WSJ Gives Page One Shoutout to Boston’s ‘Discount Diplomat’

The hardworking staff has noted on numerous occasions the Wall Street Journal’s A-Hed, home of those quirky features that have adorned the paper’s front page since 1943.

This weekend’s Journal brings us Andrew Beaton’s international story with a decidedly local flavor.

Russia’s Biggest Problem? Not Enough Boston Sports Gear

‘Discount Diplomat’ travels to World Cup, handing out jerseys to strangers

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia—Greg Conley sat down at a recent World Cup game here next to a family of Iranian fans who regaled him with stories about the team, its traditions and players.

Mr. Conley reached into his bag after Iran’s win over Morocco. He grabbed a Boston Celtics shirt and gave it to the Iranian man right next to him. The man beamed and put it on immediately.

“You see this whole section of Iranian-dressed fans,” Mr. Conley said. “Then all of a sudden, you see a guy wearing a Celtics shirt. It was like a black spot on a white piece of paper.”

This wasn’t an isolated event for Mr. Conley, a 54-year-old Boston-area native who calls himself “The Discount Diplomat.” It’s what he does. A hospital project manager by day, Mr. Conley spends his free time traveling the world attending major sporting events—not just marquee competitions like the Olympics and World Cup, but also the Irish hurling championships and Cricket World Cup.

According to Beaton’s piece, at the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul Conley was introduced to the Olympic pin-trading tradition. He subsequently brought some Boston sports apparel as a gift for the Japanese family that hosted him during the 1998 Games in Nagano.

The rest is bargain-bin history.

Certified sports nut graf:

What began as a casual endeavor turned into an elaborate operation over the years. He has now been to 17 Olympics, nine World Cups, six track and field championships, three Ryder Cups, two European soccer championships, and a Tour de France, among other events.

Read the whole thing. It’s a total hoot.

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