“My gift to all of you”
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 00:09
#Thatawkwardmomentwhen you go to a retirement press conference for a legendary coach and you feel really out of place.
I’ve been in situations before where I just felt like I didn’t belong; they’re really uncomfortable. I just kind of sit or stand around, unsure of what to do or how to fit in, it’s just really awkward.
For this Rhode Island native, the Calhoun retirement conference had that kind of feel to it. It felt weird.
Don’t get me wrong, I was stoked to be at that presser. I feel so blessed that I got to play such a part in the retiring of a legend, I really do. But at the same time, I felt like there were so many others who should have been in my spot on that floor instead of me.
I sat in my seat on the floor of Gampel Pavilion in the fifth row, behind VIP’s, and looked around at all the members of the media—people who had been around Calhoun for years—and I became uncomfortable.
First of all, I had never in my life covered a men’s basketball game. I looked around and could see Dom Amore, Jeff Jacobs, Kevin Duffy, Andy Katz and so many other media members that I hold in high regard who have at least something of rapport with the now-retired coach. I’d never spoken to the man in my life.
I was just there because that’s what you do as a sports editor. You cover big events.
I just sat there. I listened, I tweeted. I listened some more, then tweeted again. Listen then tweet, listen then tweet and so it went for the duration of the time. I had a story to write.
It felt even weirder looking at the stands and seeing hundreds and hundreds of people in attendance who cared a lot more than I did.
I almost felt dirty, kind of like a 13 year-old Red Sox fan back in 2004 who watched the Sox beat the Cardinals in the World Series, knowing that probably thousands of fans died never getting to see that moment. Yeah, it was that sort of thing.
You see, it wasn’t until around my eighth grade year that I first actually started to get into college basketball. I got most of my sports allegiances from my dad, who just wasn’t into college basketball because of all the upsets. He assumed the game was rigged—he wasn’t that far off, come to think of it.
So being a Rhode Islander, I didn’t really have a good team to root for. I just watched for the fun of it and never really pledged loyalty to any one team. What I knew about UConn basketball was that the women’s program was consistently at an elite level and the men’s team teetered year to year, between extremely good and mediocre.
Then I came to UConn and was thrust into this intense fan base of fiercely loyal fans. They were all so hardcore and though I would cheer, it was never at the level of people around me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a UConn fan and will always be; but nowhere near as much so as some of you are.
I spoke with many kids over the span of Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon who grew up eating, sleeping and breathing UConn basketball. I looked on at the large group of students, rabid fans of the Huskies for quite a long time. I felt a little guilty that I was in a spot that some of them deserved.
During the vast majority of my interest in college basketball, I observed Calhoun from a distance, I was kind of set apart. These guys were front-and-center and to many of them, the Calhoun retirement meant the end of an era that meant so much to them.
I’m sorry, but I just didn’t get that emotional. I honestly wouldn’t have been there, had it not been my job.
I think the moment when I felt the most awkward was afterward when I was immediately to the left of Kemba Walker in a small circle of people interviewing him. I accidentally bumped him with my iPhone while recording him, actually. I didn’t really have anything to ask him, but came up with something, got the quote and went on my way. It was cool, but not this epic moment that it would be for some.
All that being said, consider the addition to this newspaper, the jacket wrapped around the regular paper, my gift to all of you.
Keep it, cherish it. You deserve it. I worked pretty hard on it and want you all to have it.
Use it to remember not only the legend that is Jim Calhoun, but the times you spent with your family braving miserable nights to travel to Gampel for a game. Use it to remember when you and your buddies rushed the court against Texas or when you spent your spring break in New York so you could go to the Big East Tournament.
Treat it like you would a great movie.
“Oh you remember when he...?”
“Oh yeah! Or how about that shot when...?”
Sit around watching Youtube clips of those moments and remember the magic. But even more importantly, remember also the people alongside you who made it special, some of whom might no longer be with you.
Follow Dan on Twitter @DanAgabiti