I came to grips long ago with the fact that I'm not exactly the world's greatest athlete. Instead, I had to settle for other ways to satisfy my life-long love of sports: for competition, for the camaraderie of a team. By now, you'd think I'd be pretty good at it.
There's just something unique about athletics. Something that draws people together, that drives people apart, that is always there to be the topic of a meaningless argument, or that is the bond that pulls even the most dissimilar people together. In its simplest form, sport is brute human nature, played out for all to see. In its most complex form, it is a microcosm of an increasingly demanding world.
What else could bring the perpetually feuding North and South Korea together other the opportunity to compete under the same flag at the Olympics? Who else could inspire as much hope in the face of grave illness than the cancer-surviving cyclist Lance Armstrong? Who better to personify courage and grace under the burden of virulent racism and prejudice than Jackie Robinson, the most transcendent figure of the 20th Century?
There's a lot to be cynical about in contemporary sports. There's enough excess and narcissism to make anyone want to turn away in disgust. But then there are the games themselves. Watch any Little League baseball, youth soccer, or Pop Warner football game and you'll know what I mean. Sports are for everyone — not just the Olympic medallist or the world champion. They're for everyday people, not just for the star quarterback or center fielder.
Athletics gives us heroes, reasons to cheer, and ways to forget about reality for just a little while. That's why we play and why we watch. That's why we love sports.
And that's what this column has been about.
In Scott Jones' last sports column, he listed all of the things that he knew he'd miss about The Sun. To me, it was the most poignant part of a touching farewell. I'm sure Scott won't mind if I add a list of my own.
What do I miss from my time at The Sun? Voluntary press box banishments; movies with Andy and Erica; pilfering The Crimson's 8-ball; Sparks!; scaring the designers; staging shouting matches with Freda in front of a room full of compets; road trips with E.J.; Vast; Monday nights at Wegmans; writing unnecessarily mean daynotes; Beirut tournaments at Brain's; pretending that covering a hockey game makes a weekend productive; bullshitting with J-Hart, BK, and Larry; Scrubs; the pure satisfaction derived from finishing a sports supplement early, then seeing everyone read it in class the next day; The O.C.; Sinovsky's alcoholism; defending Kyle after literally every column he writes; nuclear coffee; fixing the clock after Chris knocks it off the wall; Viva; being part of the shadow government; Sunnieade; putting out an unbelievable product every day of the week with some of my best friends.
When I was searching for a title for my sports column, I was looking for something that was concise, simple, and inoffensive - a moniker to match my personality. I agonized for about a week over several alternatives during the summer before my sophomore year. Then, one night, I had several friends over after a long week of summer jobs and activities. They suggested a play on both my first name and a common sports cliché. I loved it. In The O-Zone was born.
For something that was just a space filler beside my name on the back page every two weeks, In The O-Zone has become much more. It's been my identity at The Sun - a nickname, an inside joke, a theme that the sports department lived by.
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It used to be rare that a sophomore was awarded a Sun sports column. Though it's more common now, I have always been mindful of how fortunate I was to be in the right place at the right time in the fall of 2002. A lot of people have helped to shape what In The O-Zone has been all about.
First, to my family. I could never have done any of this without your encouragement, support, and understanding. I know I'm not the easiest person to be around at times, but thank you for always being there anyway.
Alex, Ali, Alexa, Ashley, Jeff, Jesse, and Brian Ø we are the lucky ones. Who else can say that they remained so close to such great friends after so much time?
To Bill Moore, one of the best-kept secrets in Cornell athletics. I can't imagine a football or hockey game without you holding down your corner of the press box. Don't let the new kids get out of hand … and be sure to give me a ring if they do.
To Jeremy Hartigan, Brian Kelley, Eric Lawrence, Tyler Denison, Elli Harkness, Marlene Crockford, Laura Stange and Carmie Zink (the latter two of whom have since moved on) - the people of the best sports information office in the Ivy League and by far the coolest people on the Cornell campus. Your help is invaluable and always appreciated. It's been a pleasure working and trash talking with you.
To Cornell Athletics, especially Andy Noel, Steve Erber, Anita Brenner '87, Frank Araneo, Gene Nighman '81, and Jeff Hall, thank you for running a first-class operation. You made my job easy.
