As per usual for my time at Inside NU, I felt bad about posting a completely comedic article as my final word on anything.
I wish I’d managed to write a proper feature story while I was here. You know, the typical Inside NU feature, like this one from Sam Brief, with the Northwestern athlete and the supportive parent and the story arc. From small beginnings to a game-winning touchdown over Iowa: it is the way of the great sportswriters who’ve graced this website. Instead I wasted my time writing articles about the basketball talents of British monarchs, the ennui of Wisconsin basketball, and Rutgers. None of this was very “journalistic,” but it was all very fun.
At some level, I’m not sure I’m that good at traditional sportswriting. There is nothing more boring than writing a traditional game story, for me. My favorite pieces of sportswriting are “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” by Hunter S. Thompson or “The Sea of Crises” by Brian Curtis, both of which are barely sports pieces at all. But I physically can’t make myself write something truly tremendous, that makes people feel things and share how wonderful the story is on social media.
Part of it is how I was introduced to the world of American sports. For a very long time, the only sport I watched was Formula 1 racing. I didn’t care much for every single sport I cover on Inside NU. I didn’t play anything. I was mocked for my athletic ability, as much as by myself as from other people. I have no love for the smell of fresh dirt on a baseball diamond or the grass of a football field. My entire belief and understanding of American sports comes from my endless desire to relate to other people, usually male, whom I generally have little else in common with.
“Never mind. I want to suffer too,” muttered Aloysha.
I’m a far cry from Aloysha (from The Brothers Karamzov), but I wanted to understand the suffering of sports fandom. I wanted to understand what it meant to care and why my friends could light up when I told them that I was watching too. And then maybe they’d be even more happy when I told them I wrote something about it.
I will admit that when I met Henry Bushnell on “Plexican Monday” in the first few weeks of my freshman year, I didn’t expect to become the editor-in-chief of this site. I’m not sure I expected to even be with the site for more than a year. I don’t have the burning ambition of some Medill students; I liked history, philosophy, statistics, English literature, and music as much as I liked sportswriting. I’m not particularly good at any of those things either, mostly due to a lack of diligence.
But none of that mattered. At Inside NU, all I had to do for a while was pump out preview content and gamers, which I hated, but I could actually do. Henry really wanted me to write a stellar feature story. I’d done one in high school, about my cross-country team, but that was half-memoir/half-newspaper article, and I couldn’t keep it up. For one, I have some issues talking to people and interviewing others. I can’t really hold a conversation with someone I’ve just met. My press conference questions, when not rehearsed, turn into a carnivalesque ramble of sentences that do not make any sense. The players and coaches, bless them, somehow understand that I’m so awkward and give me good quotes anyway. I’m thankful for them first and foremost because they’re the reason any of this exists.
For that, and many other reasons, I’m thankful I came to Northwestern. If I were working for the Florida State or Notre Dame college sports websites, I would’ve quit after a few months. But Northwestern, despite often being a preppy, elitist and constricting place, has a college sports culture that takes people like me and embraces them. That has a lot to do with my readers, who appreciate when I take risks and try to make things more interesting for myself. Thanks to you guys. The readers and the players make up the superstructure of Inside NU.
That has a lot to do with my editors and colleagues as well, who continue to think that what I have to say about sports is worth saying. And then they decided to promote me to running the site, which means you got even more content about tennis and strange bits of content and life from my friends along with your daily dose of recaps and recruiting. In many ways, Inside NU became my life for large stretches of time over the past 2.5 years. There’s no way I would’ve been able to do it with the support I got.
I guess I’m never going to be able to write that mythical feature story for Inside NU. But I’m really thankful I had the opportunity to work here. I’m really thankful for Will Ragatz, my co-EIC, who is often left completely baffled by the things I produce. I’m thankful for Henry Bushnell, Zach Pereles, and Josh Rosenblat, who are all great and should all be admired wherever they go. I’m thankful for Ben Goren and Ian McCafferty, the good boys, who are willing to put up with my brainstorms. I’m thankful for the Inside NU Class of 2019: Martin Oppegaard, Sam Brief, the ‘Grove, and Chris Grismer, for producing content and helping me big time with everything. I’m thankful for Caleb Friedman, Davis Rich, Talia Hendel, Noah Coffman, Josh Burton, Graham Brennan, Isaac Bushnell, Mike Deenen and everyone else who contributed something to make this site truly great. Also, thanks to Megan and Emma for those Bachelorette recaps, those were also great. Thanks to the sports staff at the Daily Northwestern, particularly, Cole Paxton and Max Gelman, for giving me advice, good company and transportation. I do still hate y’all though, mostly because you keep beating us in basketball.
I also can’t leave without placing everything that has happened in some vast historical context. We’ll start with the sports-ish stuff. I have worked for this site in a real Golden Age of Northwestern sports. We made the NCAA Tournament. The football team has 27 wins in three years. The women’s golf and tennis teams are rolling. Lacrosse, field hockey and fencing are all ranked. The women’s basketball team had its most talented teams ever while I was here. Cross-country, wrestling and baseball are trending up under great young coaches.
I can’t guarantee this is going to continue forever. Things can always get worse. But things can also always get better. Northwestern is in a great place in terms of actual success. But there are penalties to success. There can be complacency, from fans and the athletic apparatus. We saw that with the basketball team this year. There can be compromises that should not be made. There are so many stories of schools that have fallen into that pit as well.
There is also the entire problem of the NCAA’s use of unpaid labor. I am not an NCAA-skeptic, even after everything I’ve seen. I’ve participated in enough Division III track meets and met enough good people in the NCAA system to say that it does do a lot of good in this strange world of American sports that I’ll never understand. But there’s too much money and too much injustice now for the student-athlete model to hold forever.
As for the site, I think I’ve left it in a good place. Hopefully you also think so and continue to read it as Caleb and Davis take it into another era. Each editor-in-chief of Inside NU has always been very different in approaching the task. That’s really what makes it different from other SB Nation sites—you never really know what you’re going to get.
But that’s just about all I have to give. I’ll be filing a few more blog posts before this week ends, but this is the last long piece I’ll be writing for the site unless something crazy happens. It’s really time for me to get going. My next thing is totally up in the air, but you’ll still catch my ramblings at Forget the Protocol for sure. Thanks again, for everything.