One last story to tell

farewell column

Depending on who you ask, I’m either the best storyteller or the worst.

I tend to forget which stories I’ve already told and to tangentially connect one anecdote to another, but no tale ever lacks detail. Every old friend or classmate has a first name and last name; no stone is left unturned.

Find something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life, right? Over the past year, I have enjoyed every second of covering Duke athletics in a thrilling time for the school and its teams. I have loved — and will miss — the chance to bring those stories to life every day.

Here are a few of my own that have reminded me why I love sports stories, and why I believe in their power in the first place.

* * *

In late January, my dad and I met up in Philadelphia for the NFC Championship Game, an opportunity that only comes around every once in a blue moon. The game itself was unremarkable, but the day was unforgettable. I’ve never hugged so many random people in my life.

Growing up in Mill Valley, Calif., I understand now that my love of all things Eagles, Phillies, Sixers and Flyers was really a link to my family in Philadelphia. My brief phone calls to my grandparents typically started with the previous night’s game.

At Duke, I have witnessed and covered history at every turn. Last year, it was Coach K’s farewell; this year, it has been a pair of new head coaches and new eras in Cameron Indoor and Wallace Wade.

Part of that history came in my home city of San Francisco. When the Blue Devils stomped their way to one last Final Four under Krzyzewski in March 2022, I was on hand to write the story. I waved to my brother and sister from the confetti strewn across the Chase Center floor as the players and coaches rejoiced with each other and their families.

Family is behind every great story in sports, from San Francisco to Philadelphia to Durham. It’s behind my story, too.

* * *

The best game I saw as sports editor came on a dirt diamond in the North Woods of Wisconsin. In an emotionally supercharged game of 16-inch softball, I watched a group of 16-year-old boys from rival summer camps put everything on the line, from the first at-bat to the agonizing ending in extra innings.

The past year has taken me to the biggest stages in sports: the ACC tournament, a bowl game, I even got locked inside Madison Square Garden one night. I have been lucky enough to bear witness to special things, to accomplishments of the highest magnitude, and to tell the stories of the how and why. 

What I've loved most, though, are the moments that nobody sees, and trying to capture those stories. A timeless moment can happen anywhere.

I’ve been reminded of that countless times. In October 2022, I spent time retracing Jon Scheyer’s path to the present and dove deep into his hometown history, where he grew up Jewish and attended Glenbrook North, just like my mom. Back in August 2021, I wrote my first feature story on Duke football star Mataeo Durant, whose own story began in a town of 87 people. In December 2022, I watched the Blue Devils win the Military Bowl on a cold night in Annapolis, Md., where the best, most unlikely turnaround in college football reached its joyous conclusion.

I’m reminded of it constantly in Cameron Indoor, a tiny college gym with an enormous heart and a storied past. I have loved covering home men’s basketball games in November and early December, when schools that most fans haven’t heard of come in and give blue-blooded Duke their best shot. They remind me that it can happen anywhere.

* * *

I have always taken pride in a certain sense of duty. That has been as daunting as it has been exciting: Who am I, a 21-year-old, to lead the way in covering an athletic program like the one here at Duke? 

One fall afternoon, the sports editor from Coach K’s first season dropped by our office in Flowers. He told us about how when the upperclassmen in the 1980 position quit for lack of enthusiasm, he stepped in and wrote the first chapter of a story we finished only last April.

Would I be here, doing this, if nobody had wanted to tell that story? I think of my work here as a privilege; it has also been a responsibility and an honor to contribute to the school’s collective memory, to pen the beginning of new eras on the basketball court, the football field and in the athletic director’s office.

My go-to story is one I’ve heard a thousand times. It’s about my grandfather, who drew the unlucky responsibility of starting at center across from Wilt Chamberlain for four years at West Philly High. I tell that story to a friend at least once every other day.

Stories only stay alive if we tell them. I hope — I know — that the stories we’ve told this past year will stay alive for a long, long time.

* * *

There’s no story without somebody to tell it to. To all of our readers, thank you. You make every story worth telling.

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity junior and was sports editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume. He would like to thank Micah Hurewitz and Sasha Richie for being by his side, Milla Surjadi for her leadership, Jake Piazza for believing in him early on, Duke’s players and coaches for keeping him on his toes, everybody who has shared a late-night laugh with him in the sports hall, and his family and friends for their never-ending support — especially the three young men in Swift 426.

Jonathan Levitan

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


Share and discuss “One last story to tell” on social media.