Continuing the pursuit at espnW
A framed photo of my favorite moment as a Colorado Buffalo occupies prime real estate on a bookshelf in my apartment.
The buzzer had just sounded on our 62-59 victory over Stanford, sending us to the Elite Eight of the 2002 NCAA tournament during my sophomore season. A photographer from the Associated Press snapped a shot of our bench the very second before we exploded off of it. I'm in the picture, looking as excited as if I had just hit the game winner. In reality, I played only 32 seconds, passed up an open 3-pointer and left the game with a string of zeros in the box score.
We won five NCAA tourney games during my career at CU. In all but one of those games, I scored a lot of points. In all but one, I contributed -- and not just morally -- to the victory. But I don't really need a framed photo of any of those other moments; just the one in 2002, the one in which I didn't do a damn thing.
Why? Because the picture reminds me of our journey, the story behind our victory. When I look at that picture, it doesn't appear to be paper-thin, but rather like the cover of a book: there's so much more inside.
I see a teammate whose mother later died (the yellow pollen from the funeral flowers is still on the ceiling of my car; it's embedded in the fabric now). I see another teammate who twice tore her ACL; after the second tear, the two of us went to Jamba Juice and she explained how she felt worthless without basketball. I see our third-string center, her arms tossed high in celebration, and I remember how she was desperate to quit the summer before.
And once I run through this list of memories, I usually allow the photograph to morph into a motion picture. I let it play in my mind.
We dash onto the court, engage in a tame celebration -- we were nothing if not disciplined at CU -- and then hoot and holler our way back to the visiting locker room. Our jerseys come untucked and, once everyone important has been shut inside the tiny space, we stand on our folding metal chairs and scream the CU fight song, pumping our fists and struggling to maintain balance atop our wobbly perches.
The picture tells my story, our story, but there are a million others just like it. They're waiting to be told. And I want to tell them. (As many as I can, that is.)
I don't have a degree in journalism because the classes interfered with basketball practice, but I like to think the education I received on the court rivals the one I received in the classroom. I majored instead in "communication," interpersonal and organizational, not to be confused with "mass communications," the study of media. My major was athlete-friendly: I can still picture some of the classes, filled almost entirely with kids wearing the Buffs' signature black-and-gold sweatpants. One of my former teammates, now a sports anchor in Denver, decided to sacrifice practice time, and subsequently playing time, in pursuit of her future career. But I wasn't a blue-chip recruit, so missed practices seemed, from my vantage point, like an unscalable obstacle.
I didn't make a list of pros and cons about dropping the journalism major: weighing present sacrifice against future handicap. I just noted the required night and afternoon classes and turned the page in the book of class descriptions. (This strikes me as illogical now, but if I began analyzing every decision I made when I was 18 -- like choosing CU because of its sponsorship affiliation with Nike -- I'd probably question my ability to make any decision at all. I still possess some of that Nike swag and wear it as often as possible.)
I could pretend I regret this decision, but I don't. I've retained some of the lessons I learned as a communication major (earned value, group identity, creating an organizational narrative), but these tidbits are like good china: I use them rarely, and I must dust them off when I do. The lessons I learned on the basketball court have been downloaded into my psyche: Touch the lines, even when tired; don't be on time, be five minutes early; shortcuts feel good, but only temporarily.
Which brings me to today.
I first heard about espnW before the website launched. The site was just a chic red "W" against a white background -- that was it. I see espnW now as a virtual land of opportunity. Every corner of ESPN is filled with content tied together by a common theme: Grantland features long-form, highbrow storytelling, ESPNU focuses on collegiate events, Page 2 includes opinion and quirky commentary about various topics. espnW can do some of everything, swimming through the wide stream created by the banks on either side: sports and women.
I might have passed up my desired major for one very specific reason, but I also did so for one very broad reason, one that I think millions of women, from young girls to grandmothers, will agree with: I believed in the pursuit.
I still believe in the pursuit.
Kate Fagan is a columnist for espnW. You can follow her on Twitter at @katefagan3.