Playing a varsity sport at Yale requires massive effort.
There are the 6 a.m. practices, the afternoon practices, the captain’s practices in the offseason. There are the weightlifting sessions, the study halls and ultimately, the games themselves.
In a way, I’ve spent the last year of my Yale career playing a varsity sport, albeit one with a lot less contact and a lot more typing: My term as Sports Editor for the News ended this past weekend.
Of course, I am fully aware of the differences. We never had practices, only games, and our “games” were never really competitions. I never had a 6 a.m. practice — though there were a few days where I saw 6 a.m. come and go from my desk as I crafted the sports section. And while working at the News was a major commitment, it probably doesn’t stand up to the rigors of, for example, suiting up for Tony Reno’s football team.
I wouldn’t say I’ve had a more time-consuming sports experience than the student-athletes at Yale. But I would say mine was more varied, and that’s what’s driven me to pen this column for the section I once curated.
In my three-plus years at Yale, I’ve spoken with members of every team here, as a reporter, an editor and as a peer. I’ve covered games in places as far-flung as San Luis Obispo, California and as undesirable as Hanover, New Hampshire. I’ve sat in the press box helplessly watching Yale lose in the driving rain while straining to maintain some air of objectivity, and I’ve cheered madly from the student section as the Bulldogs won on the ice.
Yet to much of campus, these experiences don’t ring any bells. Some Yale students will spend four years here without attending a single sporting event — and no, the Harvard-Yale tailgate doesn’t count.
So why should that change?
For starters, we have tradition. Football became an American staple here in New Haven when Walter Camp, class of 1880, helped define the modern game before there was an NFL or a Super Bowl. Former president George H.W. Bush ’48 once played on the very diamond that Chris Moates ’16 and the Bulldogs use today. We’ve won crew championships, sailing championships and a pair of Heisman Trophies.
We have storylines. Is this the year, after eight frustrating seasons, that the Elis can finally knock off hated Harvard on the gridiron? Can Justin Sears ’16 and the basketball team make it to March Madness after coming seconds away a year ago? Can the volleydogs win a record sixth straight Ivy League title?
But traditions are overplayed and storylines are fleeting.
We should care because sports are what make us human. Sports throw objectivity out the window, or rather, out the press box: I can still recreate in my mind the game-winning touchdown run by receiver Deon Randall ’15 that caused me and my editor to embrace in the press box, silently celebrating a huge Yale win.
And these same sports that I’ve followed so closely are changing. This year, an openly gay football player is taking the field for Princeton. The NCAA’s model of amateurism is under heavy scrutiny. Heck, the Yale Bowl might even have artificial turf soon enough — and don’t forget about the temporary lights.
As a reporter and as an editor, my views have been shielded from the words we published every day. As a columnist, I want to weigh in on these sorts of issues in a way not normally covered in these pages. The collegiate athletics landscape is shifting right now, and I see no more interesting place to write about it than from 202 York St.