Growing up, the NCAA Tournament was my favorite sporting event—the combination of upsets, close finishes, and the predictive element of filling out a bracket always had me counting down the days until March. I remember rushing home from middle school on Thursday and Friday of the opening weekend of the tournament so that I could catch the end of the first slate of games.
So, when I stepped into The Crimson as a freshman, I was set on becoming a men’s basketball writer. Harvard was on the rise, having just won its first ever NCAA Tournament game against New Mexico the previous year. Being able to cover Tommy Amaker and Wesley Saunders during the Ivy League season and, perhaps, at the NCAA Tournament seemed like the ideal path for me at The Crimson.
Plans, of course, are subject to change.
Entering junior year, I was entering my second full season covering the men's hockey and women's volleyball teams. That year, two spots on the men’s basketball beat opened up following the graduations of two former writers. Yet, despite my initial plans as a freshman, I decided to pass up a shot at those openings and stick with women’s volleyball and men’s hockey.
At a certain point during the first two years of covering and watching Harvard sports, I had realized how much the basketball program meant to my student experience. I had formed some of my better friendships at home games, and attending contests in the student section was one of the activities that I most looked forward to during the week. Covering the team would mean trading free Harvard basketball t-shirts for jackets and ties, cheering whenever Robert Baker subbed into a game or took a three-pointer for silent note-taking, and partiality for neutrality.
Some of my favorite Harvard memories came in the basketball student section, whether it was storming the court at the Palestra after beating Yale in the Ivy League tiebreaker, watching Siyani’s and-one three-pointer against UNC in Jacksonville that almost knocked off Roy Williams’ squad, or watching any regular season game at Lavietes. In the end, I felt that those memories were worth more than the chance to cover the Harvard men’s basketball program, especially since I enjoyed covering the accomplished women’s volleyball and men’s hockey teams.
Even as I grow older, college basketball is one of the things that I still truly, irrationally love. Even while at Harvard, I never fell out of love with Jim Boeheim and his Syracuse basketball program that I had grown up religiously watching. Over the course of the past four years, I’ve flown to Durham and mooched off of a friend to see Syracuse take down Duke at Cameron Indoor, and drove back and forth to Syracuse in February to witness John Gillon’s buzzer-beater against the Blue Devils. I vividly remember looking like an idiot in a library freshman year when I yelled after Tyler Ennis hit a buzzer-beater against Pitt to move the Orange to 24-0. No matter how busy I was in college, I almost always made time to watch each game.
At a place as intense as Harvard, it’s important to love things that don’t actually matter. For as much of a blessing as Harvard can be, it comes with the burden of expectation. Most of the time—save weekend nights—it’s tough to walk 100 feet in any direction without seeing someone who’s working. Incentives matter and time is valuable, and, for most students here, there’s no return on spending two hours at a Harvard-Columbia basketball game. Yet, for me, Harvard basketball was instrumental to my student experience, creating outlets for excitement, debate, and school spirit that rarely flares up at this school—save Housing Day and the annual release of the U.S. and News World Report college rankings.
Irrational love is an incredible part of the human experience. Sometimes, it’s better to pass up being part of the action and watch from the sidelines—whether literally or figuratively.
—Staff writer Kurt Bullard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.