To all the athletes and coaches I've had the privilege of working with, including Jenny Graap '86, Steve Donahue, Jeff Tambroni, Mike Schafer '86, Jim Knowles '87, Jamiee Reynolds '02, Ryan McClay '03, Ka'Ron Barnes '04, Ryan Vesce '04, Greg Hornby '04, Kevin Rooney '04, Tim DeBlois '04, Dave Archer, Brad Kitlowski, Kevin Rex, Eric Taylor, Matt Moulson, and Sean Greenhalgh, you've given me some of my favorite memories at Cornell and have been an important part of my education. I just hope I represented you well.
To Karen Berkley, Sue Detzer, Becky Hollenback-Miller, and Thelma Reeves - the true unsung heroes of the athletic department. Thanks for everything.
To Pete Noyes, Roger Weiss '61, Fred Devlin '67, Buck Briggs '76 and everyone else associated with Cornell Football. You are all class acts - people I aspire to be like some day.
For as much as my beloved 122nd has accomplished, we could not have done any of it without the work of those who have come before us. To paraphrase Sir Issac Newton, we've done so much only because we stood on the shoulders of giants.
In that vein, I say thank you to all of the Sunnies who have come before me; without you I'd be nothing.
To J.V. Anderton '01, I only had the privilege of meeting you once, but from our many phone conversations through the years, I know I have inherited your passion for this place. Sorry we couldn't make it out to East Lansing this year.
To Shiva Nagaraj '02, you were my first editor at The Sun, and in my eyes, you will always be the benchmark against which all sports editors are measured. Thank you for showing me how remarkable a place this can be. You expected a lot from me, maybe because I just wouldn't go away freshman year. I can only hope that I lived up to your expectations.
To Charles Persons '02, I remember the first piece of advice you ever gave me: “Laura hates men.” Of course that's not actually true, but what I learned from you goes far beyond words of wisdom. In many ways, you trailblazed the path I ultimately followed at The Sun. Thanks for paving the way; yours were lofty shoes to fill.
During my two years as a Sun editor, I was often compared to Amanda Angel '03. Now, it may not have always been in the most flattering of lights, but I can think of no greater compliment I could have received. You made the sports section what it is today - a first-class, high-quality institution that is The Sun's crowning jewel. You were very demanding of your staff and editors, but there's no doubt that it's paid off.
I was always impressed by Alex Fineman's '03 random sports knowledge, humor, and awesome desking efficiency. There's no doubt you helped raise the bar and improve the paper's quality. Your advice has been invaluable. Thank you also to Mr. Fineman, who is one of the kindest and most generous people I've ever met.
To Scott Jones '04, how's my favorite Baptist minister? Well, since you basically taught me how to be an editor, I owe everything I've done here to you. While we all would have loved it if you stuck around a little bit longer as an editor, that doesn't take anything away from what you did accomplish here. Thanks for being such a great friend.
Quite simply, Alex Ip '04 is the man. You always liked to complain about how much you hated this place, but those of us around you always knew that you wouldn't trade your editorship for anything. You always put everything you had into whatever you did, and it showed. I'm a better person for having known you.
To Beth Hershkovits '03, Maggie Frank '03 and the 120th, you were the first editorial board I really got to know as a young Sunnie. From you, I learned the true meaning of dedication.
My first year as an editor was enriched by Nate Brown '04, Marc Zawel '04, Laura Rowntree '04, Andrew Gilman '04 and the other members of the 121st. We were the first board to occupy the Sun building, and you guys helped make it feel how a good home should.
It's been said plenty of times before, but it's worth saying again. The Sun is nothing without its staff. I'd like to think I got to work with one of the best. Forgive me for not saying this more often - you do amazing work. Special thanks to my friends Kristen Hanuss '03, Matt James '04, Per Ostman '04, Jon Auerbach and Mike Pandolfini.
“Borrowing” Brian Tsao from the news department to be my special soccer correspondent was the best move I made as sports editor. You're a very talented reporter, but much more importantly, you're damn fun to be around. And, yes, you're a closet alcoholic.
Olivia Dwyer and Bryan Pepper, welcome to The Sun's greatest tradition. Take your work seriously, because a lot of people count on it, but make sure you always have fun. You're going to treasure this experience for the rest of your lives.
