A little over a year ago, I unsuccessfully struggled to restrain myself as Gordon Hayward heaved the biggest shot of his career. I leapt to my feet, threw my hands in the air and hugged my fellow Chronicle writer.
Then I remembered where I was. I was on press row in Lucas Oil Stadium. That kind of behavior isn’t allowed on press rows.
So I collected myself, went on the court, got my quotes and, an hour later, wrote an analysis of the national championship game. I recovered from that journalistic lapse, and my coverage of the event was as an unbiased as anyone’s.
During my term as sports editor this year, I’ve become a bit better at masking my emotions for the sake of objectivity. I didn’t show anger or disbelief as I watched on Halloween as Duke Football nearly blew a 20-point lead to the Navy Midshipmen. I didn’t show disappointment when head coach Mike Krzyzewski effectively said we would be robbed of a full season by the most dynamic young player Duke has ever seen. I didn’t show joy or excitement when Nolan Smith and Seth Curry kickstarted that incredible comeback in Cameron on Feb. 9—when I sat at center court in the best seats in the house, as blue paint chips hit my back and a deafening noise hit my ears like helicopter blades, when there was such electricity in the air that you felt you could just grab it.
No, even with the adrenaline so coursing through me that I would later fail to sleep that night, I didn’t show emotion.
Because that’s the tradeoff I chose. I got unprecedented access to the greatest college athletic program in the country. But I also had to remember that I was given that access with the duty of reporting what I objectively saw.
It was, truly, a deal with the (blue) devil.
There was more to this deal than just keeping my mouth shut on press row. I had to work 50-hour weeks in a freezing cold office, spending many a night editing gamers and previews, running a blog and leading a staff of 30. I had to check Twitter every 15 minutes, just so I would be the first one to know about an update on the Toepocalypse, or what the score of the men’s lacrosse game was.
Dark bags appeared under my eyes this year. I chalk them up to 4 a.m. production times and my morning routine, in which I would wake up every day in a panic, checking my e-mail for any problems that needed to be solved, any corrections that would soon need to run.
Yes, to most of my friends, the job seemed like insanity.
I never saw it that way, though—after all, how could I not like the advantages this job gave me?
Twice I sat down for an extended period of time with Coach K; once to pick his brain just before he left for Istanbul, and another time to watch him record his XM Radio show (which required me to twice stifle sneezes during an interview with Villanova’s Jay Wright).
Then there were the times I met with Drs. Hunt Willard and Paul Haagen, of Duke’s Genome Institute and law school, respectively. Willard and Haagen are giants in their fields, and both are incredibly smart and knowledgeable. And me, a guy with a low-to-middling GPA, got to ask them anything I wanted, just because of my job.
And, of course, I got to talk about and edit some of the best stories I think this paper put out in Volume 106. Where else could you read about Bryan Morgan’s symphony orchestra? Willard’s quest to eliminate injuries in sports? Nick McCrory’s, Becca Ward’s and Abby Johnston’s roads to national championships? Austin Rivers on why he chose Duke? Or David Cutcliffe on his childhood in Alabama?
Yes, we could’ve written more of those unique stories. And we could have found more angles to cover, been more advanced online and more innovative in our print design. But I’m confident the sports section will continue to get better and better. This sports-crazed institution deserves nothing less.
That change will have to come from someone else, though. My tenure in this strange, wonderful position has come to an end.
And now, as I type this, I’m conflicted. For the past few weeks, I wanted nothing more than to go back to being a normal Duke kid and to once again be a fan. But I’m terrified of giving up my squeaky chair and back office—the only office on campus, I bet, with five-day-old Loop and Cheddars, John Feinstein’s bound volume and an apprehended Scheyerface.
I won’t ever forget my time in this place. But now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get ready for next year.
I hear Harrison Barnes is coming back, and someone has to curse at him.
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