July 15, 2004

'Important in The Impact it Has on Other Lives'

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Josh Hill was never the star of his team. The 6-7, 225-pound center was more of a role player in his two-plus seasons with the Yale men’s basketball team. But after missing most of the past two years with an injury, he was excited to return for his senior season with the Bulldogs this year.

Josh Hill was killed in a car accident near Atlantic City, N.J. on May 27. He was 22.

Scot Elwood ’06, similarly, was not the star. He played a supporting role on the Cornell wrestling team his freshman season, helping to add depth to an emerging national powerhouse headlined by the likes of Travis Lee and Clint Wattenberg ’03. He was considered the consummate teammate.

Scot Elwood died when he inadvertently fell off a path near the Fall Creek Gorge on Sept. 18. He was 18.

Jaime McManamon ’07 was a freshman who held a lot of promise. As a shot putter for the Cornell track team and a defensive lineman for the football team, he was looking forward to three years of glory in Cornell’s various venues when he left Ithaca one weekend during finals to attend his younger sister’s first communion.

Jaime McManamon was the victim of a one-car accident on Interstate 86 in Chautauqua County, N.Y. He was 19.

George Boiardi ’04 was a leader. As a short-stick defenseman, he didn’t necessarily stand out on the playing field, but any of his teammates would tell you that what he contributed to the Cornell men’s lacrosse team was invaluable.

George Boiardi died on March 17 after he was struck in the chest with a ball during a game. The co-captain was 22.

Death is never an easy thing to bear, especially when the person who dies is so young. But with a young athlete, in the prime of his competitive years, in the best shape of his life, it seems all the more cruel.

Sometimes, though, it takes unmitigated tragedy such as a death to put things in perspective. To any journalist, having an article placed on the front page is a great accomplishment. For a sports writer, it’s a rare and usually admirable feat. As sports editor, I saw my byline on the front page far too often this past year.

Athletics have much to offer to a society, and much to offer specifically to a college community. But ultimately, to most people, sports are simply forms of entertainment. It’s the relationships we derive out of sports that are invaluable.

When I read in the New York Times earlier this summer that Josh Hill had died, all the thoughts and feelings I had experienced after the deaths of three Cornell athletes this year came rushing back. The more I read about Josh, the more I realized how similar that situation was to the other three. And that made it just a little bit easier to take.

Sitting in Sage Chapel during George Boiardi’s memorial service in March, I listened as teammate after teammate talked about how big an influence George had on each of them. I was reminded of Jackie Robinson’s quote, that “a life is important only in the impact it has on other lives.” In this respect, George’s life — as well as Scot’s and Jaime’s and Josh’s — was vitally important.

Everyone at Cornell, athlete and non-athlete alike, will find that niche in which their life will have that amount of importance.

Cornell is a big place, but the smaller communities within it make it more bearable. Whichever of these communities you fit into will become your Cornell family. There will be many aspects of your college experience that will make you cynical or jaded, and sometimes it will take a tragedy to put things in perspective. But remember always that more likely than not, it will be the friendships you make that will best define your Cornell experience.

Owen Bochner is the Sun Sports Editor. In The O-Zone will appear every other Friday this semester. Owen can be contacted at sportsed@cornelldailysun.com.

Archived article by Owen Bochner