The independent news organization of Duke University

My support group

I wrote this column last year.

I wrote what was supposed to be my “final” column last spring, days after my stint as sports editor ended, about what being a part of this organization has done to reconstruct my post-concussive mind.

I wrote about my career as a journalist: Accidentally zoning out during my first Mike Krzyzewski press conference, learning to ask probing questions and interpret side-stepping answers on the fly, and how not to bury the lede.

I wrote about how little I cared about journalism: My coworkers made my time as sports editor worth it every day, even after I figured out the job I was doing wasn’t my passion—or something I even liked doing all that much.

And now, I get 750-850 more words to append something to that message.

Uh, help?

Sports have been an integral part of my entire life; between playing, coaching and reporting I’ve been around them (at least briefly) from nearly all angles.

At the end of this column, though, all that changes. For the first time in my coherent existence, sports will be shoved into the background. I have the dubious honor of being the first sports editor in nearly a decade to eschew journalism as a profession, and despite my very polite letter of declaration, the NBA won’t make me draft-eligible this June.

In some ways, my routine won’t change. I’ll wake up, read the Sports Illustrated headlines, check Twitter, text some friends from home and get on with my day.

But I won’t get to pretend like it’s my job anymore.

It hasn’t been my job in over a year, if I’m being totally honest. I filed columns sporadically (an overstatement) throughout the last several months if only to maintain the pretense that my borderline obsessive behavior about sports had some larger benefit. And it does, I think, just perhaps not the one I originally thought it would have.

The Chronicle serves as a refuge for many of us, a place where people of vastly different backgrounds can form bonds through a single common thread. The sports section is a support group for the athletics-obsessed, a safe place to talk about the sort of thing that makes us socially awkward in real life around real people.

But now, that’s all over. Now, I’ll have to work a real job (writing about sports, even after I realized it wasn’t the future profession I wanted, is not—and has never been—a real job) where debating second-round NBA Draft picks is not only irrelevant to my work, but not a discussion anyone else wants to have or even be around.

I guess this change will probably be good for me in the long run. I’ll learn some vital social skills, namely how to carry on a conversation that isn’t centered around sports and how to do an honest day’s work (if I ever find a job, that is). It’s a daunting idea, frankly, and a challenge that I’d prefer not to have to face.

I always wondered why so many former contributors to the sports section stayed on the listserv long after they graduated, but I’m beginning to get it now, as my daily departure from the office becomes more real in my mind.

It’ll be easy to ignore for awhile. The summer makes for an easy transition period; news trickles in through June, then slows to an ooze in July. The withdrawal will be slight—but then football season will start in August.

I’m the rare person who came to Duke with a greater love of football than basketball, and following the first Blue Devil bowl team in nearly 20 years is one of the major highlights of my entire college career.

The band-aid will be torn off completely on the last day of August, when Duke opens against N.C. Central in Wallace Wade. I’ll need to find another support group by then, a new safe place in a new city where I can talk about a game that won’t even be considered for inclusion on College GameDay. I hope I’m not “that guy,” the one who continues to email bad jokes to the listserv from halfway across the country, still hanging on to an organization that has continued moving forward, even if he hasn’t.

At the least, though, that desire to stick around will be a constant reminder of what this paper has meant to me and my development over the last four years—and of how socially awkward I still am.

Chris Cusack is a Trinity senior and former sport editor of The Chronicle, and he is officially retired from journalism. If you, or someone you know, is hiring early retirees, please let him know.

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