During lockdown, I played a lot of Minecraft.
One thing I learned about Minecraft during that time is that it has advancements - tasks and goals given to the player to complete, for no other reward than satisfaction. Minecraft has about 100 of these advancements. 4 of them are hidden. 1 of these hidden advancements is called “How Did We Get Here?”
The first time I stepped foot in 301 Flowers, I was a jaded junior who had exactly one reason to be there: a good friend of mine, Em, asked me to. She found out that I intently followed professional swimming, and as a WBB beat with an eye for connections, asked me if I might parlay that knowledge towards writing about college swimming. My response: “Sure, why not?”
The second time I stepped foot in Wilson Gym, I was an instantly-humbled junior who had exactly one reason to be there: Duke swimming & diving was competing against Virginia Tech, and I had a season preview to write. After embarrassingly walking past the entrance to Taishoff twice, I squeezed my way through the double doors just in time to see the first relay dive off the blocks. Duke won by two seconds. My response: “That was cool!” (albeit softly, because I had to maintain objectivity as a reporter)
The third time I talked to a person named Colella, I had one main reason: because he was the head coach of Duke swimming. Strangely enough, I had gone to high school with two of his children. Over our meetings, I felt I got to know him well: he was humble and grateful for his successes; he would never make intentional predictions, positive or negative, about how meets or seasons would go, instead focusing on the concrete: what work had been done, what goals people had. He would always offer a thank you and his personal phone number for any follow-ups, even though using it on my end would’ve likely constituted an ethics violation. Between him and the athletes I talked to, I found hope, joy, and passion; motivation to return to consistency after the confusion of Covid; loss and failure.
During my second season of covering Duke swimming & diving, I found out that Coach Colella had cancer. Days after discovering this, he passed away. My response: “Oh.” Grief, confusion, guilt followed. Yet also gratitude — that I could help him tell his story; to give at least some voice to the work he and the many dozens of athletes and staff did daily.
In Minecraft, “How Did We Get Here?” is earned by having every potion effect applied to the player at once. This includes many disparate things: speed and slowness, extra health and nausea, night vision and blindness. It is not possible to do this by accident. To experience everything takes at least ninety minutes.
To reflect on my time at the Chronicle is to reflect on everything: researching swimmers and divers, playing (and never losing!) Mario Kart in the office, texting about Bojack Horseman or Jon Scheyer or the tragedy of a Panda Express-less campus. My response: different every time. Being here, even just for two short seasons, has shown me a totality of emotion and experience, of community and fun, of doing hard things by taking it one, two, three steps at a time. I have learned and grown in ways that would make a Notes app apology jealous. I’ve become less jaded (allegedly). And I’ve experienced not only true diversity, but community — being a brown gay sportswriter seemed definitely difficult for me at first on paper, but in practice I’ve been welcomed with open arms — even during the weeks I missed meetings, or turned in my Sportswraps late.
During lockdown, I played a lot of Minecraft. Discovering advancements gave me things to do on days that felt indefinitely long, scary and undefined. Accomplishments were binary: complete or incomplete. In the Chronicle, the advancements I made were far from this: I cannot truly quantify the qualities of friendships I made, or how good my articles were, or if my messages in the GroupMe were ever really that funny. But for the everything I’ve experienced, I can be so happy. Although sometimes, I still look back at all I’ve done with the Chronicle — on a whim, caused by the suggestion of a friend! — and ask: how did I get here?
Babu Chatterjee is a Trinity senior and would like to thank Em Adler for introducing him to the kaleidoscope of everything that is the Duke Chronicle, as well as Leah Boyd for being a constant source of connection and kindness from Alspaugh to Flowers to Twitter. For their leadership and friendship, he is grateful for Milla Surjadi, Anisha Reddy, Jake Piazza, and Jonathan Levitan. Finally, although this list is by no means exhaustive, he cherishes the memories he’s had with Sasha Richie, Andrew Long, Micah Hurewitz, Annaleise Linkenhoker, Max Rego, Sam Mickenberg, Nithin Ragunathan, and every other person in Chronicle Sports, especially the women and those who will continue to cover swim & dive.
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Babu Chatterjee is a Trinity junior and sports staff reporter for The Chronicle's 117th volume.