Anasthasia Shilov, Illustrations Editor

Friday nights and Saturday afternoons are quiet now. I sit at my desk, painfully reminded that at this point in the year, I would have seen my fair share of volleyball, soccer and football games and ultimately calculated our chances of heading to March Madness once again. I peer out of my Stiles window and stare at Payne Whitney Gymnasium, flooded with thoughts of years past.

Although I’m not an athlete, Yale Athletics — and my time at the News’ Sports Desk — has provided me with some of my most significant memories as an undergraduate. I’ve explored the Red Sox dugout, dapped up Zion Williamson and celebrated with the Yale men’s lacrosse team at Gillette Stadium after it captured its first national title. Just as important to me are the memories of sitting in the stands with friends and watching the Bulldogs as we planned out moves for the night or distracted ourselves from thinking about the piles of work we needed to complete for the week ahead.

However, nobody is safe as the coronavirus mindlessly dances from person to person — much less gracefully than a Yale gymnastics floor routine, I might add. Not even the towering, sturdy presence of Payne Whitney — a picturesque fortress built to encapsulate both the beauty and overwhelming pressures that come with the status of an Ivy League athlete — could resist the sweeping trajectory of the pandemic.

Gone, for now, are the sounds of rubber soles streaking across the polished hardwood floors of Lanman. Gone, for now, is the oasis of warmth that only an Ingalls hot chocolate could provide. Gone, for now, is the smell of chlorine radiating from Kiphuth as claps and cheers fill the rest of the humid exhibition pool air. Gone, for now, is a part of Yale deeply intertwined with my experiences and memories as an undergraduate.

Here, for now, is a feeling of emptiness accentuated by the monotonous routine of online classes while relegated to my third-floor dorm room.

And yet Yale Athletics breathes. 

During a time of great turmoil and uncertainty, it is the student-athletes themselves keeping the USS Payne Whitney, and the Yale community itself, afloat. Earlier this year, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee partnered with Yale Bulldogs for Change to promote voter registration and preserve the democracy that we as American citizens have the privilege of exercising frequently. Voices and agents for change, such as Yale football’s Micah Awodiran ’22, remind the rest of the Yale student body — and some do, in fact, need this particular reminder — of an athlete’s place on campus and their consistent embodiment of the expectations that come with being an Ivy League student.

Once again, I peer out my window at Payne Whitney — this time it’s ablaze with lights from the street. Despite blank athletic schedules and no clear date for when competition will resume, it remains a tower of light spilling hope onto Tower Parkway and the campus beyond. This pandemic will end, and its end will mark the resurgence of normalcy and perhaps a rebirth of Yale’s former — and seemingly ancient — appreciation of the athlete and athletics at large.

CRISTOFER ZILLO is a senior in Ezra Stiles College and a former sports editor at the News. Contact him at cris.zillo@yale.edu.