Now I understand why Michael Jordan retired from basketball only to keep crawling back to the game.
Because as my college days dwindle, I feel ready to move on to the next phase in my life. But I know that in the very near future, I will want more than anything to be back at Penn.
Among the thousands of students who will graduate on Monday are dozens of athletes who are officially retiring from their respective sports. Sports have been a large part of their identities dating back to their childhood. And the large majority of Penn’s athletes have played their last competitive games … ever.
Sure, football players can still throw the pigskin around, basketball players may join their office team and cross-country runners can still compete in races. But it won’t be the same.
There is something about being a part of a team that defines the experience. It is precisely the feeling of mutual dependence — knowing that your success or failure affects others — that gives athletes their competitive edge. It is what forces them to give 110 percent every time.
Competitive sports also give athletes opponents. They may sometimes be framed as the enemy, but opponents are a positive force that binds teammates together and gives them a challenge to overcome. It is what compels athletes to maximize their potential.
It is strange that I can sympathize with the plight of a retired athlete. At just over 5 foot 8, 145 pounds, nobody would confuse me for an athlete. And though I played tennis and ran track in high school, my greatest competitive success came on my school’s quiz bowl team. So I guess the closest I came to college athletics is Tuesday night Quizzo at Blarney or Tap House.
In my four years covering Penn sports at the DP, I have had the opportunity to cover a multitude of athletes from benchwarmers on the women’s tennis team to household names like Usain Bolt. And what strikes me is that every story I write is a collaboration between me, the athletes and an invisible force that seems to create interesting story ideas.
In a way, I too am retiring — and not just from the DP. I likely will never again sit in a classroom with my peers and together try to make sense of a new idea or concept. Exams, essays, problem sets … never again. Sure, I can still read books or write in my free time, but it won’t be the same.
My successful schooling experience dating back to preschool would not have been possible without all of my teammates. And there have been a lot of them. All of my fellow students, friends, teachers, school administrators, mentors and of course, family members, have in some way shaped my schooling experience and who I am today.
For many of my fellow graduates and I, it probably feels like next year will bring more opponents than teammates. New job, new city, new responsibilities. But I’m grateful that my teammates will still be with me, even if they are thousands of miles away.
It wouldn’t be a fitting senior column without a cliche inspirational quote. Mark Twain once said that he never let his schooling interfere with his education. I hope he’s right. Because at age 22, I certainly still have a lot of learning left to do.
So maybe we’re not retiring. Maybe we’re just switching sports, like going from basketball to baseball.
David Greenbaum is a senior economics and international relations major from Short Hills, N.J. After graduation, David will move to San Francisco to work in tech private equity for Vista Equity Partners. He can be reached at email@example.com.Comments powered by Disqus
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