The question I received most frequently during my four years at Harvard wasn’t about the classes or the one-of-a-kind opportunities at the College. Rather, it was: “Do you want a career in sports journalism?”
The first few times I confronted this question, I didn’t have an answer. Hell, as a wide-eyed freshman, I didn’t have strong intentions of covering sports for The Crimson, much less pursuing a full-time future in sports journalism. Come to think of it, I can’t even remember what drew me to my first comp meeting at 14 Plympton. Flash forward, though, and being a part of the Sports Board in some ways grew to define my Harvard career.
In the fall of 2016, I tested the sports-writing waters with my earliest (now funny to re-read) stories: women’s volleyball, men’s soccer, and other teams. Back then, the Sports Board was top-heavy, chock-full of juniors and seniors with refined writing skills and high social engagement with the board.
I cherish the time spent with those upperclassmen during my freshman fall: walking across the Charles River with Ariel, Julio, and Kurt to watch soccer or field hockey games; learning the basics of Crimson style from Theresa and Stephen; meeting Sam, Troy, and other future leaders of the board at social events. These moments drew me in. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be part of something like that—a group that extended far beyond the bleachers and press boxes—for the next four years.
The comp was fun and informative, but suddenly it was over. It was time to choose a beat or, like some compers inevitably do, fizzle out and find new extracurricular activities. A bit oblivious to the usual pecking order, I submitted an application to a “Big Three” beat: men’s ice hockey. On a top-heavy board, underclassmen didn’t usually contend for the Big Three; those who had proven themselves on smaller beats did. But hockey was my passion—the sport of all sports. Its traditions, reverence for team over individual, and combination of power and finesse are all incredibly unique. And Harvard’s team was really, really good.
Today, I still have no clear recollection of how or why I started down the Sports rabbit hole. This makes it all the more puzzling that freshman Spencer felt compelled to interview for one of the most demanding beats on the board. I am so glad he did, though.
I am endlessly indebted to Jake Meagher, the outgoing men’s hockey writer at the time, for giving me a chance in the interview process, bringing me onto the beat during the program’s 2017 Frozen Four run, and trusting a freshman to take the reins. Jake graduated, and suddenly I faced the challenge of total ownership over the beat.
As I write this, the one emotion that continually surfaces is gratitude. Sportswriters for The Crimson rarely have the chance to cover the same team for four seasons. This is especially the case when that sport is men’s hockey. I’ve had such a singular opportunity to cultivate multi-year relationships with coach Ted Donato, his players, and the surrounding staff of athletic trainers, equipment managers, and hockey operations directors. My interactions with all of these people proved progressively more rewarding as time went on.
The men’s hockey program was so patient and gracious to me. Ted and his players made themselves available at my weekly visits to practice and after every game, even when the results were disheartening or when a full bus was waiting outside the rink for a long overnight trip back to Cambridge. One of my favorite morsels from covering men’s hockey was seeing the players’ faces when we locked eyes outside the visiting locker room at a faraway rink. I had traveled across the Northeast to watch them skate and take a few quotes afterward while having other student obligations just like them. When the guys played well, they read about it in my stories. When they didn’t, the same was true. From all of this, I think, respect developed between the program and me.
That respect is the foundation of my enjoyment covering the team over the last seven semesters. It drastically improved the quality of my interviews. It allowed me to gain access that few professional college hockey beat writers can attain. It meant that, if I simply kept my eyes open and my ear to the ground, I would ask the right questions and get to know and appreciate a group of student-athletes who are so often misunderstood on Harvard’s campus.
The Harvard men’s hockey players I knew were solid teammates and even better friends to each other. They were open to growing under the mentorship of Ted Donato and his staff. They were at the pinnacle of their craft but still made time for me as a lowly beat writer. They cared about their academics and embraced the difficulty in balancing the student and the athlete.
On their side of the river, too, I was part of something meaningful. For that, I’ll be eternally grateful.
I’m thankful for the good music, thoughtful discussions, and sometimes questionable dinners on long road trips with Stuti, Tim, and Amanda. I’m thankful for the mid-practice and late-night musings about the team with Jeff and Paul. I’m thankful for the opportunity to watch over 30 high-quality hockey games a year and preserve my connection with the game I love. I’m thankful for my seats in the press boxes at Madison Square Garden, TD Garden, Lynah Rink, and most of all the Bright-Landry Hockey Center. And I’m thankful for the community of sports fans and beat writers at 14p, the countless meetings and stories, Champagne Showers, Final Press Run, and all the friendships that bloomed from these memories.
Whether The Crimson is part of your Harvard experience or not, I urge you to be part of something. It’ll give you so much to be thankful for.