Without pictures, all a newspaper would be is a big, gray, ugly mess - much like this monstrosity of a page. Thankfully, The Sun has some pretty awesome photographers. In particular, Rob Bonow, Ali Pivoda, and especially Adam Sinovsky, helped make the sports section look great every day. They've also been awesome road trip companions and even better friends.
No one outside of The Sun ever hears about our full-time staff members. Inside our walls though, everyone knows how invaluable their contributions are. Special thanks are due to John Schroeder '74, Linda Holzbaur, Susan Bishop, Amy Wilson, Marty Waters, John Nigro, and Rob Lieberfarb. Thanks also to Stan Chess '69, Larry Arnold '88, Alan Flaherty '62 and the Cornell Daily Sun Alumni Association. I know I speak for my classmates when I say how much we appreciate everything you've done for us.
It's no secret that I was pretty unhappy for most of my time at Cornell. That all changed about 15 months ago, when the 122nd editorial board began to compet. I have never been associated with a more eclectic, interesting, or talented group of individuals. Of all the changes I've seen The Sun go through in my four years, the change that I'm most proud of is the level of mutual respect the members of this board had for each other. That is the biggest reason why we did what we did. It's been our most important accomplishment.
To Andy Guess, do you remember that party after elections last March, when I said there was no one I would have rather lost the EIC race to than you? Well, I meant it then and I still mean it now. It's been an honor to call you my boss, and an even greater honor to call you my friend.
To Erica Stein, you're quite possibly the smartest person I've ever met. You're also one of my favorite drinking buddies. It was so much fun having my desk right outside your stinky office (I know, I know, you're right next to the dumpster). So, you get World Series tickets, I get Oscars tickets? Fair?
Freda Ready and I must have done something wrong. The managing editor and the sports editor are supposed to loathe each other, not be great friends. Thanks for keeping my ego in check, my obsessive-compulsiveness under control, and my boys (relatively) well behaved.
Diana Lo, you got a job! See, I knew you would. It's too bad we're both living at home in different cities next year, thus foregoing any semblance of a social life. But we can still go wine shopping any time.
Erica Temel and Eric Finkelstein may be a bit of an odd couple, but they are going to lead the 123rd to significant heights. I swell with pride when I see what they've done already. They each have some of my best dork characteristics (how's that for irony?), so what's not to be proud of? With apologies to Freda, sometimes it feels like they were my assistants as much as they were hers.
To Katy Bishop, Amy Green, Zach Jones, Chris Mitchell, Pete Norlander, and the rest of greatest editorial board in the history of The Sun, we had quite a run, didn't we? Thanks for the great times, the inviting office atmosphere, the parties, the Beirut tournaments, and the random sketchiness. I don't think any of us will ever work with as fun a group of people again.
Now, on to my boys in the sports corner. One of my biggest regrets at Cornell was not joining a fraternity. Turns out I had my own right here at The Sun. The best part of being sports editor was knowing that I had the three of you to back me up. I love you guys.
To Chris Mascaro, you never cease to amaze me. I don't think anyone has ever made as much progress in such a short period of time at The Sun. I am so proud of what you've accomplished so far and I can't wait to see what you will in the next several months. You are a great person and that will take you far in life.
To Kyle Sheahen, I couldn't think of a better protégé. I am so impressed by you and everything you do that sometimes it's intimidating. I'll never forgive myself for making you become an editor while you were in the middle of pledging, but the way you handled it all is inspiring. You are the most remarkable, well-rounded and respectable individual most people will ever have the privilege of knowing.
To E.J. Hullverson, I don't think there's actually a proper way to say thank you. For being my right-hand man and for being one of my closest friends. For making my job that much easier and for making me live a little, dammit. I know you had your apprehensions when you first signed on to be an editor, but I hope that now you feel - as I do - that it was worth it.
It's weird. I used to long for my last day as a Cornell student more than anything. That day came on Dec. 2. It didn't exactly feel as good as I always thought it would. That afternoon, I wandered up towards Schoellkopf Field, as I did countless times as sports editor. The goalposts were down and the vacant field felt barren and forbidding. But still, I felt at home. As I imagine I always will.