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Thursday, April 18, 2024

I still remember that first phone call. It’d be hard not to, considering how much I didn’t want to field it.

It was an autumn Saturday. The weather that morning was nice — well, rowable at the very least.

I was exhausted. Famished. Drenched in an unholy combination of sweat and lake water.

Dragging my feet, I climbed the flight of stairs to my second-story apartment, solely concerned with eating my weight in breakfast, taking a warm shower and crushing a nap.

I didn’t want to answer that call. It isn’t entirely my fault — steady state rowing drains the soul out of men. And if I could barely hold a coherent conversation with my roommate, how the hell was I supposed to carry one with an unknown number?

Yet, my phone rang. Somehow, I picked it up. And here I am, three semesters later.

It’s hard to quantify just how gratifying my experience at the Alligator was. In between late-night copy-editing shifts and impromptu Nerf wars was a journalistic crash course that no formal education could ever replicate. I was gifted the chance to cultivate my own, unique voice at the largest student-run newspaper in the nation.

But beyond that, writing for this paper helped me realize just what it was that I wanted to do with my life. And, at the risk of sounding cheesier than a three-course meal at The Melting Pot, there are a slew of individuals responsible for that epiphany.

Thank you, Emily Cochrane, for instilling the fear of God in me each time we sat down to review my feature on gymnastics coach Adrian Burde.

Thank you, Jordan McPherson, for pushing me to my wits’ end whenever I had to fact check one of your stat-laden masterpieces. Thank you, Ian Cohen, for patiently dealing with both my incessant breaches of AP Style and overblown vocabulary. And thank you, Graham Hall, for taking that initial shot by hiring a business administration major.

To the countless others that I’m undoubtedly forgetting — thanks for some of the greatest memories I’ll ever make.

For hiding my flip flops in plain sight, prompting me to grab dinner at Bento barefoot. For accepting the “crew boys,” a trio of rowers-turned-writers equally (in)famous for our mediocre social skills as we were for our blistered hands. For assuring me that the rat I saw scurrying through the sports bullpen on my first day of work was far from the worst thing our old, dilapidated home had seen.

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In his book “The Boys in the Boat”, author Daniel James Brown recounts a conversation that the famed boat builder George Pocock had with Joe Rantz, a rower at the University of Washington.

Pocock compared the construction of a racing shell to religion — to build a quality boat, you must completely surrender yourself to it, leaving a piece of yourself behind with it forever.

“Rowing,” he said, “is like that. And a lot of life is like that too, the parts that really matter anyway.”

Who would’ve thought that writing for the Alligator could have the same effect?

C’mon, Emily — it might have been a cliché, but at least it made for a decent kicker.

Alejandro López is a sports writer who has covered cross country, gymnastics, volleyball and women’s basketball.

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