It feels surreal to already say goodbye, but in a way I have lived many lifetimes at The Chronicle.
I came in as a wide-eyed freshman who wouldn’t shut up about sports and would drone on about sports to anybody that would listen to me. Luckily for me, I stumbled into a Chronicle sports department meeting during my first month in Durham, filled with people that felt the same.
My start at the paper was slow, but I learned to fall in love with journalism by studying the Longhorn Steakhouse menu like it was an economics textbook. What started as a joke made during a meeting turned into an article, and I was hooked.
Shortly after that article, my predecessor as sports editor, Michael Model, took a chance on me and made me Blue Zone editor for my sophomore year. I spent that year learning as much as I could, and making memories that truly only the Chronicle sports department could make possible. I covered the absolute mayhem that was Zion Williamson’s sole season in college basketball, a rollercoaster ride that I will never forget. I conducted post-game interviews in the home locker room in Madison Square Garden, something a lifelong diehard New York Knicks fan could only dream of.
In April of 2019, I began my year-long tenure as sports editor, and, boy, was it a trip. Leading the department was an honor of a lifetime, and I made memories that will last forever. I began my term in Nashville covering the NFL Draft, covered the NBA Draft in Brooklyn a few months later, traveled across the country to report on Duke football and basketball and capped the year by sitting courtside for the Duke-UNC men’s basketball game in Cameron.
Unfortunately, my time as sports editor was cut short last March, as the world stopped in an instant due to the coronavirus pandemic. My March 11 flight to cover the ACC tournament turned into a rescue mission for the contents of my dorm room, and the news of Duke canceling all athletic competition broke while I was at a rest stop in Virginia.
My biggest regret during my time with the paper is somehow never getting the chance to cover a men’s basketball NCAA tournament game, becoming the first sports editor in four decades to earn that dubious honor. My sophomore year, Michael audaciously booked plane tickets for us two to cover the Final Four, but a heartbreaking Duke loss in the Elite Eight kept us in North Carolina. The pandemic and a historically underperforming 2020-21 team stripped us all of seeing the Blue Devils compete in the last two tournaments.
It’s hard to not wish my last 14 months at The Chronicle went differently, but I think everybody in the world wants this last year or so to be different. Besides, it wasn’t the individual events I covered that made this experience special, but rather the journey.
I learned more from The Chronicle than anywhere else at Duke by far. The respective sports editor and managing editor when I joined, Hank and Mitchell, taught me what it meant to dedicate yourself tirelessly to making our section the best it could possibly be.
If The Chronicle was the best class I took at Duke, then Michael was my greatest professor, answering my constant questions and teaching me all that went into teaching a future generation of reporters what our section values. Winston, you showed that the dirty work could be fun, too, and made everything our section did more fun. Conner, even when we were stuck in the Madison Square Garden rafters or driving back from Atlanta in the middle of the night, you always made our time running the department enjoyable.
The best part of being sports editor was making others fall in love with the department, too. Evan, it was an absolute pleasure to see what you led our section to this year. Shane, doing the podcast with you was a blast, and I hope Shane-opedia continues to add new entries. Glen, I hope your wittiness never subsides. And Jake, it’s been amazing to see your fire for The Chronicle and student journalism, and I can’t wait to see what you, Max and the rest of the crew accomplish next year.
The Chronicle molded me in many ways, including inspiring me to pursue a career in journalism after graduation, and it will be extremely strange to no longer be a part of it. Thanks for the memories, 301 Flowers.
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Derek Saul is a Trinity senior.