Fifteen years ago this coming Thursday, armed with a Brother word processor (on which I could type AND save my research papers…what will they think of next?), I cautiously stepped foot on to the Hofstra campus for the first time as a student, tentative and uncertain of what awaited yet wildly excited by the possibilities.
Two-thirds of those feelings returned six months ago this coming Thursday, when I rolled out of bed, went online on my laptop computer and got a termination notice from The Company I Shall Never Mention Here (Probably). Get fired from your recliner. What will corporate America think of next?
Those are the bookends to Defiantly Dutch. The Cliffs Notes version of what happened in the middle goes something like this: I became the sports editor of The Chronicle, where I met some of the best friends of my life, including my wonderful wife. I finally graduated, albeit after learning that astronomy is not my friend. Over the last 12 years, I’ve navigated the ever-choppy seas of sports journalism and been tossed from my little fishing boat more times than I care to count.
One of the first things I thought about doing when I got thrown overboard was starting this blog. And while I continue to hope my career doesn’t float out to sea, starting this blog now—as classes resume and the fall sports season starts—provides me the chance to stay sharp as I continue to search for another sports writing gig (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re hiring!).
It also allows me to revisit my first passion. I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up long before I ever heard of Hempstead, but covering sports at Hofstra provided a foundation on which I continue to rely. I had an insatiable appetite for information about Hofstra sports during my undergrad years. Somewhere in the basement of my parents’ house in Connecticut are boxes of media guides and Hofstra-themed roundups and stories from Newsday.
And I spent most of my waking hours thinking about story ideas—trying to come up with something that I thought was interesting and original, something that would be worth an investment of the reader’s time. I like to think I’ve carried that thirst and passion into the “real world,” that my time at Hofstra helped me distinguish myself working in markets defined by saturation coverage.
(Beginning to sound like a cover letter, sorry)
Hofstra also taught me that you never pass up an opportunity to cover a game, no matter how meaningless it might seem, because the beauty of sports is its unpredictability. I’m still kicking myself for not covering the Flying Dutchmen in the East Coast Conference basketball tournament in March 1994. Why would I fly to Buffalo for what was almost certainly going to be a one-and-done deal? We were 6-20. There was no postseason bid at stake. There was no way they’d win three games in three days to send Butch van Breda Kolff out a champion.
Doh. But hey, the Bryan Adams concert at Madison Square Garden the night Hofstra needed two overtimes to beat Northeastern Illinois (RIP, Golden Eagles athletic program) in the championship game was good. But the no-hitter I finally got to see last year—a game I didn’t decide to cover until the last minute—was even better.
So what will Defiantly Dutch be, exactly? It’ll reward the old-school fan, who understands the Pride is a great nickname for a booster club but that Flying Dutchmen was—pardon me, is—the perfect Hofstra nickname. There’s little acknowledgement, inside or outside the university, of the school’s athletic past. And while I understand Division III football and East Coast Conference basketball didn’t provide a lot to be nostalgic about, those of us who remember Joe Gardi’s annual mantras about running with the big dogs—words delivered in that hybrid New Jersey-Long Island accent—understand how difficult it was to get the rest of the country to take Hofstra seriously as a legitimate football school capable of churning out multiple NFL players.
And those of us who remember men’s basketball games in front of triple-digit crowds at the dusty Physical Fitness Center (which had to be the least imposing name for a Division I arena ever) appreciate just how long a path it was to becoming the poster boys for the ineptitude of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee in 2006.
Plus, those games at the PFC and Hofstra Stadium were endearing, in their own weird way. Remember when Jay Wright said he wanted to turn the PFC into the rockingest house in the NAC? Good times. And what would a fall Friday be without two football tickets in your mailbox?
Yet we’re not all about the nostalgia here. This won’t be a straight news site: Covering pro sports has made me jaded and cynical while teaching me the meaning of Schadenfreude. And while I don’t regret my metamorphosis, I also don’t want to go too far behind the curtain and lose the pure rooting interest I get out of Hofstra sports.
So I’d love to chronicle (pun intended) and analyze Hofstra sports the way Michael Litos has chronicled and analyzed the CAA at his tremendous blog. I’d like to post an entry five days a week, subject of course to how successful I am in getting back on the boat.
I also look forward to re-introducing myself to the rest of the sports at Hofstra. October 15 (and Midnight Madness…or is it Midday Mania now?) and the start of men’s basketball practice is like New Years Day. But there are plenty of interesting stories to be told—old and new—amongst the 17 other teams, too…and not many places telling them.
And I might also tell you about my epic free t-shirt battles with Sully Ray, the ruthless competitor that he is.
I wasn’t excited six months ago Thursday, but I am today. See you tomorrow.