My 'Zoubekian' Farewell

Rich writes his development at Duke has mirrored that of Brian Zoubek, who broke out midway through his senior year, leading Duke to the 2010 national championship.
Rich writes his development at Duke has mirrored that of Brian Zoubek, who broke out midway through his senior year, leading Duke to the 2010 national championship.

As I contemplated how to use my final 600 words in this space, I mulled over three possibilities. I could write a serious and moving account of how I grew at this institution, fall back on the sarcasm that has salvaged a majority of my columns or just profess my everlasting love of Brian Zoubek.

I’m going to try to do all three. Hold on folks, this may get interesting.

See, my career at The Chronicle closely mirrors Zoubek’s with the Blue Devils. My imposing 5-foot-9 frame and I entered campus four years ago with plenty of hype and potential, yet floundered early. While I quickly found my way to The Chronicle, I found myself sticking to the shadows, much like Zoubek did early in his career, providing an occasional solid effort but being otherwise unremarkable.

But I slowly became a viable contributor to the newspaper. As the only member of The Chronicle staff—and possibly the only Duke fan in the country—with faith in Zoubek, I took on the extremely official role of Zoubek’s biographer. I analyzed his trials and tribulations, argued for his viability as the Blue Devils’ center and came up with excuses to use the term “Zoubekian” in almost every column I wrote. Surprisingly, most of them weren’t half bad.

And as Zoubek finally came into his potential during the national championship season, I began to as well. I sat on the sidelines in Jacksonville, Fla. during the first weekend of the 2010 NCAA tournament and did some of the best work of my life. I had the joy of explaining to those accumulated on press row why Duke fans were so jubilant when Zoubek dunked—they couldn’t comprehend why a 7-foot-1 center dunking was such a monumental accomplishment.

In that weekend I finally found my niche, my role on The Chronicle, something that allowed me to flourish much like Zoubek’s role as an imposing rebounder did for him. I fell in love with the online aspect of sports journalism—the instant reactions, the interactions with readers, the general vitriol spewed toward anything I wrote. From there I became the inaugural Sports Online Editor, a position through which I believe helped shape the future of this section.

See, much like Zoubek, my career at this institution won’t be remembered for its dominance or its personal accomplishments. Heck, it might not be remembered at all. But if it is, it will be remembered for its development—the way a math major with very few real journalistic skills found a niche in this special organization and grew through that avenue.

Thanks to The Chronicle, my formerly meek personality found the strength to ask the hard questions to some of the more imposing figures on campus—I was once chided by Mike Krzyzewski for what felt like 10 minutes in the middle of a press conference, yet came back the next day.

A young man who was once intimidated by any form of travel jaunted across the country covering the basketball team and grew confident along the way. And I may have added a couple tricks to my writing arsenal.

The Chronicle has been the defining experience of my undergraduate career and has given me skills and stories I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I will cherish the friends and colleagues who helped me develop as both a writer and an individual throughout my four years here, even if I don’t plan on becoming a journalist—much like Zoubek will surely rely on the lessons Krzyzewski taught him, even if he’s off the basketball court.

And without The Chronicle, Brian Zoubek never would have touched my shoulder, and when he did I never felt taller. I will be forever grateful.


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