When Lou Gehrig retired from baseball in the summer of 1939, he gave one of the game's most memorable speeches. "Today," Gehrig said, "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this Earth." For almost two decades, the Iron Horse lived his dream -- playing first base for the New York Yankees. It was everything the once-scrawny school boy wanted in life and the slugger was grateful for his time of glory. For 3 1/2 years I lived a dream, and I too am thankful. Over 99 percent of Penn athletes never play pro ball. For each Matt Maloney, Doug Glanville and Jim Finn, there are 99 Mike Sullivans, Russ Farschts and Joe Pielas -- solid college performers who will not see the next ranks. The same is true among sports reporters. Ninety-nine out of 100 reporters' careers end in college. For each Alan Schwartz (College '90, current Baseball America columnist), there are 99 students like me -- college writers who choose not to pursue the next ranks. During my college career, I touched one of my dreams -- writing a back-page sports column for a well-read publication. Sports reporting was not only the role I played in the Penn community but it also indubitably helped shape me as a person. Indeed, there were moments that I felt like an outsider with a notebook and pen. For example, when Penn baseball reserve infielder Oliver Hahl refused an interview, I questioned my worth as a reporter. As a then-young writer, getting negged from an interview with a peer was like getting turned down for a date by the girl next door. But there were so many more moments when my phone would ring and on the other end was someone beyond my wildest imagination. I will always remember my roommate Adam Cohen's reaction when he once answered our phone and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Doug Glanville was on the other end. In addition to playing centerfield and batting leadoff for the Phillies, Glanville -- a 1991 Engineering School graduate -- laid a set of plans for a 30th Street baseball stadium. During our interview, Doug told me that he once missed a college game to study for a systems engineering exam. As a result, a Cincinnati Reds scout refused to draft him. But I respect Doug's decision. As students, we all must balance academics with extracurriculars. Even as a star athlete, Doug knew his priorities and I find that admirable. During my time reporting, I especially enjoyed interacting with three coaches in particular: legendary Yale coach Carm Cozza, former Atlanta Hawks forward and current Columbia basketball coach Armond Hill and Princeton hoops coach Bill Carmody (who legitimately is an OK Princetonian). On Penn's campus, many athletes and coaches also provided me with memorable experiences. Women's basketball players Chelsea Hathaway and Sue Van Stone, women's fencers Meredith Galto, Liz Cornfield and Sarah Johns and field hockey players Sarah Dunn and Audrey Heinel always reached out to me with funny stories when I called them at 2 a.m., struggling well past deadline. In each sport there are always a handful of colorful characters that emerge as the ideal "quote machines." As a reporter, it is not always the captain or star player who I turn to when writing. Sometimes, it is the last reserve on the bench if this is the person who will talk candidly. Former Penn basketball guard Chelsea Hathaway was unquestionably my best "quote machine." Former Penn women's basketball coach Julie Soriero often criticized Chelsea for speaking her mind. Chelsea certainly had a little arrogance. After one of my DP colleagues criticized her five-turnover game, Chelsea faxed a three-page statistical argument supporting her own performance. However, it was that same "I will say what I am thinking" attitude that made Chelsea a pleasure to work with. Hathaway always told me what was on her mind -- bluntly, to say the least. Consequently, I was able to write about her team from interesting angles -- perspectives that our readership appreciated. Among my favorite Penn coaches is fencing's Dave Micahnik. He was the first coach I worked with and he treated me like a member of the team. Penn sports needs more Dave Micahniks and more coaches like track's Charlie Powell and baseball's Bob Seddon, coaches who build relationships with reporters instead of brushing them away. Penn basketball coach Fran Dunphy is another of my favorites, simply because he knows his Xs and Os better than anyone in the game. Sometimes building relationships with coaches and players can make it difficult to write objectively. A good columnist needs to sometimes criticize failure. Otherwise, praise becomes meaningless. My most frequent target of criticism was Penn women's basketball coach Julie Soriero, someone I respected as a person but not as a coaching decision maker. I remember once debating if I should run a column criticizing Soriero after many of her players quit. After much deliberation, I decided to run the piece. However, I had wanted to include this disclaimer: these feelings toward the women's basketball coach are not indicative of my feelings toward her as a person. Obviously, I did not. Writing the football and men's fencing beats similarly presented me with the challenge of maintaining both objectivity and friendships. Football players Mike Pikiel, Jesse Simonian and Brent Stiles and fencers Jeff Allen, Andro Nodarse and John Wright were among those I wished not to alienate. Sometimes, this meant stepping down from an assignment to allow a more objective reporter to fill my shoes. Within the sports office, each reporter draws his own line on what is fair criticism and what is degrading to an athlete. As sports editor in 1998, my co-editors Josh Callahan and Kent Malmros had contrasting perspectives. Josh was always "on-the-edge" and the athletes resented him. But his stories were interesting. Then, there was Kent Malmros, a hardened believer in the school of "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Athletes loved Kent and always made themselves available for interviews. His approach was probably better when teams were winning but I wondered what his articles would look like if he had to cover a loser. I respect both perspectives and appreciate the opportunity to work with both extremes. I think my mentality lies somewhere between the two. While ethics have been part of my influence, my writing style was also shaped by those who preceded me. I will always respect my first editors -- Eric Goldstein, Jeff Wieland, Mike Hasday, Scott Miller and Jordan Smith. I believe the most important quality is making the office a fun place. Eric, Jeff, Mike, Scott and Jordan achieved this but they also taught me how to ask the hard questions in an interview and how to stand my ground as a reporter. I also look highly upon our current sports editors, Eric Moskowitz and Rick Haggerty, who each possess an admirable work ethic. Each set of editors sets different standards but with the same goal in mind -- perfection. I hope to have impacted Eric, Rick, former editor Dan Tenenblatt and the remaining staff of reporters in even a fraction of the way my predecessors aided me. Away from the DP, it is a different group that has kept me going. From camping out for Penn basketball season tickets with the crew -- Adam Cohen, Jeff Cohen, Ben Cohen, Andy Rhim, Matt Greenberger, Tom Gourley, Josh Levy, Ted Mann, Gary Trief and Brian Hindo -- to throwing goal posts in the river with Mike Malvey, Marty Hrivnak, Dan Fraidstern, Mark DiRado, Julie Herman, Brad Bernstein, Andrew Cooper, Jason Auerbach and Kevin Burkhart, my experience has been filled with fond Quakers memories, both as a reporter and as a fan. Penn athletics captures student camaraderie like little else on campus. I will always remember the goal posts landing in the Schuylkill River, thrice charging the Palestra court and once taking over the house at Jadwin. Only storming the quad on Hey Day and watching Mask and Wig's Spring Fling ritual has chilled my spine like Penn sports. A select few classes were also memorable to me. My academic highlight was International Legal Studies with Professor Thomas Dunfee this semester, when I fused my management and sports interests -- writing a term paper on the ethics of Baltimore Orioles management sending its players to Cuba for an exhibition game. As I say goodbye to Penn, I also must thank my three greatest teachers -- my mom and dad and brother David. If not for them, I would never have had the opportunity to spend four years at Penn, and sports reporting would have remained at best a distant dream. For all the good and bad times, struggles and triumphs, I'd like to thank all who I had the opportunity to meet at Penn -- both those mentioned above and those who have not been mentioned above. Thank you for the memories. Like Gehrig's Yankee Stadium friends, you have made me lucky. Sincerely, Marc 'The Mawk' EdelmanComments powered by Disqus
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