The one aspect of farewell columns I can’t stand is that people always complain about how to start them.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get to it.
You know those moments where you kind of do a slow 360 and soak it all in — the people, the moment, the everything — and just say “wow”? I’ve done that a lot since September 2013, and none of those instances that occurred throughout the past four years are possible without The Badger Herald.
I’m 22 years old (yikes), but I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime because of the Herald. My first story — of 320, according to WordPress — was a short write up from Gary Andersen’s (remember him?) news conference the Monday after the University of Wisconsin lost to Arizona State in 2013 on some shoddy end-of-game management. About 15 months later, I sprinted from College Library to the bowels of Camp Randall Stadium to cover the fallout from his resignation. My name appeared on the front page for the first time the next morning.
It’s been four years, and I don’t regret a damn thing. I was thrown into the fire from literally day one and never stepped out. Who would want to?
But I guess I have to now. And it really sucks. It sucks so bad.
I loved every minute of this job, whether I was pulling my hair out while editing grammatical mistakes or staying sober at a tailgate because I had a game to cover. (Let’s be honest, I probably failed at that a time or two.) I covered two horrendous seasons of women’s basketball and watched the volleyball team win 22 straight sets. I became a College GameDay sign and road-tripped across the Midwest to report on the Badgers. I flew to Los Angeles on company dime to watch UW clinch its second consecutive Final Four berth. Aaron Rodgers and Olivia Munn walked right by me while the Badgers cut the nets on the floor of the Staples Center. I was 19.
How did I deserve this?
To be honest, I never felt like I earned it. I’m not complaining, though. I’m young and dumb, but I’ve already figured out that half the battle is being in the right place at the right time.
Believe me, I messed up along the way. Bo Ryan’s surprise press conference to announce his retirement? I left before it started because I wasn’t feeling well! The mistakes hardened me, drove me to be better, work more diligently and dig deeper. It’s with that passion I hope I attack the rest of my career.
I reflect on the amazing opportunities my time at the Herald has given me. I’m talking about the experiences, including three too many return trips from Indianapolis feeling dejected. I interviewed future NBA and NFL stars. I stood next to Paul Bunyan’s Axe. I covered top-10 teams. I formed relationships with coaches and developed admiration for outstanding student-athletes I had the privilege of covering.
Most of all, that’s what my tenure here boils down to: people. The Badger Herald has introduced me to an innumerable amount of spectacular human beings, and now it’s time to thank them.
Nick Daniels and Caroline Sage gave me my first shot at this gig, and I’ll always be grateful for that. Eric Kohlbeck became the big brother I never had. Dan Corcoran and I watched Randy Orton RKO videos until we cried of laughter, yet he still, against all odds, evolved into a valued mentor and friend. Nick Brazzoni was the best right-hand man I could ask for, is an even better friend and took the sports section to greater heights.
The Madison media is a close-knit group and getting to know everyone has been a true pleasure. Guys like Dennis Punzel, Jason Galloway, Jesse Temple, Tom Oates, Jim Polzin, Ben Worgull, Ryan Wing and Jake Kocorowski made covering Wisconsin sports a lot of fun. They were always kind to me. They didn’t have to do that, but I appreciate it tremendously.
I want to also thank the UW Athletic Communications Department for treating the Herald with respect. I’ve never covered another college sports program, but I have a feeling I’ve been spoiled. You made my job easy and I hope their relationship with student journalists continues. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the camaraderie among fellow student reporters Matt Foster, Nick Osen and Curt Hogg.
Mom and Dad, thanks for encouraging and supporting me on this journey. I love you.
Finally, to you, the reader. You may read only because I wrote it and want to be a good roommate/friend/family member, or you may actually be interested in what I was writing. Regardless, you are the reason why I do this. Your feedback, criticism and kind words have fueled me for four years and I cannot adequately express my gratitude toward everyone. Know that I cherish you all.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some dramatic, slow-mo, 360-degree spins to get to.