Every article which the Sports Board produces has an overarching question, a reason for putting the pen to paper and dedicating that precious time which might otherwise be spent in Kong eating crab rangoons.
In my several years as an editor here on the Back Page, I’ve noticed that we tend to preoccupy ourselves with strict questions of fact. The baseline: what was it that happened at the event? The more advanced: what were the storylines swelling beneath the impersonal box scores? The professionally done: how do you describe the rollercoaster of emotions which accompanied the swings of momentum? And when ambition is high, we might even occasionally venture into consideration of the ineffable: how is it that Gabby Thomas runs so fast?
After signing the porcellian and rattling off that last closeout, our writers indulge one final question in this, their Parting Shot. True to the name, these stories reorient our typical considerations of exceptional athletic performances to those who epitomize quite the opposite, our sportswriters. There is no prompt for these articles, yet everyone knows exactly what they will write. Imbued within these more accurately labeled reflective essays is the implicit question of, why?
This final, unspoken inquiry offers a story of its own. It contends that no reasonable person would dedicate so much time to covering something (often sailing) which will offer so little in return. That no true “sports fan” would discard the latter half of that identity in favor of journalistic impartiality. It’s also a story that has been writing itself every week for the past four years. It’s the story we repeat to ourselves as we swelter in the Pfoho Library at 3:00 a.m. writing that hopeless fencing recap, or when we leave campus at 4:30 a.m. to drive to Philadelphia and contract hypothermia as we write the gamer in the uncovered “press box” of Franklin Field. It is supposed by all to be a justified question. It is not.
I hold no undue prejudice concerning the Sports Board, yet a more warranted query is why anyone would write anywhere else. Even if you broaden your definition of “writing” beyond coherence, it's not clear what the Lampoon produces qualifies. Much like Yale, the Lampoon is housed in a peculiar building and maintains its relevance on account of its rivalry with a superior institution. In contrast, The Independent produces a single interesting issue each year concerning a topic for which Harvard students care less about than athletics. Within The Crimson, one faces the “difficult” task of determining whether they would rather disgorge either spineless opinions or those which they will undoubtedly regret in 10 years, scramble across campus gathering quotes on Allston, or write on the glory and heartbreak of the fellow student. I will not answer that which is self-evident.
Instead, I’d like to repurpose this article as a culmination of my controversy-riddled tenure in the Sports Cube. I’ve spent enough time peeling through the website’s analytics to know this article will be my least read ever. I can count as readers only my editors providing a quick glance, my parents not laughing, my successors looking for ideas for their own Parting Shots, and future employers. However, the website’s algorithm will place it above the double-overtime loss to Yale in my writer profile, a needed and welcome change which betrays my purpose in authorship.
The Crimson, however, taught me quite a bit more than just asking yourself strawman questions and then rejecting the premise — that I learned in Con Law. The Sports Board showed me how to lose with humility to the HPR in basketball, and then publish an elegant recap. I learned to lie to the News executives on a daily basis about my lack of a middle initial. I learned from FM how to effectively flip the entire Editorial office upside down. Handing out newspapers at the 2018 Commencement taught me an inky seat cushion or paper umbrella is often more appealing than News content. I learned not to wear headphones on your bike back to the Quad from The Crimson at 5:00 a.m. lest the Boston Globe delivery truck, which stops for no individual nor red light, nearly flatten you on four separate occasions.
As my journalism career draws to a close, I am indebted to G-reg for providing immeasurable inspiration, to Ithaca for the low hanging fruit suitable for every occasion, and to the Harvard Band for encouraging me with its horrid halftime performances. Most of all though, I thank the Yale Daily News for bravely declaring in no uncertain terms that Epstein did not, in fact, kill himself.