May 3, 2010

Fourth and Long: Goodbye and Thank You

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Emotion was never my strong suit. Of course, expressing emotion for a trivial ballgame or a player with a criminal record is the exception to the rule. I nearly cried tears of joy when Eli found Plaxico in the back corner of the end zone during the 2007 Super Bowl. I’ve even punched my Carlos Beltran cardboard cutout in half when Adam Wainwright handcuffed him with a curveball for the final out in Game seven of the 2006 National League pennant.

Sports bring out my best and worst emotions. However, writing a farewell column is an entirely different animal.

At times as a columnist, I felt myself pandering to the public. Why else critique the NBA Dunk contests like I give a damn during this pre-LeBron era in the Big Apple? However, I chose to write about such topical subjects occasionally in order to increase my number of online readers. I found tracking the number of newspapers in Trillium with spaghetti sauce on my face can be a bit cumbersome, but tracking my number of online readers takes just one push of a button.

As a diehard sports writer, any column that neared the 1,000 online reader plateau had me walking on air. Sure, the occasional unexpected compliment from an acquaintance or athlete on campus meant a lot. Even the not-so-complimentary feedback I received online made me believe that I had evoked raw emotion within at least one reader. However, it’s always been about the number of readers I was reaching … egotistical? Yes, but in the end that’s how every columnist feels. All columnists have that 13 year-old girl inside them who is clamoring for attention.

For over a year now, I have dreaded this final column. In high school, I copied someone else’s yearbook page when I discovered the depressing inability to evoke sincere emotion. It’s not that I’m not thankful, but anything other than your standard fist bump, chest bump, head bump or any other kind of bump leaves me in an uncomfortable situation. However, after four years of staid emotions, I feel obligated to genuinely and personally thank some of the people who have meant the most to me.

As non-athletes with no scandalous reputation to speak of, they are not the typical bunch I would tend to focus on in my columns. So, I would like to say goodbye to any chance of a high read count this week and graciously express my humble gratitude for the following people, who have read my columns not always for the content, but for the byline.

I would first like to thank the sports editors I have had the pleasure of working for over the past three years.

Josh Perlin: Thanks for your continual support even long after you have graduated. Your insights and advice regarding the sports media industry have been very helpful.

Cory Bennett, the self-proclaimed Tsar of the Sports Section: It was a privilege to work with you on the Board of The Cornell Daily Sun. I have admired your unsurpassed writing in the sports department and self-deprecating wit. Even after you graduated last year, I always felt as if I was writing for your approval.

Keenan Weatherford: As someone who tends to let minute details obscure the larger picture, I have always appreciated your vision for practical and innovative advancements in the sports department. I was extremely pleased to see you elected as the Editor in Chief of the 128th Board this year. I’m sorry Eli did not sign with your Chargers. Who knows they may have had a ring by now?

Alex Kuczynski-Brown: I remember the first time I trained you on Sun Style as a beginning writer. Now, you could train me. Good luck with the rest of your tenure as sports editor. I have enjoyed reading the back page headlines and captions since you assumed control.

Allie Perez: I was sad to see you leave the sports department to become the editor of Red Letter Daze, largely because of your strong Yankees allegiance and affinity for Cornell sports gossip. However, you did an amazing job as the RLD editor and encouraged me, as a student who only reads the Daily Sun sports section, to consistently check out RLD.

Meredith Bennett-Smith: I don’t care how much you detest the New York Giants or the five-time World Series champion who plays shortstop in the Bronx, you are the most entertaining person to talk to about sports. I always attempted to write my columns on nights that you were editing. You possess the uncanny ability to say things I was thinking, but could never articulate myself.

To my friends outside of the Sun: Mike Ostrander, Jimmy Qian, Chris Zappi, Ming Dang, Dan Goldstein, Jeremy Siegfried. This might surprise my mother and my brother (a sophomore in the Hotel School, where one’s social standing seems predicated upon who you know and how many friends you have on Facebook), but I did have a few close friends during my time in Ithaca. Upon entering Cornell, I believed you could classify your friends according to their sports acumen. I learned much from my friends, who have been there through the times when sports have failed to cheer me up. Thanks guys. Fist bump to all you, or weird cool dude handshake. Take your pick.

Papa Jay: I’m not sure if anyone has ever thanked a grandparent before, so you might be the first. However, I cannot ignore the fact that you have religiously read every story and column I have ever written. I cherish your unsolicited feedback regarding my work, but most of all I enjoy our discussions that are not sports related. Fifty years from now, I might not remember a single column I wrote in college, but I will always remember your tireless involvement and unwavering love and support.

Adam and Alex: As my two younger brothers, you will constantly live in the shadow of Greatness! I kid, I kid. On a serious note, I have some complimentary remarks that need to be stated and then we will never speak of this again.

Adam: According to mom and dad, when you were born, I asked if we could return you to the hospital. I guess I didn’t want anyone to steal my spotlight. However, as time passed, I found myself defending you on the playground, teaching you how to throw a baseball and telling you which teachers to avoid in school.

