Column: Not in it for the glory
I sat through my last college class yesterday, POLS 2998, Sam Best's Polling in America. In the grand scheme of things, I guess this is a milestone. But it's not something I'm going remember 10 years from now. Heck, it's not something I'm probably going to remember 10 months from now.
I struggled for days thinking about what to write this, my last column at The Daily Campus, about. I could wax nostalgic about my time as a journalism student, but my colleague Taylor Trudon already beat me to the bunch. For inspiration, I looked back on some of the former Daily Campus columnists I admired: Kevin Duffy, Kevin Meacham and Dan Olender. Much of what they wrote was reflecting on their time as students, including their fondest memories. It was only today that I came to a realization – my fondest memories, the ones I remember most vividly, are all entwined with UConn sports.
I can't remember the first college class I took. I don't remember the first conversation I had with my roommate. I don't remember the morning of my first exam. But I do remember the first sporting event I attended on campus, an Aug. 25, 2007 men's soccer exhibition against Duke. I remember who I was with, what I was wearing, and the final outcome, a 1-0 loss for the Huskies.
I can't remember anything from Tim Kenny's Press In America class, but I can remember trying to track down Megan Cersosimo, then the women's lacrosse coach, while covering my first beat for The Daily Campus. I remember that season, a 1-15 campaign, all too well. But 10 or 20 years from now, I'll still probably remember the lone win over UC Davis.
For four years, I've marked the passage of time with the sports in season, soccer, football and field hockey in the fall; basketball and hockey in the winter; and baseball in the spring.
Sophomore year I remember the field hockey team's crushing defeat with no time left against Syracuse in the Big East championship. I remember that they held a press conference after the game, since it was the Big East championship after all, but that myself, Chris Brodeur, Lori Riley from the Hartford Courant and a couple of guys from the The Daily Orange were the only ones to attend.
Nancy Stevens, UConn's field hockey coach for the last 21 years, was one of the nicest people I've ever met. I remember the time she allowed Brodeur and me to wait to interview players in the hallway outside the locker room when she saw us standing outside and shivering in the cold. I remember how when Chris called her he'd always introduce himself as "Chris from The Daily Campus," and she made the joke that he should change has last name ala Chad Ochocinco.
That same winter, I covered Heather Linstad's women's hockey team. I can't remember what I did during winter break, or the classes I took that semester, but I remember the smell of sweat and stale air as Jake Goldberg and I stood outside the locker room waiting to talk to players.
One of the most common criticisms that I've gotten over the years about both my columns and my reporting is that I don't have what it takes to make it in the business – that I'll never be a sports reporter. But the truth is, I've never really wanted to be a sports reporter.
I've seen what's out there, I've seen the more "desirable" beats, like football and men's basketball here at UConn, and it's not for me. I'd sooner throw in the towel than have to sit through press conferences with a horde of other reporters and no real access to players or coaches. To all of my colleagues who say they want to be sports writers in Boston, cover the New York Yankees, I wish you the best, but is that really what you got into the business for?
To me, journalism is about telling stories. It's about one-on-one human interaction, not dealing with agents, spokespersons and sports information directors. It's about going into UConn rowing coach Jennifer Sanford-Wendry's office knowing nothing about the sport, and her taking the time to explain to me what a coxswain is. It's about UConn baseball coach Jim Penders sitting down with more for an hour and a half and telling me the story of his father and grandfather, both of who were coaches.
There's no crying in sports, and there's certainly no glory in sports journalism. You can't be in it for the glory, the A1 story or the byline. I never covered a BCS bowl, or a men's basketball national championship, but that's not why I started writing. It's things like an athlete Facebook messaging you after you write a feature piece about them. It's Linstad calling me back after I got her voicemail and apologizing that she couldn't call me back sooner because she was in an airport in Minnesota. It's Jim Penders telling me that the feature piece I wrote was "far too self-indulgent for me to read all the way through," but thanking me nonetheless.
Today marks the end of my time at The Daily Campus, and in all likelihood, the end of my sports writing career. Over my time here, the paper has made several formatting changes, including the ending of columns. Whereas today stories simply end with an e-mail, they used to have an ending that was italicized at the end of the column that said the author, the day the column ran and an e-mail. I remember in my last week of designing my freshman year, one of the edits I had to make was in regard to this. Where it said the author's column ran on Tuesdays, I had to change that it used to run on Tuesdays. And now, three years later, I'll save Colin McDonough, Thursday night's sports designer, the trouble.
Russell Blair's column used to run on Fridays. He will no longer be writing for this paper, but for the time being, he can still be reached at Russell.Blair@UConn.edu.
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