The Cavalier Daily
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PARTING SHOT: Does this even matter?

<p>I have cherished every moment I got to spend with Virginia athletics — even the all too frequent heartbreaks.&nbsp;</p>

I have cherished every moment I got to spend with Virginia athletics — even the all too frequent heartbreaks. 

Four years ago on move in day, I arrived at the University with a million questions racing through my mind. As my parents finished helping me unpack and left, I sat back and pondered, a mix of excitement and nerves. Could I actually live on my own? Yes! Could I find a community and navigate learning amid COVID-19? Yes! Would the men’s basketball team build on the momentum of the 2019 National Championship and continue to shine in March while I’m here? Um …

My time at the University answered all of my queries, whether I liked the answers or not. But the question that gave me the most trouble was simple — does what I’m doing here even matter?

Early in my second year, I scheduled an advising meeting to map out my academic future and discuss where exactly my newly declared Media Studies major could take me professionally. 

When my advisor at the time asked me about my extracurriculars, I excitedly told him about my year of experience on The Cavalier Daily as a sports beat writer. I explained I was considering sports media as a career path and asked for his thoughts.

He was not particularly impressed. I was told if I was serious about a career in media, writing or production, that the best move for me was to switch over to The Cavalier Daily’s news desk or find another news-centric publication. The words that stuck with me most were that I should “try covering something that matters.”

I wrestled with this notion for a while after the meeting. On one hand, I was inclined to listen. The sports media industry is a rather insular community and opportunities in the field are shrinking, even at historic publications. Maybe I’d be better off pivoting to strictly news. Maybe I should switch my whole major.

My advisor’s words bothered me, not just because he diminished my hopes for my future, but because of his rationale for doing so. Why can’t sports “matter?”

Without really knowing why at the time, I decided to ignore him completely. Stubbornly, I doubled down on sports, writing recaps, features, columns and newsletters. A year after that advising meeting, I reached the position of sports editor for The Cavalier Daily. With the help of my co-editor Ben and our extremely talented staffers, we worked hard to tell the story of Virginia’s athletics programs and its student-athletes. By listening to my gut and chasing what I decided mattered to me, I started to see my question answered — I saw the importance of sports and storytelling to this community.

In the fall semester of 2022, I was proud to launch The Cavalier Daily’s sports newsletter, the Sabre Scoop. The biweekly digital newsletter offers bite-sized recaps and previews for all Cavalier sports games, as well as a variety spot which frequently hosted athletes of the week. For the first few weeks, I enjoyed building up a modest readership. While it took time, I began to connect with a few readers through trivia, sharing predictions and general sports chatter.

Then, tragedy struck Grounds. A senseless act of violence rocked our community on Nov.13, 2022. Charlottesville was wounded, mourning and searching for answers. While the Virginia athletics community was devastated, I didn’t see a proper way to address things in a frivolous sports newsletter. The Sabre Scoop screeched to a halt. As I processed the horror of what had happened and deliberated how to proceed, I stopped believing that what I was doing was important. Perhaps my advisor had been right. Maybe, in the grand scheme of life, this didn’t matter. 

Slowly, Virginia sports resumed play, but the newsletter remained dormant. Then, after a few weeks, several emails rolled in asking “is the Sabre Scoop coming back?” I was profoundly moved to hear that my small side project was missed, especially amidst the darkness of November 2022. To people hurting and mourning just like me, it still mattered. For whatever unquantifiable reason, a few words on sports still meant something to them. 

If nothing else, sports offer structure, routines and rules. They are something to believe in or lean on when not much else makes sense.

In a vacuum, it’d be easy to find sports to be a nuisance or, at best, a distraction, and some will always hold this view. However, in my experiences, I have seen people elevate them into far more. Individuals and communities can use sports to inspire, to hold space, to heal, to break molds, to change narratives, to honor faith or to come home. Through the subjects of my stories, the writers I worked alongside and, of course, the readers, I got the answer to the question that loomed over me since my advising meeting — yes, this work can and does matter.

I have cherished every moment I got to spend with Virginia and Charlottesville athletics — even the all too frequent heartbreaks. I live for the sports-related banter among friends, the calls home to break down games with my dad and sitting down with a blank document not knowing what tonight’s game has in store. 

It has been my honor to bring you stories on Virginia sports for the past four years. I can’t wait to see what sports have in store for me next.

Jacob Tisdale was Sports Editor for the 134th term of The Cavalier Daily. 


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