“Why did you do that? ‘I was thinking the tree and the bike came out and the car almost hit me.’ What? Why did you do that?”
I’ll be honest and say I don’t quite remember the context, but it’s with this semblance of an analogy that Kentucky coach John Calipari addressed the room following a 79-70 win over Harvard this past December. It’s a quote that would never make it into a story on the game, mostly because I don’t think anyone in the room actually knew what he was trying to say.
But given the little pedestal I’ve been granted for these last words, I figured I’d share it for the record.
Over the past four years at The Crimson, this is how I’ve come to see this labor of love that is sportswriting—as recordkeeping. It’s telling everything that isn’t in the box score or in hundred word recaps. It’s keeping a record the little things—bits such as coach Calipari’s struggle to put thoughts to words or an alley-oop pass that actually turned out to be a three in a pretty important basketball game.
It’s realizing that fifty years from now, the only semblance of a narrative for an insignificant basketball game might be the words I put to paper at 14p.
But I won’t dramatize the work I’ve done—it’s far from glamorous. Sitting in freezing rain and driving to Ithaca on the weekends isn’t how most envision college after all. And that doesn’t even begin to tell the story. There are coaches who enjoy saying something is off the record about a couple sentences after they’ve said something and to the surprise of many, there are few gas stations in western Massachusetts.
Sportswriting—particularly at a school and publication where sports are often in the background—is really keeping a record of what would otherwise go forgotten. It’s composing a narrative that says ‘I was there’ regardless of how unimportant it was to be there. Really it has been a labor of fitting in little details, such as the chants of “Let’s Play Football” after the Harvard men’s basketball team ended Yale’s two years without a loss in New Haven. It’s making a note of the unfortunate fact that two years ago a women’s basketball home game had more Princeton fans in the stands than Harvard. After all, the box score only says what attendance was, not who they were rooting for.
Time will pass and I’ll probably forget most of these little bits, but I’m happy to say I had the chance to put most of it in writing.
With these last words, then, I mostly just want to leave a record of the little bits and pieces and memories that have made my days in and outside the halls of the Crimson so particular.
I’ll begin with an admission. To the freshmen I oversaw as comp director—it’s important you should know Henry Elkins Widener and John W. Weeks were never members of the sports board. I lied.
With that out of the way, I’ll be honest and say I’m struggling to find what the most salient bits and pieces were. If I were to go back to that trip to Kentucky, I have a lasting image of two nearly seven-foot tall basketball players attempting to fit into the economy seats of a flight. It was the first time in my life I felt okay about never reaching a size that would have allowed me to pursue a career in basketball.
I’d also remiss if I didn’t make a mention the Columbia Marching Band one last time. For the past two years this jubilant ensemble has made the trip to New York well worth it. From your wildly inappropriate chants to referees all the way to my discovery of your constitution, you’ve made me appreciate what a terrible band can do for a school.
To the Ithaca Police Department—I’ll forever be grateful for the two tickets you never gave me and my co-writer for speeding twice in the same day. For the past two years I’ve done nothing but bash on your fair city but really it’s just Cornell that’s holding you back.
To Ryan Fitzpatrick—I’m sorry I yelled “where the hell is Ryan Fitzpatrick” while standing right behind you after being told you were in Lavietes Pavilion. It was inappropriate and it made both of us uncomfortable.
To ABBA—myself and the entirety of the sports board are forever in your debt. Dancing Queen has taken cultish dimensions among our membership and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
To the design executive who once “might’ve” saved the sports page in the “wrong folder,” leading me on a two-hour search for it—I still haven’t forgiven you.
To the members of the sports board who struggled with deadlines, keeping me in the building for what was often much more than two hours—I forgive you.
For the record, and as with most things I’ve done for this publication, this is coming in well past the deadline. My apologies and my genuinely sincerest thank you.