NIT quarterfinal games rarely assume any enduring meaning, but Virginia’s loss to Iowa left me with a pervasive sense of sadness.
After the game, I heard underclassmen repeatedly reassure themselves to “Just wait until next year.” But for those of us who will be gone next year, that sentiment is somewhat bittersweet.
My second and third year, I covered the basketball team for this paper and watched every game from the press area. I would never trade that experience, but after two seasons feigning objectivity, I overcompensated my senior year with borderline obnoxious fandom. The last 19 games, I gradually moved from the corners of the student section to the center of the front row, sporting the same stupid orange hat and “Ice Cold AKIL-ler” poster each contest. I let myself feel intimately invested in the team’s success, and the end of the Virginia basketball season became a sort of metaphor for the end of my college years.
My final Cavalier Daily feature will run this Friday, and in it I talked to fellow fourth-year Jontel Evans — Virginia’s senior point guard who was truly invested in the team — about his own experience moving on from the program.
I wish I shared his sense of finality and closure. Thursday is my 22nd birthday, and apologies to Taylor Swift, but I’m just not feeling 22. I don’t want to grow up, to let go.
The Cavalier Daily is my closest equivalent to a team, and the nature of a newspaper is to publish a story and move on to the next one. As sports editor for two years, I rarely reflected on any one story, but now I can’t help nostalgically revisiting certain memories.
During my four-year tenure here, I watched my share of crushing losses, including a front row view of Virginia’s last-minute meltdown in the 2010 ACC Tournament. But I also covered the only Virginia softball team to go to Regionals, the only football team to go to a bowl game, and the only basketball team to make the NCAA Tournament during those four years.
I watched the Chick-fil-A Bowl from the Georgia Dome’s press box and watched last year’s Duke-U.Va. game with the Cameron Crazies on press row. I covered Will Roberts’ perfect game and Mike Scott’s near-perfect season.
Less frequently but more importantly, I watched stories transcend sports and put the games in perspective. I covered the George Huguely trial, which inevitably trivialized sports in comparison to a family’s intense pain. I also saw the beautiful role sports can play in tragedies. I wrote about Jared King losing both his parents to cancer, and how the baseball field became his escape. Later that spring, I read my editor’s touching column about losing his own dad to cancer and his father’s pride in raising two sons to love sports almost as much as he did.
There’s a corner in my closet with stacks of old print newspapers, each of them containing some article I wrote and wanted to memorialize. I don’t know if I’ll ever reread my pieces about Virginia softball’s midweek doubleheader against Radford, but I also can’t bring myself to discard them.
When I move to Palo Alto this August, I will probably leave hundreds of these newspapers behind, sitting in some cardboard box to gather dust. Maybe I’ll forget about them, until I open up a crumbling box one day and realize it contains much of my four-year college experience.
But when I actually analyze my experience at The Cavalier Daily — or this University — I never remember those articles. The pieces will quickly become outdated: players will graduate, coaches will change, conferences will realign, again. Even the physical newspapers themselves will become obsolete. Next year, The Cavalier Daily will only publish in print twice a week. Eventually, it will stop printing altogether.
That cardboard box, however, will never fully reflect everyone who helped produce its content. So thank you to the people on the paper who made my experience there unforgettable. Thank you, Andrew Seidman, for not only pulling me into journalism, but teaching me to take it seriously. Thank you, Nick Eilerson, for teaching me to never take myself too seriously and giving me faith that good sports journalists are not a dying breed. Thank you, Ian Rappaport, for showing me the true meaning of perseverance. Thank you, Fritz Metzinger and Daniel Weltz, for doing a better job as sports editor than I ever did.
Thank you to the people outside the paper who helped make my experience possible. Thank you to my roommates for celebrating my first article and then listening to me complain about every subsequent one. Thank you, Mom, for being my biggest fan in all I do. Thank you, Dad, for being my first editor and most regular reader and for teaching me to love sports at all.
And thank you, Matt Welsh, for being my greatest advocate both on the paper and outside of it. You are unequivocally the best writer I know and my best friend.
Ultimately, I will have no trouble leaving behind my box of old newspapers. I won’t miss the long nights in Newcomb’s basement, tinkering with those godforsaken headlines — I hear law school will kill my lingering love of writing anyway.
Yet I struggle to leave behind all of these people. As Jontel said, I wish I had one more year with you, I wish I could spend just a little longer with you.
Last year, Matt Welsh and I wrote in our Letter from the Gridiron Editors: “People have asked us, after the consecutive all-nighters, the demotivational Charlie Brown posters and the dinners of Gobstoppers and Captain Crunch, was it all worth it?
Of course not.”
But I want to formally redact that statement. I never presumed many people actually read my work, but I was never really writing for them anyway. I was writing partly because I hoped to change the paper for better, but mostly because the paper changed me for the better. And it was worth it — not because of any cardboard box full of newspapers — but because of all of you.