The good people of the editorial section told me I could have 800 words to talk about my Duke Chronicle experience in no uncertain terms. 800 is a weird number. It enables one to say both a little and a lot.
Well, I guess I’m down to 751 now.
I joined the sports staff on the Chronicle in part because of sheer serendipity. My R.A. was the blog editor and after we spent some time talking sports together, he encouraged me to come out and write about them. I only thought about writing at all after spending the entirety of my senior year of high school on Grantland, learning what it’s like not just to report on sports but to take genuine joy in describing the meaning in fandom, athletic marvels and culture. I’d be lying if I said that the 2015 NCAA title wasn’t a factor in my decision to come to Duke in the first place.
I’m certainly not saying anything new when I say that sports are the ultimate distractor. When life gets tough or overwhelming, the tribalism associated with watching a 6’7” 19-year old jump 48 inches to put an orange ball in a 10-foot hoop is enough to help forget even the most onerous issue.
So by some stroke of luck, I had someone encouraging me to write, a writing style I came to love and the perfect outlet to talk about one of the most extraordinary bits of culture that any student at any school could hope to write about—and that culture extends far beyond basketball. I’ve had the opportunity to cover almost every sport Duke competes in, from football games in hurricanes, to sunsets in downtown Durham for baseball’s opening night and an electric Cameron Indoor Stadium following an ACC win. That said, I’ve had a soft spot for one sport in particular.
I started playing lacrosse late in my high school career and instantly fell in love with it. For the last four and half years, the opportunity to go run around, be part of a team and maybe even win a game has been the panacea for everything I do. My luck struck again when I came to a university with one of the best lacrosse programs in the country. The opportunity to see the game I love played at the highest level and have its legendary coaches and players acknowledge me as someone who knows the sport has been extraordinary. I’ve been lucky to be in a position to help grow the game in my own way and equally lucky to see ACC Tournaments, rivalry games, iconic performances, record-breaking goals and a national runner-up season.
Sitting up there in the press box at Gillette Stadium, having driven three hours from home to see the most important annual event for the sport of lacrosse, every moment spent writing stories, tracking facts, editing, or standing outside locker rooms in frigid February weather was worth it. I thank John Danowski for the small nuggets of wisdom he would pass on off the record, just asking about my life or high school lacrosse.
But none of those grueling and rewarding moments would have been possible if I wasn’t lucky enough to be part of another incredible team for four years. I’ve learned more about professionalism, responsibility, collaboration and proactivity from my time on the Chronicle staff than anywhere else in my Duke career. It helps to have great editors like Amrith Ramkumar, Ryan Hoerger and Brian Pollack, who taught me all about being a committed and efficient writer. I have Sameer Pandhare, the aforementioned R.A. who got me on staff in the first place, to thank for teaching me how to turn dry story meetings into impromptu roasts or comedy routines.
Above all, I’ll miss Thursday night production when the paper printed on Fridays, watching basketball, Thursday Night Football or finishing the next day’s crossword with Hank Tucker and Mitchell Gladstone, my classmates. I’ll miss heading up to 301 Flowers every week at 10 p.m. only to leave at 1 a.m., the Chapel lit up behind me, glowing its confirmation of a job well done.
I’ve been blessed to collect the bylines that I have, and though just about anyone can do what I’ve done since a rainy Friday meeting in 2015, it’s been uncommon for most people to stick with it. Even I have seen my play slip a little from time to time, but as I’ve come to find over all my time at Duke, the most important thing is showing up. Not every endeavor leads to success, but as long as there’s an effort to show up and work hard, as every person writing a column like this has, you just get more chances to get lucky.
Sid Bhaskara is a senior Economics major who will fulfill every Duke student’s dream when he starts at a consulting firm in Boston this summer. He will, however, continue to tweet about Duke sports with pessimism.
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