June 2, 2006

Read it, write it, love it: Sports embodies campus: The Cheap Seats

So why write sports?

After three years with this section, you’d think I’d have a solid, defensible answer to that question. But a response isn’t always on the tip of my tongue. It’s sometimes tough to remember at the end of yet another very, very late night at the newspaper office. It’s even tougher when you’re repeatedly assaulted with the evidence that a disturbingly high percentage of our student body either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the product you’ve produced during those late nights. Being a sports editor on a campus that doesn’t follow our sports teams is not always an invigorating experience.

Still, I’ve put a great deal of energy into sportswriting over the course of my collegiate career, and it’s well past time for a retort that’s more than incoherent mumbling. More to the point, the reason I write sports is the same as the answer to a more important question: Why should you read it?

More than anything, Maroon Sports is about what goes on between the lines. There is a powerful beauty in the sound of a basketball swishing the hoop for three, in that particular cracking noise that a bat makes when it’s made really, really solid contact, in the sight of a football arcing toward two or three or five bodies rising to meet it, and in watching a black and white orb slipping just past the outstretched fingers of the goalkeeper. There is really nothing quite like the utter exhaustion you see on a runner’s face after crossing the finish line at the end of the 10,000-meter, the overwhelming joy you see on a tennis player’s face after winning the breaker, or the agonized frustration of a wrestler after having a win stolen from them by pin. There’s an indescribable element about athletics—the sights and sounds, the atmosphere, the heart-in-your-mouth tension—that has always amazed and entranced me.

Translating that element is a challenge and an art. When it’s done well, it can be just as moving and breathtaking as the games themselves. We’re not always at that level, but thanks to our efforts to improve the our content over the last year, we are much closer than we have been in recent memory.

We have similarly worked to refocus this section on its natural subject matter: proving that that intangible quality still exists at the Division III level. There exists a widespread contempt for the NCAA’s third-tier on this campus that I have never understood. In many ways, the games played in our facilities represent the ultimate triumph of what sports should be. The athletes are skilled enough to go about their business like it was meant to be played but aren’t looking to impress scouts or win endorsements. It may be a cliche, but your Chicago Maroons are truly playing for love of the game—and, of course, to win. Breaking down the myth that sports have joined fun in the grave simply because we’re no longer in the Big Ten has been a quest. As this section has evolved immeasurably under its last few editors, our efforts in that journey have frequently resulted in a readable and enjoyable product.

But Maroon Sports champions something more than just the aesthetic or competitive value of athletics. We have all the good fortune of going through our college careers on a campus brimming with impressive and accomplished students. What some of our classmates manage to do in the context of the classroom is remarkable enough; what they achieve outside of Cobb while simultaneously meeting their academic challenges is astounding. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I have long felt the prevalence of such brilliance and determination often makes us complacent and blase about what those around us are doing. It frequently seems as though we are all too busy following our own paths to success to notice each other. The U of C can be a hard, cruel, and unfeeling place at times, and it is certainly never a place notable for its spirit or unity. Following the Maroons is a way of helping to alleviate some of this isolation. It’s recognizing the achievements of other students, something that we cannot do enough here on the South Side. In a way, celebrating our sports teams celebrates us all. They represent the epitome of the Chicago Way—performing with aplomb and reaching great heights in whatever they set their minds to, despite far too much schoolwork and far too little sleep. Every win is an affirmation for the campus as a whole. All of our sacrifices are worth something and are worthy of attention. Here at Maroon Sports, we ensure that that attention is paid.

As I come to the end of my time as sports editor, I sincerely hope that we’ve successfully imparted some of these sentiments to our readership. It’s a long process, and it is often hard to tell whether we are moving forward or standing still. But I have absolutely no doubt that it is worth the effort.

To our loyal readers, thank you for your attention. To those who wear the maroon and white, thank you for your hard work. To those on the Maroon staff who have put up with my antics and inability to respect a word count, thank you for your patience. Be well, be dedicated, and beat Wash U.