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This is Not a Farewell Column; Just Some Final Regrets

By Julio R. Varela

This is my final week at The Crimson, and I feel like a kid who has eaten one too many Snickers bars.

No, this isn't a farewell column. Perhaps later in the spring, what I like to call my post-thesis season, I'll bring my windbreaker to Soldiers Field and write about baseball. Hell, I'll probably even visit Yale's field, the legendary birthplace of Roy Hobbes (that's what Colin F. Boyle '90 says).

Let's face it: I am very anxious to leave 14 Plympton St. now. At times, I have hated this place--more than I hate Brent Musburger announcing a college basketball game or watching Menudo live in concert. Other times, I thought this was the greatest place around--a 24-hour candy store that stockpiled cases and cases of chocolate. But that's enough for me, thank you, I'm feeling kind of queasy.

Still, I guess I should write about something. I admit that I will really miss writing columns, even though I always thought my column name was rather stupid. When compared to a "Mark My Words," a "Stir Frey" or even a "Casey at the Bat," "Varelitas" just doesn't crack it.

I have written some very strange columns and some very bad ones, too. However, I have always tried to talk about athletes. Forget about the score; I was more concerned with a player or a coach. Sure, it's not an earth-shattering statement, but it worked for me.

That's why I regret not ever writing a column about Harvard football Captain Greg Gicewicz during the Crimson's memorable 1989 Ivy season. The Stadium is covered with slush and snow today, and Harvard football won't hit full swing until next year. But as justice to Gicewicz, I have to write about him.

Some people were surprised after the end of the 1988 season when Gicewicz was named the captain for the 1989 squad. First, because he was a nose tackle. On the gridiron, the nose tackle position is about as glamorous as working the drive-thru shift at a local McDonald's. When you talk football, you mean running backs, quarterbacks and wide receivers. Nose tackles just get their uniforms dirty.

Second, because he was already a senior, which meant that he would have to take the spring semester off in order to remain eligible. The reason? Gicewicz wanted one more season to play. Cool.

A Football Philosopher

Then came the profile "Stir Frey" wrote about Gicewicz and his roommate, Harvard tight end Kevin Collins, who also took a semester off to play another year. In the article, "Stir Frey" described Gicewicz as a "philosopher on football." I couldn't believe it. How could football be philosophical?

Once the season began, I began to learn that, yes, football and philosophy do mix. And Gicewicz had mastered the subject.

Ask Gicewicz a question, and he would talk. Not just say what most sportswriters are used to hearing (e.g., "We have to take this season one game at a time"). Gicewicz would talk as if every word meant something. He is the type of player who could find different answers to the same questions. In other words, he was a sportswriter's dream.

I remember one conversation we had over the phone before The Game. We were doing a story on Yale's wishbone offense, and I asked Gicewicz how Harvard would defend against it. The usual response would have been: "We just have to dig in and play our best." Instead, Gicewicz started talking about blocking schemes and how offensive linemen like to take down nose tackles in a wishbone formation. Whoa.

I was fascinated. Here was Gicewicz talking to me about blocking schemes--which, to the average football spectator (myself included), are about as confusing as taking the T to Logan--and it was making complete sense. Of course, we used his stuff in the story.

Gicewicz was also the most fired-up captain I have ever met at Harvard. No matter how bad the season was turning out (and after four straight losses, things weren't that cheery), Gicewicz still believed Harvard could rebound. And he wasn't just saying it. He never just said it.

Before the Dartmouth game, the Crimson captain made it a point to maul any teammate he saw. Just to make sure Harvard was ready for the game. Gicewicz was one of the players who brought back what the Crimson had been lacking since the 1987 Ivy title year--emotion. And even though the 6-5 win over the Big Green didn't actually blow up the scoreboard, it didn't matter. This was a very different Harvard team.

After the game, I went to interview Gicewicz. He was so excited that he just kept talking and talking. Then he started telling me about how he rented Rocky to watch with some teammates the night before the game.

A bunch of Harvard football players watching the Italian Stallion slug it out with Apollo Creed. Now that's a memory.

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