I have been to the mountaintop, and I have seen Roger Clemens naked.
From Fenway Park to the Crooked Stick Golf Club, from The Garden to The Stadium to the St. Paul Civic Center, from Cleveland to East Rutherford to South Williamsport to Orono, sportswriting has taken me places I had only dreamed of.
I've stood shoulder to shoulder with Drew Bledsoe and shot the breeze with Ken Griffey, Jr. I've had lunch with Sandy Alomar Jr.'s girlfriend and done shots with Laura Davies in a Vermont bar. I've worked in the pits for Michael Waltrip and shaken the hand of Goose Gossage. I've interviewed Roberto Baggio one-on-one and pissed off Bill Parcells.
I've done radio shows throughout the Northeast and been recognized on the T. I've even had kids ask me for my autograph.
In the last four years, I've lived a life most kids can only dream of. For this, I can only thank Pete Rosenthal '92.
Pete was the sports editor when I walked into this building as a freshman, my interest in journalism strong but unfocused. He sold me on sports with a stirring speech about the joys of covering college sport at its highest level (in sportswriting circles, this is known as the "free stuff" speech) and promising me the men's basketball beat in the winter.
In retrospect, his spiel was a load of sugar-coated manure, but it sure tasted sweet. I nibbled, and he played me like the tuna I was.
Pete immediately put me to work on a men's soccer story. The team had just returned from a tournament at UNLV (UNLV!) and the coach pumped me full of propaganda on how he thought Jason Luzak '93 should be considered an All-American (All-American!!) while we sat under the program's enormous NCAA trophies (National Semifinalists in 1987!!!).
Overwhelmed by exclamation points, I finished my comp in a record four weeks. I covered the women's soccer team and chronicled its spectacular run to the ECAC tournament.
And then reality hit, disguised as the as-promised men's basketball team (slogan: wait 'til next year to the 92nd power). And I found out why Pete could promise the beat to me so easily. The team stunk. It always stinks, but that year it stunk real bad. The team started out 0-11 and finished 6-20, including a 100-62 loss to Division III Babson.
Instead of exclamation points, there were question marks. And I turned bitter at this betrayal.
Reputations come and go, but some are unshakable, and the day I tagged Eric Carter '93 with, the nickname "The Human Foul" was the day I chose the path of the journalistically righteous and publicly despised.
Carter was a backup power forward whose talent for the game was matched only by his ability to speak Swahili. His principal contribution to the men's basketball team consisted of assaulting opposing players near the basket. I stand by the moniker. But Carter's friends found the phrase hilarious, and all day they greeted Carter with "Hey, how's it going, Human Foul?" and "Yo Foul! What's up?"
Naturally, Carter wanted to meet me, preferably alone in a dark alley. Naturally, I wanted to avoid this. Fortunately for me, the better part of valor won, although Carter never spoke to me again.
What Pete didn't tell me that first day is that writing sports at Harvard is a nightmare on par with anything the Apostles could dream up in the Book of Revelations. Writers spend the majority of their waking hours running after athletes who are not always keen on sharing experiences and composing articles for a student body which is at best uninterested. (Anybody who is that interested in Harvard sports is already working here.) I've noticed that most Harvard students take their sports news in 40-point Utopia; any headline smaller than that is generally forgotten within 15 minutes.