
“Yes, he was so particular about things,” said Allegri reminiscing. “One of our student-athletes had an earring and I’m thinking I can’t put him on camera, because Lawrence would actually say, ‘Could you take off that earring, please? You have to look as presentable as possible.’”
Kerstein snickered, “I had a headshot of Jack Snyder from last year and he had his hair going up and all over the place and I realized Lawrence had used a previous year’s shot of where Jack was all nice and clean.”
Besides the mountains of newspapers, magazines and files, Fan kept suit jackets on stand-by for any student-athletes who needed them.
“I carried 18 suit jackets from his office once to a photoshoot,” said Kerstein. “I had no...idea.”
Allegri and Kerstein are also convinced Fan has taken time to cross back into the real world.
“The first basketball game back. Justin and his wife, who’s an amazing cook, tried making Fan cakes and no one really knows the recipe, nobody,” said Kerstein. “And I thought they were really good!”
Kerstein added, “BUT the big man upstairs said, ‘No, you don’t! You can’t make Fan cakes because coming in that same night, Justin’s car blew a tire on the way in to the first game without Lawrence.”
“I text Sky saying ‘I’m going to be a little late and you know why, right?’ The big man didn’t like what we did,” said Allegri. “I feel his presence always.”
- Lawrence Fan: Baking. (00:18)
How to pay tribute to a historian
Fan’s amazing recollection and retainment of information over 40+ years and beyond was vast.
Often at games, he would announce noteworthy statistics or obscure but interesting information we writers could latch onto. Some of us would look at each other and realize, “How did he know that so quickly?”
“From when he got here in the late 70s to early 80s to now; some of that information he would archive here that he could access easily,” said Allegri on the reams of paperwork and digital storage. “But he would have a separate file cabinet at home, so now, they’re trying to figure out that whole archive thing.”
Whoever “they” are, it would be an outstanding service and ultimate tribute if they could leverage the smarts within San Jose State - in particular, perhaps the artificial intelligence program within the engineering department.
After all of Fan’s information is digitized (not a small feat), the technologies and applications are all around to create a user friendly, omnipresent Fan 9000. We ask or it tells us all the possible relevant history to any San Jose State game we’re watching.
Regardless, Fan will forever be part of Spartan lore.