Never lose the passion

So as it turns out, I am really terrible at goodbyes.

But after writing in this space for over eight months, I at least wanted to try to seize this one last opportunity to share what I feel I have learned in nearly a full year of covering and imparting my opinion-right or wrong-of Duke sports.

And I've learned a lot.

For example, one online reader informed me that I was a bitter print journalist who didn't have the face or personality for TV.

Another questioned whether I had ever watched a basketball game before.

But what I discovered about my perceived ineptitude this year pales in comparison to what I found out about the people who were the subjects of my columns-the people who define the Duke sporting scene, from players to super-fans to one of the greatest coaches ever in college golf.

There were Roof's Rough Riders-Will Lang and Kevin Huson-who have attended every Blue Devil football game since their beloved coach took the reins of the program.

Then there was Greg Paulus, who sat down to talk to me after he and Josh McRoberts were named as the youngest-ever captains in Duke basketball history.

I even finally got the chance to meet the Crazy Towel Guy, Herb Neubauer. Walking up into the upper bowl of Cameron Indoor Stadium, I thought I was just going to learn about the genesis of that famous white towel but left having learned a lot more about Duke basketball than I ever could have from one of the dozens of books on the shelves of the Gothic Bookshop.

I also was privileged enough to have known former men's golf head coach Rod Myers and to help share the stories of the hundreds of people who cared for him, even though a 900-word column seemed grossly insufficient.

And then, there were those I never got the chance to meet but wish I had.

Amid the media swirl of the Duke lacrosse scandal, the story of Sergeant Jimmy Regan, his life and his subsequent sacrifice, served to shatter the stereotypes generated by the biggest story of the year and was a reminder of the daily, personal loss of human life overseas.

But what do all these stories, so dissimilar at first glance, have in common?

The answer, though it might seem a bit cliché, is passion.

When it comes to sports, particularly at Duke, a passion for the game drives each person associated with it-just ask the kids who live in tents for weeks or the players who work for years to play in front of them.

And that's what separates Duke from its peer academic institutions-the sense of community created by the collective love of sports that binds Blue Devils together.

It probably also explains why outsiders hate Duke so much.

Duke athletics have come under intense scrutiny-some of the most intense any program has ever had to confront-over the past year. But even in the face of the challenges posed by the so called athletic-academic divide, it's important not to lose sight of such a key contributor to Duke's strong sense of community.

Because in the end, the Crazy Towel Guy will always have the memories from the countless contests he has attended in Cameron or the year he saw every game en route to a National Championship.

And I guess the Rough Riders will always have 2005's Blue Devil victory over Division I-AA VMI.

And, I, despite lacking the face or personality for TV, will always be grateful for the chance I had to share their stories with you.


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