Sometimes you’re riding your bike on the road that is university life when a pair of train tracks comes your way.
You could choose to avoid the tracks like your typical, self-aware person, or you could ride as close to the edge as possible. The possibility of having your tire slip into the gap between the tracks and the asphalt is practically slim to none anyway.
But sometimes, the next thing you know, you have a hole in your new favorite pair of pants and you’re spouting obscenities while picking gravel out of your hands in the middle of a darkened Campus Drive, hoping no one saw you.
I lost the pants before their prime, but sometimes growing up is as jarring as getting launched off your bike unexpectedly onto the cruel asphalt below. In a way, my three-year ride as a member of The Badger Herald sports section has been the same way.
I came into my freshman year with only one career option in mind: sports journalism. I picked up a Daily Cardinal within my first week of school, but I left it in a bag someplace and forgot about it.
Then my friend Laura pointed me in the direction of the Herald after she saw online the sports department had openings. I am eternally indebted to her because, without that notice, I may have never emailed Mike Fiammetta — who was still listed as the sports editor because the Herald’s website hadn’t been updated yet.
I sent that email, Mike put me in touch with Ian McCue (the actual sports editor at the time) and that Sunday, Sept. 9, I walked into the Herald life, which was unusually warm at the old office above Madhatter’s bar.
I never looked back. I was too busy with my life enveloped in Wisconsin’s sports to look back.
Although I’ve devoted the last three years of my life to covering sports, including the last year as sports editor, it was never really about the sports.
Don’t get me wrong: I love everything about sports and I’ve relished all the mesmerizing opportunities I’ve had as part of the Herald. I was able to go to the Big Ten men’s hockey tournament last year and the Big Ten football championship game and Sweet 16 this year.
But more than anything, it wasn’t the sports I was covering that I cared about; it was the people. Depending on what side you see of me, I can be anything from fairly inhibited and quiet to the loudest person in the room. But even if I felt uncomfortable and introverted while at a game or practice, when it came time to conduct an interview, my curiosity took over.
And to be quite honest, the people I enjoyed interviewing most had no affiliation with revenue sports. I covered women’s basketball as a freshman and then women’s soccer as a sophomore, and some of my fondest memories were from those two semesters. I knew absolutely nothing about soccer, but women’s soccer head coach Paula Wilkins quickly became one of my favorite people to talk to week in and week out over the course of the season.
There were others like women’s basketball assistant Alysiah Bond and women’s hockey head coach Mark Johnson that I enjoyed just as much. There were times last spring when I was already writing two stories for an issue, but picked up a women’s hockey story just so I had an excuse to go talk to Johnson.
And that desire to get to know people and hear their stories is what has kept my passion for journalism going, despite all the times I may have fallen off my bike onto the pavement both literally and figuratively.
As a sophomore last spring, I struggled to adapt to the new role as sports content editor and I often felt like I was picking myself off the ground. I started out clueless, spent a lot of late nights in the office — sometimes as late as 3:30 in the morning — and wondered if it was really worth it.
Now as I look back, it was worth every crash of my bike. Not because of the sports, but because of the people. The people I got to talk to, and more importantly, the people I interacted with at the Herald nearly every day for the last year and a half, all of whom I have come to love as my family. And not just Heralders, but everyone else in my life that has gotten me this far because God knows I can’t see all the unsuspecting train tracks out there.
You all know who you are. Thanks for a hell of a ride.