The truth is that before college I was never a fantastic writer. I know I’m not the most talented one now, either. There were certainly plenty of stronger writers that preceded me as sports editor and plenty more who will follow. I didn’t join The Cavalier Daily my first year because I was the best scribe, although hopefully I have improved over these past four years. I didn’t join because I wanted to report the news, although I hope I reported it well. And I didn’t join because of any real enthusiasm for journalism or the English language, although I know for a fact both of those came as I matured. I joined the The Cavalier Daily because there was nothing I was more passionate about than University sports. The newspaper gave me an opportunity to do something good with that passion.
As a third-generation Wahoo, I’ve always inhaled all the Virginia sports information I could get. From The Roanoke Times to The Daily Progress to the counter-culture blogs like Wahooze, I couldn’t get enough. My high school friends used to laugh that I could name the entire Virginia starting offensive line. I was disappointed I couldn’t always name their backups. I attended home football games every weekend, remembering fondly the days of Marques Hagans, Heath Miller and Chris Long. I followed the rise of Virginia basketball from Pete Gillen to Tony Bennett. I witnessed Dom Starsia and the men’s lacrosse team win the 2011 national championship. Virginia this, Virginia that. I’m sure my Dad was proud.
The Cavalier Daily gave me a way to get closer to the coaches and players I idolized growing up. And I’m so thankful I did just that. I worked my way up to cover the football and men’s basketball teams my third year. I did things I had always dreamed of — participating in press conferences with Tony Bennett and Mike London, sitting courtside at Cameron Indoor Stadium and covering the ACC tournament, among many other things.
But I might have learned the most covering the non-revenue sports. I got to know swim and dive coach Augie Busch on a first-name basis, and I wrote a feature on future Olympic gold-medalist Leah Smith our first-year. I had terrific conversations with lacrosse legends like Starisa and Julie Myers as well.
And I don’t think I ever had more fun than I did covering men’s soccer during their 2014 national championship run. I wrote features and gained the respect of the players. And for a guy as intense on the field as George Gelnovatch, few will offer as gracious of an interview as him. I have to add that it wasn’t always fun and games. The Cavalier Daily was certainly my biggest time commitment over my four year stint in Charlottesville, and that comes at a price.
Without it, I certainly could have had more time to relax — gone to more parties, enjoyed more of those weekend afternoons on the lawn and definitely sleep a little more. And I can’t say I didn’t complain to my friends and family once in awhile about the time commitment or even other staff members, either. But if I could do it all over again, I would. In a heartbeat.
Because The Cavalier Daily gave me a voice in the University community I cherish. Even when times were tough — between papers, exams and projects — I had a body of work to be proud of. I had comments and emails — both good and bad — that let me know people cared. As a writer, I knew I was contributing to a dialogue that brought together a community which spanned multiple generations. And as an editor, I knew I was helping my writers, representing past alumni and learning more than I ever could have imagined along the way.
Ultimately, The Cavalier Daily gave me opportunities. Opportunities for fun, learning, contribution and personal growth. Opportunities of a lifetime.
Lastly, I didn’t get here alone — no one does. And there are plenty to whom I owe thanks. To Fritz Metzinger, for reviewing my mock articles my first weekend on Grounds and for asking me to cover the swimming and diving teams that ensuing October — that was the true start of an experience I’ll never forget. To Dan Weltz, Zack Bartee and Mike Eilbacher, for being fantastic editors, leading by example and liking my tweets from time-to-time. To Ryan Taylor and Matt Morris, who taught me so much on how to manage and lead people. To my co-editors, Matt Wurzburger and Jacob Hochberger, who were invaluable in helping me guide the sports section. And to Mariel Messier, Grant Gossage, Rahul Shah and all of the other editors and writers who have given up their Friday and Saturday nights to cover games few even knew were happening — you are the backbone of this organization.
I am forever proud of the work we did, and I know we added value to the University community. I also had a little fun, too. That’s why you do anything, isn’t it? From start to finish, that’s what this journey was all about.
Robert Elder was the 127th Sports Editor of The Cavalier Daily.