In my first meeting in Flowers, it took about five seconds for me to feel like I was out of my league. As soon as I entered the world of Chronicle Sports, I was greeted all around by small talk about names, teams, and events that I only vaguely knew about as well as arguments over flaming hot takes I could only smile and nod at.
Sure, I liked sports coming out of high school. That is to say, I liked sports to the degree that anyone who grew up in Illinois with an obligatory love of the Bears or a shared sense of pride over the Cubs would. But it was never something I felt I could confidently say I followed, let alone could write about.
I don’t remember why I put down my name to join the sports department. Although I tell myself the onus came from wanting to try something new in college, it may have just as easily been a misplaced signature during the O-Week activities fair.
When I first started, I signed up to take stories that few were really jumping out of their seat for. At the time, I liked it that way, as I could toil away at stories for which I felt I had expertise, despite the fact that it was primarily from lack of competition. It was hard to really imagine that much of what I was doing mattered or if I even belonged in the sports department at all. I remember stressing for nearly three hours to put together 600 words on a men’s tennis tournament, only to go through a blender of an editing session.
Who would’ve thought that an ultimately meaningless Duke Volleyball game would galvanize my Chronicle career.
Looking back at my recap of the match, there are a million and one ways I would change it to fully capture the gravity of the moment. It was senior night for a relatively middle of the road team, and they were down 2-1 in what felt like closing moments of a losing battle. I think I texted my friends a few times about joining them at The Loop in 20 minutes, confident I would still be able to salvage a pleasant evening.
Yet, as I had my mind set on leaving Cameron Indoor, I watched a flailing squad of Blue Devils pick themselves up. Jordan Tucker, the star senior on the team, slapped the famed hardwood after a stop and replied with a dazzling spike to breathe some life into a dying crowd. And just moments after I wrote off an entire team, I watched the scoreboard flicker through a tie before Tucker skied for the match-clinching bomb, sending her entire team into a frenzy.
That was when I got it. I still remember the visceral excitement I felt when writing about what I saw, the vicarious emotion that bled through my recording of the postgame interview. For the first time, I felt the hook that I had been desperately searching for with Chronicle sports, and I never wanted to let it go.
I remember the first Duke basketball buzzer beater I got to write about, and then the other two I had absolutely no reason to cover. It wasn’t on my college bucket list to ask Coach K a question, let alone get a good answer from him. I never dreamed of flying to Maui to spend a week watching basketball and sitting on the beach. Yet those were the surreal, impossible moments that the Chronicle so graciously opened the door for.
But most importantly, I never planned on getting the humbling opportunity to get to write about moments that defined others’ collegiate careers. It wasn’t the glamour of Cameron Indoor stadium where I felt the most like my writing mattered, it was on the sunburnt stands of Ambler Tennis stadium watching Chalena Scholl grind out a nail-biter top-10 victory on senior night against one of the best tennis players in the nation. It was zipping around the fairways of Finley golf course, teaching a photog how to drive a golf cart while scribbling notes about Leaonna Maguire’s absurd dominance in the realm of women’s golf. It was watching a crowd of 200 in Cameron get as loud as a crowd of 9,314 as Jacob Kasper saved the Duke wrestling team with a last-second pin to win the evening.
What brought me back to the Chronicle wasn’t the promise of big stages, bright lights, or cross country trips. It was the promise that every week when we opened the storylist, there would be the chance to write about a moment where time would stand still, one whose impossible magnitude could only be properly captured in sports.
Through my time at the Chronicle, I’ve had the pleasure of covering 27 different teams. For each one, it has been an absolute treat getting to learn about the squad, their goals, and thier history. I’ll never stop cherishing writing about those unexpected moments of victory and bitter defeat.
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And as I step away from the organization I’ve grown to love and reflect on the memories, places, and most importantly people that made the Chronicle a home for me, I’ll never shake off the hook that got me one unsuspecting evening in Cameron.
Winston Lindqwister is a Pratt senior and former sports managing editor. He would like to thank Amrith, Jack, Hank and Mitchell for offering unparalleled guidance in and out of the Chronicle. Although he’ll still be around Duke’s campus for graduate school and may very well be in school for the rest of his life, Winston will always look back at the doors to 301 Flowers as the ones that opened up Duke to him.