I could not name three rules of lacrosse and my lone photography experience was from a service-learning Spanish class I took my sophomore fall.
Yet, there I was at Gillette Stadium spending the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend sitting on the New England Patriots’ home turf shooting the men’s lacrosse Final Four. Monday, I was perched up in the press box covering my first and only lacrosse game—the 2018 national championship.
I kind of just went for it. Covering that lacrosse game—like being sports editor of The Chronicle—was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Who would pass that up? I almost did.
V. 113 sports editor Hank Tucker and sports managing editor Mitchell Gladstone had a tough task in convincing me to run the department.
Like many rising juniors, I was planning on going abroad and had already anticipated my fall semester in Copenhagen, traipsing through Europe. Their sales pitch essentially consisted of, ‘If you stay, you can cover men’s basketball, and if you leave, you’ll miss your chance.’ While that alone was not initially successful, the combination of newfound desperation—following the departure of another prominent sophomore to news—and the fact that Duke was playing in the Maui Invitational the upcoming November helped swing me over the edge.
It was the best decision I’ve made in my life.
When I stepped into my first Chronicle meeting freshman year—or even during regular meetings my sophomore year—I never would have thought that I’d eventually be the one running the department. At the time, my lone writing experience came from a small baseball blog I managed my junior year of high school and I had very little confidence in my writing. While my confidence grew during my first years on the staff, the idea of being the last line of defense was something I had to grapple with.
However, the coverage experiences The Chronicle offers make it worth it. I learned very early on that I enjoy writing instant gamers. My first instant gamer was during Duke football’s thrilling win in Chapel Hill my sophomore fall. Nothing tops the relief felt after submitting an article in the closing minutes of a tight game. The adrenaline rush became addicting, and my ability to thrive in those high-leverage situations became critical down the stretch.
Two and a half months later I found myself at Boston College trying to escape an avalanche of students flooding onto the court celebrating a win against our team. I’d experience similar fates at Madison Square Garden and in Blacksburg, Va., in February of that season as St. John’s and Virginia Tech managed to pull off major upsets.
Those three games were pivotal in my development as a writer. I learned to scramble together 450 words in an undecided contest down the stretch as my inner Cameron Crazie panicked. After the games, I was challenged to evoke two stories worth of sound out of a silent locker room of maybe five media people—the fact that we’re able to send at least two people to every single game is a testament to how amazing The Chronicle is.
After taking the helm last April, the experience felt all the more rewarding. I was fortunate enough to sit in on Grayson Allen’s press conference at the NBA Draft and, after walking past Donovan Mitchell earlier in the night, write about the two of them coming full circle.
And then there was the Zion Williamson show.
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I somehow successfully convinced my parents to take our summer vacation to Canada. As the crowd of Canadian media swarmed their hometown hero R.J. Barrett, I grew my photography profile and snatched the rare opportunity to talk to Zion without having to fight through a mass of 50 reporters.
The next week I turned my focus to football season, wrapping up my first centerfold feature after talking to former athletic director Joe Alleva and Duke football alumni Thad Lewis, Thomas Sirk and Dave Harding about David Cutcliffe’s first 10 years in Durham.
As much as I knew the position of sports editor would be a full-time job, that job did not fully begin until basketball season. I do not know how I would have survived without sports managing editor Winston Lindqwister, who had to learn photoshop on the fly at 3 a.m. to make a cutout of Virginia Tech’s Justin Robinson for our men’s basketball season preview, or Hank and Mitchell, who helped complete that preview around 5 a.m.
That would not be our only 5 a.m. night that week, as Winston and I found ourselves pulling an all-nighter following the most impressive offensive performance in the history of Duke basketball on opening night in Indianapolis, opting to take a 6 a.m. flight back to Durham rather than shell out for a hotel.
Five a.m. wake-up calls feel less jarring when you’re waiting for sunrise at the top of Mount Haleakala in Maui prior to the start of three incredible days of basketball during the Maui Invitational. Looking back on it, I’ll never fully understand what I did to earn the privilege of flying to Hawaii, watching a pair of contests against top-10 teams and getting the opportunity to interview Jay Bilas as part of the Cameron Chronicles—all while wearing the cheesy Hawaiian shirts we invested in.
The new year also did not fail to disappoint. I’ll forever be indebted to my successor Derek Saul, who safely drove us from Notre Dame to Chicago past midnight through a blizzard. I was fortunate enough to attend NBA All-Star Weekend in Charlotte, stand five feet away from President Obama in Cameron, and watch Duke capture its 21st ACC tournament title.
My final game this season almost ended in utter disappointment. I’ll never forget watching Aubrey Dawkins rise for the dagger alley-oop slam for Central Florida in Columbia, S.C. I’ll never understand how the ball sailed out of bounds, allowing Duke to survive.
Was I a last-second roll from Grayson Allen or a missed three from Kenny Goins away from going to cover the Final Four? Yes. But, I can safely say there is not a single regret from my 365 days as sports editor.
I took that alley-oop pass from Hank and Mitchell and slammed it home. When you’re offered a once in a lifetime opportunity, make sure to make the most of it. I did, and that’s why I have a bag of confetti from the ACC championship pinned to my credential in my room. That’s why my credentials and features hang up on my walls, each representing a moment in Duke Athletics I was able to partake in, each reminding me of the small army of people who helped me get there.
This whole experience was something I’ll never forget, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
Michael Model is a Trinity junior. He served as sports editor of The Chronicle’s 114th volume.