More than a fan

When I decided to come to Duke, I convinced myself that my choice had nothing to do with basketball or any other sport. Even though I was a lifelong sports fan, I wasn’t choosing a college to develop a new rooting interest.

Suffice it to say, I was wrong. I have loved nothing more than reveling in Duke’s triumphs on the field and on the court in my time here. I was in Wallace Wade when we took down the goalposts after beating Northwestern. I sat through a storm to watch Duke Lacrosse exact a small amount of revenge on Johns Hopkins, and I even jumped off my couch when Chante Black sent an ACC Championship game into overtime sophomore year.

In many ways, however, my more important connection with Duke sports hasn’t been as a supporter. I made the decision to sacrifice total fanhood when I joined The Chronicle’s sports staff. That’s not to say that I haven’t been more invested in the fate of Duke Athletics than almost anybody I know—it’s just that, as any sportswriter will tell you, the games lose a little bit of luster when you have to work afterwards.

But even as I’ve missed out on some of the magic of being a fan, it’s the experiences I’ve had when the clock isn’t running that have been some of my most memorable at Duke.

On the most superficial level, I’m thankful to The Chronicle for sending me to five states and 10 cities for the first time, even if I spent more time in cabs and stadiums than out exploring. (Although I did witness a spectacular anti-fur riot in front of the Empire State Building on the way to the Izod Center.)

Even though I couldn’t cheer at several of Gerald Henderson’s ridiculous slams sophomore year, I relished the moment when I talked to him early in the season and told him that with his bald head and his breakout play, he reminded me of a young Kobe Bryant. He laughed pretty hard, but the next time I interviewed him, there was a poster of Kobe hanging in his locker.

I covered an NCAA Tournament game two years ago that ended in a lopsided defeat for Duke. I was surprised to hear that several members of that team still remember the lede of that article, and a player even ripped me a new one for it three weeks ago—one of my prouder and more terrifying moments as a journalist.

I didn’t get to cheer from press row in Houston when the men’s basketball team got to the Final Four last year, but I did walk alongside President George W. Bush after the game as he went to congratulate Coach K. And I got to pick up a tiny piece of the net after the team left the court.

And after the national championship game, instead of living it up on the main quad, I had to be up in The Chronicle office to put out a paper. It was one of the longest nights of my life, but that paper is probably the most appreciated piece of work that I have ever helped produce.

Now that the time has come to wax poetic on my short-lived journalism career, I don’t regret the moments I missed by not being a fan. I think about the postgame questions I should have asked, the stories I could have dug deeper into and the personality of every one of the athletes that I have interacted with—that human element that I will no longer be able to tap into from my place in the stands.

I am forever grateful for the opportunities afforded to me by being a member of this staff and for the people who have encouraged me to continue working, even though my journalistic ambitions end here. I am forever grateful to have covered not one, but two wins over North Carolina in men’s basketball. And I am grateful to now be able to root for Duke, carefree.

Sabreena Merchant is a Trinity senior. She is a four-year sports writer and the former sports managing editor.


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