Why I watch sports

Just over a month ago, I sat in Koskinen Stadium covering a seemingly trivial nonconference women’s lacrosse game between Duke and East Carolina. It was the week of Coach K’s now-infamous final game in Cameron Indoor Stadium, and so women’s lacrosse was probably the last thing on anyone’s mind.

But for a multitude of reasons, that women’s lacrosse game was anything but trivial.

To me, it represented the completion of what had become one of my longstanding goals within The Chronicle—cover all of Duke’s 27 Varsity sports. And to Blue Devil head coach Kerstin Kimel, it was the lone annual matchup against her daughter, Pirates star Frances “Caroline” Kimel.

Midway through the blowout, I became aware of the family reunion that was happening on the field—perhaps I should’ve done more research before the contest, but in my defense it was the week of Coach K’s final game in Cameron Indoor Stadium—and I instantly knew what my game story was going to be about. I didn’t even talk about the game itself until around 500 words in, but perhaps it’s fitting that this was how I culminated my 27-sport journey.

I’ve been a sports fan my entire life, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been as interested in the Xs and Os on the court or field as a lot of my peers. Rather, what entices me is the moments sports provide, the lessons they teach and the fandom they create.

Let’s start with the moments.

I could write an entire column on how sports provide college athletes the opportunity for moments that become lifelong memories, but lucky for me former Sports Managing Editor Winston Lindqwister already did a lot of that in his farewell column two years ago. So instead, I’ll run through some of those defining moments that I’ve been able to cover during my time with The Chronicle, from the monumental volleyball upset that inspired my first boldhead story, to the no-hitter that defined one of my first Chronicle roadtrips, to the cross country race that sparked the best lede quote I’ve ever used, to the men’s lacrosse game-winner that led to my personal favorite game story and finally the women’s lacrosse family reunion that capped it all off. 

Each of those games served as a moment that’ll last a lifetime for the athletes involved, and—like Winston said in his column—it was an honor to try and capture that moment and document it in history as best I could.

Secondly, the lessons.

With The Chronicle, I’m lucky enough to be around and interview some of the best college coaches in the country. And throughout these last four years, I’ve learned that they’re all far from just coaches—they’re also teachers, whose job isn’t just to win games but also to help prepare their athletes for life after Duke, wherever and whatever that life might be. And while they may not know it, these coaches have helped me prepare for my life after Duke as well. 

There are countless lessons I’ve learned from them, but for the sake of space I’ll detail one that sticks out: You’re only in control of your next moment, the best example of this being Duke men’s basketball this past season. It’s no secret that the Blue Devils had a rough ending to the regular season and ACC tournament, but Coach K constantly emphasized that the NCAA tournament is a new season, and that his team is only in control of what’s in front of them. And over the next two weeks, they miraculously turned their season around and notched three consecutive gutsy wins against Michigan State, Texas Tech and Arkansas to reach the Final Four.

I asked Coach K about this very concept the day before the Michigan State game in what I knew would likely be the last question I ever got to ask him in a press conference: How did he specifically try and emphasize that “new season” mindset in team meetings and practice? The legendary head coach hesitated for a second as if he was confused by the question, before starting off his response with a one-word sentence: “Everything.” That hesitation and initial answer—the confusion that there wasn’t anything specific he was doing, that it was quite literally everything he’s always done—was all I needed to hear. It’s a seemingly obvious lesson, but one that sinks in when you’re hearing it from perhaps the greatest coach of all-time.

Lastly, the fandom.

Some of the underappreciated stories in sports are centered not on the athletes, but instead the spectators who cheer them on. And continuing the theme, there’s no better place for that than Duke. I still remember shadowing then-sports editor emeritus Hank Tucker at a volleyball game during the fall of my freshman year when he pointed out a man sitting in the section across from us. That man was Herb Neubauer, also known as “Crazy Towel Guy,” and from that moment on I wanted to write a feature on Duke’s biggest superfan. 

For four years I procrastinated the story, allowing general laziness and the constant flow of schoolwork and other Chronicle stories to come in the way. But eventually came the week of Coach K’s final game in Cameron Indoor Stadium, and my final home game as a student, and I knew my goal of writing the “Crazy Towel Guy” article was now or never. And so I emailed Herb, visited him at his Durham home and wrote what will go down as my proudest feature story during my time with The Chronicle.

I can’t say for sure why writing that story became such an important goal of mine four years ago. But since then, I’ve come to realize that Herb’s story is yet another example of the parts of sports I enjoy the most—not necessarily the nuances of what happens on the field and court, but the emotion and influence these games have off of it.

In the end, there’s a lot more to The Chronicle than what I’ve detailed in this column. There’s the friendships, the dedication, the hard work, the adversity, the mentors and much, much more. I wish I had the space to talk about all of that, but sadly this column is too long already. Perhaps—just like how that women’s lacrosse game perfectly completed my 27-sport journey—excluding so much in this farewell column is the perfect way to encapsulate a place that has honestly overwhelmed me with lessons to take away and people to thank.

So as a lifelong sports fan, I decided to use this column to discuss how The Chronicle allowed me to better understand the reasons why I enjoy sports so much, all the articles that went into that and how they consequently helped me learn more about myself in the process. And for that, I’ll be forever grateful.

Evan Kolin is a Trinity senior. He served as sports editor of The Chronicle’s 116th volume.


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