PARTING SHOTS: Lessons Learned, On the Beat and On the Field

As I have heard, there are three keys to having a successful career as the Harvard men’s ultimate frisbee club team’s captain.

First, you have to recruit and expand the membership.

Second, you must make nationals—the crowning achievement of the college ultimate frisbee world.

And finally, you have to publicize your success.

While I was never captain of the team in my four years here at Harvard, the burden of achieving the last goal rested squarely on my shoulders.

I was the co-chair of The Crimson’s sports department, and as such, I could clearly do as I wished and write articles about my own team.

Right?

* * *

It is rare that a member of any sports team rises in the ranks of Crimson Sports.

In my tenure in the building, the highest level any varsity athlete reached was staff writer.

Junior varsity athletes and club team members have been more prominent, but these sports function on a different plane in relation to Crimson Sports.

While I can’t quite claim my ultimate team experience to be on par with that of the countless varsity athletes on our campus, my dual identity informed much of my time in college.

The Crimson helped improve the quality of my writing, provided space for some of the most enjoyable parties at Harvard, and formed bonds of friendship that can only be formed by finagling with a giant printing machine at 3 a.m. on a Sunday night.

Most importantly, it was through the paper that I met my girlfriend of the last two and a half years, Abby Baird.

The memories from 14 Plympton Street and the intramural fields across the river will form the basis of the stories I will be telling about college for the rest of my life.

During my time as a Harvard undergraduate, the relationship between these two aspects of my identity was not always so smooth.

My teammates always pestered me with questions about coverage of the team in the paper.

(For the last time ever: with 41 varsity sports to cover, The Crimson’s sports section simply can’t try to extend into the junior varsity and club realms—it’s unfortunate, but true.)

My fellow writers always asked about why I would end up with scrapes, bruises, and cuts up my arms. I’m quite sure many of them thought I was a masochist.

Witnessing both sides of this dynamic taught me a lot.

Athletes pour countless hours into practicing and perfecting their craft, and many take offense when they are criticized for one reason or another.

Reporters act in much the same way, writing their stories with complete devotion to making it crisp, correct, and interesting.

But just as an athlete will inevitably turn over the ball, frisbee, or puck, miss a shot, or make a mistake, so will the reporter.

Finding fault with the work of either is easy and done quite often.

The emphasis should—but seldom does—lie not on the mistake itself, but on what comes after the mistake.

If that mistake costs a team a shot at the playoffs or comes at the cost of a student organization being misrepresented in an article, it will not be reversible or excusable.

But good can still come of it.

At our core, we are all students. We might be reporters, teammates, captains, or editors, but we can all still be defined as students.

As our soon-to-be ex-president Derek C. Bok has argued in his efforts to improve the work of universities, our primary role as such is to learn. Learning takes place on the field just as often as it does within the friendly but dungeon-like confines of The Crimson.

For me, it took place in both.

—Staff writer Gabriel M. Velez can be reached at gmvelez@gmail.com.

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