If you asked 10-year-old me what my favorite hobby was growing up, folding laundry, oddly enough, was near the top of the list. Before you judge me, let me explain. For me, laundry day meant much more than getting clean clothes—it meant Sunday afternoons with my dad watching Tiger Woods sink a putt, Roger Federer crush an ace, or my favorite: Tony Romo tossing a touchdown pass.
Unfortunately, my Texas high school was no Dillon High—no Coach Taylor, no football team, and thus no Friday night games. So as a diehard football fan, imagine my disappointment grow even further when my parents nixed the idea of my applying to USC, my childhood dream school and location of my favorite college football team. Apparently, as my mother says, “liking a football team is not a good enough reason to apply to a school.”
I decided that wherever I ended up, I would try to go to as many football games as possible, to make up for the lost high school years. When I ended up at Harvard, where CS50 office hours are better attended than football games, I realized I had two options if I wanted to religiously attend games without fielding too many questions on why I was there—the first was joining the cheer team; the second, writing football for the Crimson Sports Board.
When I missed cheer tryouts for, ironically, office hours, my choice was made for me. Despite hating all forms of writing (#science), the first email list that I signed up for was the one that led me to 14 Plympton many days (and nights) freshman fall.
Two beats and countless stories later—women’s crew (Liz O is still my favorite coach I’ve ever covered, augmented even more so after I joined her team senior spring) and women’s basketball—I could finally add “football” before my beat writer title.
I thought I knew what it would entail. I knew that being football beat writer meant going to games and writing articles. I knew it meant long nights the week football-related supplements were in production and the requirement of staying (mostly) sober on the day of Harvard-Yale.
What I didn’t realize was everything else that came along with the football beat—long (and sometimes nausea-inducing) drives up and down the East Coast, the necessity of four puffy coats, gloves, and a few scarves at the Yale Bowl, the struggle of tweeting with the non-existent WiFi at most stadiums. But the hardest aspect for me to come to terms with was something I thought already knew how to do—stay objective.
One of the first rules we hammer home in our sports compers (other than the oft-missed one that Crimson is singular!) is the importance of objectivity. No conflicts of interest, no favoritism in writing, and absolutely no cheering for a team you are covering. With no previous ties to the team, I thought this would never be a problem for me—surely, I would never feel the inclination to cheer at a touchdown or yell at a ref for a bad call at Harvard Stadium.
It’s an unsurprising fact that it’s much more fun to cover a good team, but by the end of my second season covering football, I found myself surprised to be feeling pangs of disappointment at the triple-overtime loss to Princeton, and internally cheering with every victory. It seemed that after spending hours talking to, watching, and writing about this team, it was hard not to get attached.
My ability to stay objective was pushed to the limit in the 2014 version of “The Game.” With the potential of Harvard to win an Ivy title and go undefeated for just the third time in a century, and ESPN’s GameDay crew present, there was an additional layer of hype and a growing part of me that yearned to be in the stands as a fan, wrapped up in Crimson gear. And then, when Harvard won on a touchdown pass with 55 seconds left, I wanted more than anything to be able to jump up and cheer in Harvard Stadium, on the one day of the year that the seats are packed.
But then, if I were simply a fan, I wouldn’t have covered the jubilation of victory over Princeton after two years of heartbreaking loss; I wouldn’t have had the chance to pen a vet-infused column comparing Yale’s team to its mascot, the bulldog; I wouldn’t have seen this squad fight through the adversity of injury to claw its way into the record books.
Fast forward three years from my first day at The Crimson, and I still wouldn’t give up Saturdays driving through the northeast, treks up eight flights of stairs to Harvard Stadium’s press box, and countless hand warmers in uncovered press boxes of stadiums in desperate need of a renovation, for anything. Because though I still kind of hate writing, joining this family on 14 Plympton Street has let me share with others my love for football, kindled 12 years ago on a Sunday afternoon.