I was pleased when you decided to attend Cornell. Not solely because you are a smart and hardworking kid, but because you are a good friend, who I have come to appreciate over the years.

Alex: I crushed two homeruns a combined 800 feet in my first high school game as a freshman. Good luck competing with that. However, as that proved to be the pinnacle of my baseball career, you keep setting the bar higher every year, especially taking the hill as the team’s No. 1 starter this season. I have vicariously lived my baseball dreams through your successes and development on the mound, playing for a much larger and more prestigious high school baseball program. Although you have eclipsed my expectations for you athletically and academically, I will always be around to trounce you in NFL Blitz and NBA 2K10. Nothing makes me happier than watching you smash your Xbox controller into the ground.

Mom and Dad: Apparently, the sports media and sports business industry is a difficult field to crack. Regardless of this trend, I am excited to begin the sports management program at Columbia University next fall.  Thank you for never pressuring me into getting a “real” job and for encouraging me to seek employment in an area where I will be happy and motivated.

Mom: I have become a master at letting the Mother’s Day flowers or the various Bath and Body Works-related products I purchase each year for your birthday convey my deepest feelings and appreciation. Unfortunately, I doubt that cucumber melon hand soap I bought last August carries the same cachet as it did back when I was in middle school.

Although I don’t remember this, I am frequently reminded about refusing to sleep as a toddler until you and Dad lined up all of my stuffed animals on my bed and sang “Happy Birthday” to them. I am told this was a nightly occurrence. Twenty years later, I still feel the same. You have always had my best interest at heart.

Your holiday cards, Valentine’s Day candies, and Easter baskets always remind me of how much you care. My personal favorite is the letter I continue to receive every year in my stocking from “Santa Clause.” Ironically, you and Santa think a lot alike, as he had also taken a keen interest in my career path as expressed in last December’s missive.

I love you, Mom.

Dad: I remember how proud you were of the first story I had ever written (and illustrated) in Mrs. Farley’s first grade class. I focused my efforts on recreating a make-believe game between the Giants and Cowboys. In the span of seven pages, the Giants managed to win a nail-biter, “infinity to zero.” (Note: I hadn’t quite grasped the NFL scoring system in place at this juncture of my life.)

My writing has vastly improved since this crowning achievement of my childhood, and certainly within the last four years thanks in large part to your advice and suggestions. (Unfortunately, my drawing skills still leave something to be desired.) Any buffoon can write about sports, but your hands-on approach taught me how to present these events in an intriguing and eloquent manner.

As far as fathers go, you are in the upper echelon with Ward Cleaver and Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry. Whether it was on the baseball diamond or in the classroom, you always taught me the value of hard work and attention to detail. I should have never been the starting third baseman as an 11 year-old on the 12 year-old All-Star team, but it was the hundreds of ground balls you hit me before and after every practice that earned me this honor.

I look forward to attending many more ballgames and riding many more waves on the beach with you in the future.

I love you, Dad.

Kelly Murphy: The truth is if it wasn’t for that fire drill on August 29, 2007, I would have never had the courage to speak to someone as beautiful as you. Although I have learned so much about you since then and grown more comfortable around you, my heart has never really stopped pounding since that moment.

When you initially asked me if I liked dogs, the first memory I had was when I was in second grade. My friend’s poodle chased me all over his front yard and I ran like it was a fire-breathing Godzilla. I liked dogs on television. I liked dogs on a leash. I liked dogs behind a fence, but for you I was willing to like anything, even the Boston Red Sox. (Fortunately, you turned out to be a Giants season ticket holder and a mild New York Mets fan.)

What I knew then, what I knew when we got hot chocolate at Serendipity, what I knew at your grandparents’ picnic, what I knew when we went ice skating, what I knew on the beach, what I knew at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, what I knew at that Mets game, what I knew at our first movie, what I knew at our 21st movie is that you’ve always been my ideal girl.

After nearly three years together, I find myself informed about topics I previously knew nothing about. You’re one of the most intelligent, caring and giving individuals I know. I have been lucky to have you in my life and I look forward to many more years of happiness together.

I love you, Kell.

To the other six readers, who may or may not have accidentally clicked on something I wrote during the previous three years: I hope you appreciated my ability to write a story in 900 words when 500 may have sufficed. Perhaps, you may have also noticed my proclivity to insert subtle (okay, maybe not so subtle) references to the other team’s mascot if it was a member of the animal kingdom. Personal favorities include “Cornell managed to tame a notoriously ferocious Bulldogs’ attack…” and “a den of angry Bears from Providence, who heretofore have been in hibernation for an early winter.” Undoubtedly, the most memorable was “Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!” on the heels of a three-game sweep of Columbia, Princeton and Brown… What can I say? When your school nickname sparks images of a Crayola crayon, you have to take the opportunity whenever it presents itself to be creative with a fellow Ivy institution.

Whether debating the NFL tie-breaking system, fan etiquette, throwback jerseys, the future of LBJ (no, Government majors… not the 36th President), Derek Jeter or Eli Manning, it has been my pleasure and honor to appear within the pages of The Cornell Daily Sun. I thank you all for reading.

Original Author: Matthew Manacher