Growing up in the state of Massachusetts has spoiled me as a sports fan.
My first strong sports memory came in the fourth grade when the Red Sox reversed the Curse of the Bambino to win Boston’s first World Series in 86 years. I remember the day of the parade when everyone in my elementary school gathered in the cafeteria to watch. I remember the thrill that my grandfather experienced when, for the first time in his life, he got to see his Red Sox hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy.
From there, my love of sports grew. I became obsessed and decided that when I grew up, I would be a NESN reporter, and maybe one day grace the desk of SportsCenter. Realizing that I’m not the biggest fan of public speaking, I turned to writing. Fast-forward to the fall of 2013, and I found myself at The Crimson, covering everything from field hockey and water polo to track and swimming.
Three years and over 100 stories later, I’m in Shanghai, China, reporting on a men’s basketball game between Harvard and Stanford as part of the Pac-12 Globalization Initiative. My co-writer Stephen Gleason and I found ourselves on the other side of the globe rather than just the other side of the River to cover Tommy Amaker’s squad.
From the second we touched down in Shanghai, the trip was a whirlwind. Within hours of landing, we had to cover the Crimson as it faced Shanghai Jiao Tong University in an exhibition game. Getting to the game was an adventure that involved a non-English speaking taxi driver who came to a full stop in the off-ramp of a highway as he got lost on the way to the university. We finally arrived just minutes before tip-off, only to be greeted by UCLA great and broadcast character Bill Walton. All of this we did while still wearing the clothes that we had put on when departing Boston at 5 a.m. the previous day.
The rest of the trip was non-stop as we covered the team on cultural visits, a trip to Shanghai Disney, and the official season opener against the Cardinal.
I fell in love with sports because of my local roots. In a city with a rich sports tradition and only one team for each of the major sports, everyone could rally around the Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots, and Celtics. But travelling to China showed me the global influence of sport—that it not only brings locals together based on whom you root for but also connects people from all over the world for the love of the game. Sitting in the press row at Mercedes-Benz Arena, I saw that the fans who filled the seats weren’t necessarily rooting for Harvard or Stanford but were just there to watch good basketball. They roared at every dunk and cheered for every three, regardless of whether it was scored by the Crimson or Cardinal.
When I came back from the trip, my friends and family continually asked why we went all the way to China to write about basketball. But the trip wasn’t about just basketball. It reminded us how lucky we are to go to such a world-renowned place like Harvard. It showed that who wins and loses isn’t always that important. Sometimes it can be just as fun to watch the battle of two teams fighting to the end for pride and glory.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always maintain my immense hometown sports pride, no matter what city I end up in next. My non-New England friends have learned firsthand what happens when you try to challenge us locals on Deflategate (Roger Goodell’s failed attempt to dethrone the dynasty), whether Tom Brady is the GOAT (update: he is), or whether the Yankees are truly the Evil Empire (no matter how good or bad they perform in the standings, the Yankees are always rival No. 1).
But at the end of the day, I’ll root for a good game, one in which I can watch two equally matched foes face off until the waning seconds, with the final result coming down to a buzzer-beater or a 50-yard field goal attempt while fans hold their breath in anticipation.
It would be sweeter, though, if those good games end in duck boats rolling past Boston Common.
—Staff writer Theresa C. Hebert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.