Never say goodbye

You might want to sit down, folks. This being my final column and all-and probably the last column I ever write in newsprint-it's confession time.

Here goes.

I really like sports.

No, like, a lot.

Probably too much.

Ask anyone who knows me: My addiction to sports is intervention-worthy at this point. I try to project the NCAA Tournament-host sites and all-for fun. I named all 73 team names of BCS schools in two minutes and 19 seconds on Sporcle. I can tell you who won the title in every sport for every year for like the last three decades, and that includes leagues I don't really follow, like the NHL or WNBA.

I make passing references to long-forgottens like Bryant "Big Country" Reeves and never-knowns like George Zidek (Reeves' counterpoint in a blasé 1995 national semifinal won by UCLA).

I wax poetically about the 1999 NLCS, even though the Mets didn't win it.

My junior year, I wrote a comprehensive 22-page paper on what it was like to watch my Giants win the Super Bowl over the Patriots.

Because of all that and an equally long but slightly less intense passion for the written word-some call it "verbosity"-writing about sports always seemed like the perfect career. Well, not always; only after a career as the nation's first NBA/NFL/MLB superstar became a tad too ambitious.

Some have already heard about the Tim Times, the newspaper of which eight-year-old Tim was founder, editor, reporter, designer, distributor, target audience and chief subject. It unfortunately shut down production in the mid-1990s, however, foreseeing the revenue problems on the horizon for newspapers.

A decade later, though, The Chronicle became an enabler to my addiction to sports and sportswriting. This column will be the 150th article I've written in these pages over the last four years, beginning with a Sept. 22, 2005 preview of the men's tennis fall season.

I was there when the women's basketball team made the Final Four in 2006 because I accidentally volunteered to travel to Bridgeport, Conn. (Friend: "How'd you do that?" Me: "I believe my words were 'Sure, I'll go.'")

I covered all six fencing matches my freshman year, even though I'm convinced the sport is determined by a bulb arbitrarily lighting up.

I interviewed the wrestling coach without knowing if his team won or lost (opening question: "Coach, first impressions from tonight?").

The best part was covering 16 men's basketball games, even if that included four court-stormings by opposing fans, two season-ending defeats and a mind-boggling eight losses in all-a number I can't imagine being surpassed by a Chronicle reporter in the last 15 years, if not the last 30.

During that time, I was able to talk SEC football with Pat Forde, summer camp with Seth Davis and potato chips with Bob Ryan. I've sat closer to the action at Cameron than MVPs from the NBA, NFL and American League.

So yeah, Chronicle Sports and me: kind of a good fit.

But a love of sports and a fair amount of intelligence aren't always viewed the same way. There's the connotation that this level of devotion to sports is somehow inherently unintelligent, that sports-along with their pals, beer and pizza-are just an opiate for the modern masses.

It's why some people still cringe a little when I tell them that I want to go into sports journalism, instead of being a doctor or lawyer or microbiologist (sorry, Dad!) or even just a real, honest, chain-smoking news reporter. It manifests itself in an inward fold of the lips and a tilt-back of the head that asks, "Sports? Aren't they a little. beneath you?"

Sports will never be beneath me-and hopefully, neither will beer and pizza. Sports have dictated the seasons in my life far better than weather ever has. Sports have provided me with most of my greatest memories.

Sports are the reason I went to Duke-my earliest sports memory centering around a public barbershop prediction that the Blue Devils would repeat as national champions in 1992 behind Bobby Hurley, fellow Jersey guy and, not coincidentally, my first point-guard idol.

That's why I think sports should never be beneath Duke. Like it or not, basketball is most people's entry point to this University, with the school as connected to traditional March Madness locales like Minneapolis and Philadelphia as it is to Durham for much of the country.

And even as the Chapel stretches its steeple toward the stars on the main quad, Cameron remains Duke's most prominent building, tucked away behind that moat of mud and tents we call Krzyzewskiville.

Without sports, Duke's just a poor man's University of Chicago. And there's a reason I didn't even think about going to University of Chicago.

So there you are. Probably like sports a little too much. But 150 seems as good a place as any to shut it down, at least for now.

Next year's words await another voice.


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