Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 15 July 2011 00:00
In his undergraduate days, Manhasset resident C.J. Papa attended New York University in hopes of becoming a dentist. However, he started spending so much time at the campus radio station that he decided to go into broadcasting. The bet paid off. Now, Papa is one of the top broadcast journalists in New York, a freelancer appearing regularly on radio and television.
Currently, Papa, works in several capacities. Described as “one of the hardest working broadcasters in sports,” Papa does news and sports reporting for the Don Imus radio program, for WABC radio, and for the SNY cable station, where he occasionally hosts the Geico Sports Night program.
It all started in East Hills, where Papa described himself a “big sports fan,” following all the teams that the average Long Island boy roots for: the Jets, Mets, and especially the Islanders. Members of Papa’s extended family operated a restaurant, The Roma Café in Albertson, an establishment that was also a meeting place for Islander fans from the area. In addition, Papa’s family had season tickets for all home Islander games from 1975 to 1979, right before that team began to dominate the National Hockey League (NHL). As a youngster, Papa rooted for all the greats—Billy Smith, Dennis Potvin, Mike Bossy, and Brian Trottier—-who would form the backbone of those championship squads.
Papa attended St. Mary’s elementary school in Roslyn Harbor and for high school, the school of the same name in Manhasset. At New York University, Papa’s work in radio included sports reporting, sports broadcasting, and later, doing play-by-play for both the men and women’s varsity basketball squads at NYU.
After NYU, it was on to the world of television broadcasting. Papa worked as an intern for New York Sports Nightly, a division of SportsChannel. There, he worked on a program called “Future Star,” did work on Islander games, and eventually became a sports anchor, a prized position that he continues doing to this day.
In the 1990s, Papa was a producer for Court TV. But that station only allowed attorneys to serve as television reporters. And so, Papa, who wanted to get back on the airwaves, came back to Long Island, working for WLNY-55, where he directed the sports division. At WLNY, Papa covered Islander games and soon became a fan favorite. In fact, in 2006, a longtime Islander fan even dressed up as Papa, allowing the two to be photographed together, a humorous spot that became part of Islander highlights.
From WLNY, Papa worked for the MSG, where he was now the sideline reporter for Islander broadcasts. However, Papa only stayed with MSG for a year. Now, he is working at both radio and television, reporting on both news and sports.
Papa has good memories from all his adventures in the world of sports journalism. Among his most memorable, as he related to Dee Karl, a reporter for the Internet site Bleacher Report, was covering the 2008 Super Bowl between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots, a contest where the Giants scored an upset victory, but also one where Papa’s reporting helped to win WLNY an “Outstanding Sportscast” award from the New York State Broadcasters Association. Among his favorite personalities is New York Jet head coach Rex Ryan, who Papa describes as a down-to-earth guy who stays on friendly terms with that wide array of sports reporters who cover any major New York squad.
Papa also has good memories of his growing up years in East Hills, a village where his family has long played a prominent role. C.J.’s father, Gino, is the village justice for that village, a position that he was just re-elected to another term in last spring’s heated election.
In East Hills, Papa played Little League on the fields of Temple Beth Sholom. Later on he worked as a counselor at a summer camp at East Hills School.
“I love Roslyn,” Papa told The Roslyn News on a recent Friday morning as he navigated his way through a quick breakfast at a local Starbucks. “It was a great place to grow up. I’m very lucky.”