PARTING SHOT: Sports gave me a voice

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Alec Dougherty was a Sports Editor during the 129th term of The Cavalier Daily. 

Courtesy Alec Dougherty

I can remember the day I fell in love with the Yankees. I was home sick at my grandparents’ house in third grade, flipping channels when a rerun of the prior night’s game came on the screen. It helped me pass the time when I was getting over my sickness, giving me a little brightness during those couple days. 

I carried that bright feeling with me as I watched the rest of the 2006 season obsessively. In those couple of months, I turned from a quiet, reserved kid to one that was talking my parents’ ears off about how Alex Rodriguez couldn’t stop striking out.

Sports gave me a voice that year, and I’ve carried that voice with me my entire life. In many moments where life got tough, sports have empowered me with a means to express myself. As a freshman in high school, I struggled to make consistent friends with so much changing around me. My best friend Drew invited me to join a fantasy football league, and I joined knowing barely anything about the sport.

I immersed myself in learning about the NFL as I competed in the fantasy league, and immediately had something to talk about with some new guys. The thrill we all got from watching and playing sports helped us build lifelong connections and gave me peace of mind.

I began sports writing when I was a senior in high school and relished every ability to express my thoughts in our once-a-month issues. Needless to say, I had joining the Cavalier Daily Sports section circled right when I decided to go to the University.

As a timid first-year without a defined role on the section, it took me a while before I finally got the guts to take on a big article. The opportunity presented itself in the spring when Virginia squared off against Johns Hopkins in men’s lacrosse — a rivalry I had watched for years as a college lacrosse fan growing up. I was nestled in the press box on a cold and rainy Sunday in April but was rewarded with a thrilling overtime Cavalier victory and the chance to write a big story.

I was so excited to write the article that I forgot to put my name on the document, and it was published without an author. Nevertheless, I knew I found a voice. 

I was given my first associate assignment covering the women’s volleyball team the next semester, but I nearly decided to stop writing after being overwhelmed with school and the new role early in the fall. Robert Elder, one of the section editors at the time, pushed me to continue on with the role and took the time to help me get acclimated. I never looked back from that role, becoming a consistent contributor for the paper thereafter.

It hasn’t always been easy to keep using the voice sports have given me, but Robert was one of the first people to push me not to waste the opportunity to have a platform. He’s the first person I have to thank amongst a core of great people on the paper who have pushed me to keep manifesting my voice.

Perhaps no one on the Cavalier Daily had to put up with me more in my time as editor more than Ben Tobin, the Managing Editor on the 129th term. Ben is someone who fully appreciates the value and importance of the voice CD gives all of us and helped revolutionize our section with a passion for enhancing that voice. He offered unwavering support to me and my co-editor Jake Blank, pushing us to embrace our role and always look for ways to improve. He also knew my best articles were usually written at 1 a.m. after I got a dose of random inspiration from a stat I came across, and he never lacked the enthusiasm to let my voice shine through.

I knew as an editor I wanted to empower talented people to use their voice — or as we say in sports, drop their hot takes. I was having lunch with Luke Beasey, my fraternity little, one day when he expressed interest in joining the Cavalier Daily. He had his sights on joining the Opinion section to write about politics, but he ultimately wasn’t selected in their application process. 

Seeing as we talked sports all the time, I convinced him to write the mock articles for the sports application. Luke’s writing ability and sports knowledge impressed all of us, and soon after, he became a full time columnist for us and has written some of our most unique pieces over the last few years.

I have a lot to be thankful for during my time on the paper. I got to cover two amazing redemption stories — a perpetually losing football team turning into a bowl winner and a powerhouse basketball team harnessing a historic loss to win its first national title. I got to work among some incredibly talented writers and editors who facilitated great improvement for the section. Most of all, I gained an avenue to raise my voice in a community of over 16,000 students and almost 50,000 citizens, with a mission of brightening up others lives by consuming sports.

I was only a small cog in the great engine of the Cavalier Daily and was blessed to have so many great leaders around me. Robert, Ben and Mariel Messier were crucial mentors to me as I got started on the section, and Jake and Rahul Shah were fantastic writers and leaders to grow in the section with. Zach Zamoff and Emma D’Arpino were incredible senior associates who always answered the call to help me and Jake, and our killer feature writer, Emily Caron, helped pioneer the Hoos on First Podcast — and took the risk of having me on as a guest. Zach and Colin Cantwell allowed me to be the resident washed-up fourth-year columnist on the staff this semester and have already done some awesome things to build the section’s chemistry. Mike Reingold, Tim Dodson and Gracie Kreth have all been exceptional as the face of our paper, and every copy and production editor embodies the true grit and grind of being a part of such an acclaimed paper. 

From the bottom of my heart, thank you all for giving me the experience of a lifetime. 

Whether or not you’re on the Cavalier Daily, or even a writer, it’s worth keeping in mind the great lesson my life and this paper has taught me — finding your voice is finding your home. Once you find it, never stop using it. 

Alec Dougherty was a Sports Editor during the 129th term of The Cavalier Daily. 

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