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Monday, May 27, 2024

I found my home at The Alligator

There’s a lot about that office on SW 13th Street I’m going to miss.

Since my junior year of high school, I’ve been a huge fan of the band O.A.R. I listened to their “Live on Red Rocks” album in my old 2003 Buick Regal so much that I probably almost wore the disc out. One of my favorites is a song called “Black Rock.”

“Where we come from, it’s real important, no matter where you go in this entire world, is you remember that place,” lead singer Marc Roberge said about the song. “That place where you and your crew and your people, you had that spot.

“It’s like you can go back in your mind at any point in time and know exactly where you were when you told your friends that you loved them. You know exactly where you were when you told your people that they’re there for you and you’re there for them.” 

I think about that quote a lot. I can almost recite the entire thing from memory. 

For as much as I’ve loved getting to write about sports for The Alligator for seven semesters (I’ve almost lost count at this point), the people I’ve gotten to meet is a big reason why working here has been such a great time. 

One of the things that I loved the most about The Alligator was the freedom to be myself. I’m not exactly the most outgoing person, and it takes time for me to really gel with a group. However, around my people at alligatorSports, I always feel at home. 

I was also free to write about whatever I wanted. Any idea I had was usually met with fervent support. A 1000-word article on how the Gators use their backup quarterback? Yes, please. An article about how the Gators’ second-half offense hasn’t been that good? Get to work, Stat Boy.

There’s a lot about that office on SW 13th Street I’m going to miss. For a long time, that was my spot. 

I’ll miss the camaraderie a lot. Any time one of the sprots writers entered the room, it was hard to not smile and give them a cheerful greeting. It turns out that staying up late working on something together every week creates strong bonds between people. 

I’ll miss the constant arguments about whose NFL team is the worst. There’s a lot of heartbreak on this dumb staff, and I’m convinced that none of our teams will ever do a damn thing. 

I’ll miss walking into the office with a couple slices of Hawaiian pizza and hearing groans from my friends as they passionately argue that it’s not pizza. 

I’ll miss arguing about where to get food on a given night. I won’t miss asking “Where should we get food?” and having nobody offer anything, but I will miss the actual food runs with the guys. La Tienda just hits different after a few hours of copy editing. 

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Granted, I’ve missed a lot of that stuff for a while now. We haven’t been in the office together since March. 

After not seeing each other for a while, we started a tradition of Zoom get-togethers every Wednesday night. It pretty quickly became a highlight of my week. I wouldn’t stay up until some ungodly hour every week hanging out if I didn’t love these people. 

My Black Rock wasn’t the spot itself, but the people in it. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know so many amazing, talented people over the years, and I’m going to miss everyone a lot. In a way, I feel like saying goodbye to some of my closest friends more than I’m saying goodbye to The Alligator. 

To Mari Faiello, Dylan Rudolph and River Wells: My Tampa Bay friends and also my best friends. Thank you for being the people on staff I could rant about hockey with and not feel like I’m speaking in another language. Maybe when things are normal we can go to Amalie Arena again and hopefully the Sharks won’t get killed this time. 

To Mark Stine: Thank you for giving me a shot in the summer of 2018, right after I completed my first year of college. Covering softball with you was amazing, and our trip to Tampa for the USF softball tournament was a highlight of my time at The Alligator. 

To Tyler Nettuno: One of my favorite people on staff. Whether it was reminiscing about the homeland together, making fun of the futility of the Jaguars or talking about why 2007 was the craziest year in college football history, you never fail at putting a smile on my face or making me laugh. You and Mari made Fall 2019 one of the best semesters I had on staff. 

To River (again), Christian Ortega and Payton Titus: Thank you for putting up with me on our football staff this semester. Whether it’s me making fun of the UAA’s latest Zoom blunder, forwarding dumb replies to my articles from my inbox (all of which end with “Sent from my iPhone”) or complaining about how I’m somehow the only one who can attend a Monday afternoon presser, thank you for letting me be me. I’m sure you won’t miss editing 1200-word stats articles featuring at least three charts.  

It was far from a normal year on the beat, but thank you for letting me tag along. 

To everyone else: Listen, I wish I had the time and space to thank everyone individually. Just know that I love you all from the bottom of my heart and it was a pleasure getting to know you.

Brendan Farrell was the sports editor at The Alligator. You can follow him on Twitter @Bfarrell727.

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