May 1, 2007

The Link Between Sports, Writing; The Answer to ‘Got Game?’

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My column has always been a question, and I was at once dead scared and intensely excited every time it was asked. I wake up on alternate Tuesdays in limbo –—wanting desperately to hear a comment about my column, yet terrified about what that comment might entail. It was a feeling that I have come to love and am not quite ready to see go. Indeed, that very question is yet to be fully answered.
Sports. Writing. Sports writing. It was a simple connection that took me much too long to recognize, but in doing so I found something uniquely liberating.
The sports part was always there. I enjoyed the opportunity to extend my competitive athletics career four years past the average, and although I, how do I say, sucked at it, I developed a sincere appreciation for, not just college football, but sports in general. Yes, sports were always there, but here, at Cornell, they meant even more, they consumed my life, giving me so much, while simultaneously stealing it away. Sports were going to matter, it was practically unavoidable.
The writing part? Not so easy. Writing this column is terrifying. Fun? Absolutely, but certainly terrifying as well. As an English major, I was always writing, but it was not like this. Faulkner or postmodernism can be described using someone else’s language, someone else’s ideas. Here, that is impossible. As much as I tried to merely objectively communicate an idea in this column, it was often — okay always — extremely self-revealing, more about me than anything else. That’s probably not good journalism, but that is just the way it is. I was on display, and despite the few actual readers, I felt anonymous watchful eyes nonetheless.
And it became a part of me, a biweekly chance at expression that was more satisfying than anything I have ever done. Sometimes I tried to be funny, other times contemplative, other times serious — but always diverse, to give the few readers a little bit of everything, things to think about, questions to ask. It seems there is still so much to say, but the rest will just have to wait.
“No excuses, no regrets” was the slogan of one of my years of high school football and I keep that phrase close in whatever I do.
You will find none of either here.
This space, and The Sun in general, has meant the world to me, and there are certain folks I have to thank for making it happen. (Apologies to all those omitted, understand that you have not gone unnoticed.)

Cornell — I hated you the first semester of my freshman year and now I can’t imagine my life without you. Hail to thee.
Olivia Dwyer — I hope you truly understand how grateful I am for my place at the Sun — I owe that, in no short measure, to you. I am deeply indebted for the chance you took on me as a writer and appreciate all of your help in my development. Sorry I sometimes hogged the ball in IM hoops.
Paul Testa — Your comments made my columns inordinately better and I respect the amount of creative control you allowed me to have. It was a great feeling whenever you called to ask my advice on one of your columns, especially because I am certain you didn’t need it. I value your friendship much more than your editorship. (Were I as good of a writer as you, I would have included the words ethos and cross-pollination in this tribute.)
Bob Everett — You encouraged me as a writer more than anyone, and I regard you as a mentor and a friend.
Graham Dow and Whitney Hughes — Covering basketball and soccer would have been impossible for me without my insider connections. When I was in desperation mode, you two provided me “last resort” interviews all too often.
Buck Briggs and Bernie DePalma — Each of you made my life incredibly easy by practically writing a column for me with your quotes and information. Your wisdom and honesty are unparalleled.
Eric — Thanks for correcting that egregious error in my first column that could have made me the laughing stock of the hillbilly universe. And for pretending to read my columns even though you hate to read.
Jen — Interestingly, our relationship has spanned practically the exact same time as my column has run, and you have been the definitive editor, collector, commenter, and encourager. Thank you so much for everything, column-related and everywhere else.
Anyone who ever said anything about my column (or just read it) — As scary as it was preparing for what you might say, your opinions, and hopefully your readership, were the driving force behind my work.
Katy — Even though you make me look like the black sheep of the family, I am so proud to be your brother and always love when you laugh at my jokes that aren’t even funny.
Mom — Walt Disney, your favorite, said, “People look at you and me to see what they are supposed to be. And, if we don’t disappoint them, maybe, just maybe, they won’t disappoint us.” You are unbelievable and because you have definitely fulfilled the first part, I strive to live up to the second part of Disney’s quote.
Dad — In the sports world we toss around the word “hero” like it is meaningless. Know that when it is said right here, it has all the meaning in the world. You are my hero.

Got Game? comes from a t-shirt that rips off the “Got Milk?” slogan, and was meant to promote a young athlete training program. Every time I wear the shirt, some pseudo-player always makes the obligatory “Yes,” comment, confusing me until he points at my shirt and I say, “Good one, very original.” But the question was more than a phrase on a shirt and certainly more than adolescent cockiness. It was — as selfish as it sounds — something I constantly needed to know about myself. Specifically, on any given day, did I bring my game? To the classroom, to the field, and then to the back page of The Sun. The answer was, without a doubt, not always “Yes.”
But, this column was always about questions — the consequence of a hopeless over-thinker with an endless wonderment about the world of sports and beyond. Hopefully, if I did my job correctly, I asked you to think about those questions as well.