I can’t remember if the umpire actually verbalized the call, but it was plain as day. If you bunt with two strikes and it rolls foul, you’re out. I bunted with two strikes, and it rolled foul.
It wasn’t my idea. My coach had tugged at the bill of his cap as he spat Grizzly — the tugging the signal to bunt, the spitting a consequence of the ever-packed lip that made his speech unintelligible.
I slunk back to the dugout, dragging my bat like a real-life version of Charlie Brown who had failed in his final chance to kick that damn football. I knew then as I slumped onto the cold metal bench that I had walked up to the plate for the last time.
When I came to New Haven a few months later, I traded my bat for a pen. All of a sudden I had the ability to affect a game like I never had before. I could influence how the outcome was portrayed simply by which events I included or left out, emphasized or played down. I could only find storylines, however; I could not create them.
Like many of my fellow seniors, I’ve begun to look back at my bright college years, both my successes and my failures, trying to define my four years here. It’s struck me, however, that my time in New Haven has been defined to a large extent by the successes and failures of others.
I’ve lived and died alongside the teams I’ve covered. My friends can attest to the fact that my mood was often a direct reflection of the record of whichever team I was covering at the time. This was great when I was covering a playoff-bound basketball squad, and not so great when I was covering a 2–8 football team.
My reflection brought me back to a party I went to two years ago on the greatest night in the recent history of Yale Athletics: the men’s ice hockey team’s 4–0 demolition of Quinnipiac in the national championship game. In a conversation now made hazy by the effects of cheap beer and time passed, a disgruntled subject of one of my articles confronted me. He accused me, albeit in less kind terms, of hypocrisy for writing about sports that I couldn’t play.
He was right on at least one count: I couldn’t play. That was kind of the point. If I could have played his sport — or any other sport, for that matter — at the college level, I wouldn’t have been freezing to death in press boxes across the northeast. I would have been playing.
But something, whether it was God or my parents’ un-athletic genes, made sure that would not be the case. That same thing, however, instilled in me a love of sports that never went away.
The NCAA tells us that most college athletes will go pro in something other than sports. So too, will most college sportswriters go pro in something other than journalism. Just as players hang up their cleats, we hang up our press passes.
Next year I’ll be in law school. Three years will pass and I’ll be a name and a desk and a “Condro, where on God’s green earth is that brief I asked for?”
Just like those student-athletes who play not for pro contracts or Olympic dreams, I wrote because I wanted to steal four extra years where sports were nothing but a passion. Four extra years where my life outside of classes revolved around games and stats. Four extra years for a kid who was so bad his coach made him bunt in a 0–2 count.