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Rahooligan: Of Road Trips and Camaraderie

By Rahul Rohatgi, Crimson Staff Writer

Sportswriting, as a rule, is not a dangerous enterprise. Except maybe for the heart, which absorbs a constant pounding of free fried cholesterol from pre-game buffets while its owner sedentarily observes other people running, jumping and kicking. So sportswriting can be unhealthy, yes, but not dangerous.

At the same time, however, the writers of this particular sports section constantly put themselves in harm’s way by traveling to road games. While most of the away games Harvard varsity teams play can be reached by a maximum six-hour trip down I-95, that’s still plenty of time for the Crimson’s enterprising scribes to get in trouble. And while there’s nothing I enjoy more than a Harvard game at the Stadium or Lavietes Pavilion, sometimes the best memories are made on the road. Let me take you inside my world of traveling for Harvard sports.

Two of the first road games I covered as a young freshman were the men’s basketball team’s annual jaunt to Penn and Princeton. Unfortunately, the writer who was to come along got sick, and so it was up to me to forge ahead alone. I couldn’t borrow a car, so I went to the only place that rented to those under 21: Allston’s venerable “EZ Auto”. At the Crimson, we expense-account everything, so I had no qualms (even though I had been told not to) about tacking on a little extra for insurance.

Needless to say, the four-door junker I got had no accessories—it didn’t even have a clock. I amused myself by driving to Philadelphia at 85 miles an hour. Covered the games, met some friends, then headed to Princeton for a game the next day. Upon returning to Boston, I headed to EZ to return the vehicle.

At this point in my life, I had never been a driver in an auto accident. I had never even been pulled over. But as I made that final left turn onto Harvard St. in Allston, only blocks away from EZ, it happened. A car in the next lane nailed me, crushing the right rear door before speeding off.

I pulled into EZ’s parking lot, aghast. Feebly, I tried to explain to the lady at the counter what had happened only a minute before. Please, I begged, don’t charge this to me. Luckily, it was easier convincing her of my innocence than the higher-ups at The Crimson, who from then on eyed me with suspicion.

And then there was that trip sophomore year to Dartmouth. Or, more precisely, Montreal. There were a pair of Harvard basketball games scheduled against the Big Green in the mid-morning and early afternoon. We young sportswriters thought, well, what fun is there in Hanover, N.H., overnight? Instead, we decided that, since it was reading period, we would drive up to Montreal—some of us had never been—then somehow recover in the morning and head back down to Dartmouth for the games.

It was a brilliant plan, except that once we got to Canada it began snowing. Hard. We determined to forge ahead nonetheless. Hoping our editors back in Cambridge wouldn’t notice such expenditures as “five shots of tequila” and “three rounds of keno” on the receipts, we had a great time.

Once the partying died down, however, our lives were once again in danger. The designated driver, a fellow sophomore, didn’t know French or downtown Montreal. Combined with the limited visibility, his inability to comprehend that the bright red signs marked “Arrête!” meant “Stop” led to several close calls.

And, of course, somebody misplaced identification on the way home. Luckily, the U.S. Border Patrol allowed us to scrounge around the car and explain instead of shooting first and asking questions later.

If you happen to read those articles from the Dartmouth basketball games, you’ll notice they’re written with a tinge of hangover.

In my four years with The Crimson, I’ve explored the highways and skyways of the Ivy League region. Back in the salad days before the economy hit a brick wall, I even flew to Philadelphia the morning before a football game.

I think I speak for all the sports reporters here when I say that, yes, we travel because it’s fun. There are definitely paid trips to Montreal and Atlantic City and New York that make it worthwhile.

But more importantly, we travel because we love what we do and want to be there, live, writing with the freshest and best information. There are downsides to road games. Nights spent in Princeton or Ithaca mean missing parties or hanging out with friends back in Cambridge. I always smile when I think of the hockey writers, who spend half the winter in exotic ECAC locales in upstate New York and Ontario, trying to avoid icy patches on backwoods roads.

Crimson sportswriters over the past four years have spent time in Minnesota, Oklahoma and North Carolina covering teams’ playoff games, just to get that dateline. Harvard sports teams have the benefit (luxury?) of traveling in chauffeured buses. We’ve often tried to fit 10 people in a rented minivan.

I’m going to miss the camaraderie of my fellow sportswriters in those lazy stretches of time getting to and from games. Often, it’s just that 10-minute walk across the Charles to the athletic fields. But the best friendships are sometimes forged at those roadside delis, late at night, racing toward another town, chasing another game.

—Staff writer Rahul Rohatgi can be reached at rohatgi@post.harvard.edu.

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