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Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Scott.
Scott loved playing sports, but the problem was that he wasn’t a very good athlete. Thin, boney, and nerdy, he had the height of a stunted rabbit, the speed of an intoxicated turtle, and the strength of an arthritic mouse. His greatest athletic accomplishment was either hitting a triple in Little League—and really, let’s be honest, it was a bloop single with two errors—or earning the fifth-doubles spot on a middle school tennis team that everybody made. Oh, and one time he scored like eight points in the D-Level Booster Basketball “All-Star” Game against a maladroit collection of obese middle schoolers. That was pretty cool.
Anyway, with a smaller chance at the pros than a man has of winning the lottery and being struck by lightning on the same day, Scott redirected his interest in the only manner he possibly could—by devoting all of his energy into being a fan.
Hours were spent listening to games on a radio hidden under his pillow after his parents had sent him to sleep, filling countless marble notebooks with imaginary trade proposals, and watching SportsCenter reruns on mornings when his peers were enjoying cartoons. To Scott, sports was more than a passion; it was an obsession.
As all children do, our protagonist soon grew up and became a young man, and come 2009 it was time for him choose a college. It should not surprise you, dear reader, that Scott wished to attend a big sports school.
Perhaps he would join the 100,000 fans that packed the Big House every Saturday at Michigan. Or possibly he would become a Cameron Crazy at Duke and paint his chest blue come November. Or maybe he would go to Stanford, who had a young quarterback destined to be a superstar.
Then one day, a surprise arrived in our protagonist’s mailbox—it was a letter, and it stated that he had been accepted to Harvard University. Harvard! The notice offered the possibility of an unparalleled academic opportunity, but also an experience quite distinct from the one that had been dominating his chimerical imagination. Certainly, he believed, people at Harvard must be far too erudite, far too focused on pursuits ranging from quantum physics to quixotic philosophy to care about something as trivial as sports.
What was our dear protagonist to do?
Well, as you know, good reader, Scott chose to attend Harvard, but not without a great deal of concern. He worried whether he would meet other people like him. People who comprehended what it meant to invest so much of one’s emotional energy into the successes of a group of millionaires, who recognized that the common bond among fans could unite strangers like nothing else could, who knew that the understanding that in sports there was always a tomorrow was the most calming feeling in the world.
Upon arriving in Cambridge, Scott decided to comp the sports board of The Harvard Crimson, an organization that he believed would give him the best chance to meet such people. And guess what? He did!
Over the next four years, joining the newspaper would become far and away the best decision Scott made during his undergraduate career. It gave him the opportunity to cover the storied Harvard-Yale Game, the Beanpot at TD Garden, and a contest at Fenway Park. He got to tell stories of champions of a century ago, of athletes following in the illustrious legacies of their parents, and of those alumni who had made the rare leap from Harvard to the pros. He got to learn and teach and laugh and make friendships that he hopes will last a lifetime.
And as he did so, Scott realized something that would surprise many around the country, including the apprehensive high school version of himself.
He did not need Michigan, or Duke, or Stanford, because Harvard was a sports school.
One in which a full quarter of the student body was a member of one of Harvard’s nation-high 41 varsity athletic teams. One in which the football; wrestling; sailing; men’s basketball, soccer, swimming, tennis, and vollyball; and men’s and women’s heavyweight and lightweight crew, fencing, hockey, lacrosse, and squash programs that those students were a part of could all at one point or another be found in the Top 25 of their respective rankings during his four years at the College—that’s 20 squads, for all you Yale folk, or more than most schools have total teams.
Scott came to see that Harvard was a sports school most strongly in the cramped, aging, undersized gymnasium they call Lavietes Pavilion, where on three cold winter weekends 400 undergraduates became the “Cambridge Crazies” he had written in his Harvard application essay he had wanted to help establish. Students who loudly hooted at refs and hollered at opponents and believed that their team would win. And, very often, the Crimson responded by doing so.
Indeed, it was one of the best stories he had ever heard from the world of sports, a true rags-to-riches tale that he co-wrote 7,500 words on if you’d like to learn more. The team’s success gave him the chance to cover important home games alongside the legendary Bob Ryan and provided him with the most incredible experience of his four collegiate years—the opportunity to cover not one, but two(!) NCAA tournament games at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City this past March.
As a college basketball zealot, our protagonist simply could not have chosen a better four-year block out of Harvard’s 337-year existence to attend the College. History was made, championships were won, Linsanity ensued, unforgettable memories were created, and through it all, students genuinely, passionately cared.
Yes, despite his initial hesitations, Scott had gotten the chance to attend a sports school. But did he live happily ever after?
That, like his incredible Little League triple, is entirely up in the air.
—Staff writer Scott A. Sherman can be reached at email@example.com.
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