Hack

Gery: Hack reflects on father’s influence in desire to pursue sportswriting career

Sports captivate so many of us for different reasons. They’re a special part of people’s lives and identities from childhood to adulthood.

And every fan, athlete and coach has their own story on why sports are special to them. It’s something I’ve thought about as I tried to figure out what story I should tell as my last for The Daily Orange.

What made a quiet kid think he could pursue a career that required him to do countless interviews? Why did I want to be a sports writer?

The answer always comes back to why sports are special — the chance to see something great, the rush of adrenaline felt in competition, the battle to overcome adversity. These emotions and feelings are all linked to just about every form of sports. And they’re all captured in stories.

The first sports stories that gripped me and my brother — ones that still do — were told by my dad.

He’d tell us stories about the Philadelphia Phillies’ Dick Allen and basketball legend Earl “The Pearl” Monroe — two of his favorite players growing up. He’d tell us stories about his playing days on the baseball diamond — describing the cast of characters on his team and all of the battles they had with their rival throughout the years. And he’d tell us stories about his first few years coaching high school basketball — before we could tag along to practices and games — fondly recalling memorable moments with his players.

Each story still brings a smile to my face. Each one reminds me why I gave this whole sports journalism thing a shot.

Everyone has stories that are special to them. For the last three years at The D.O., I got the chance to put those kinds of stories into words covering Syracuse athletics.

I covered up-and-down seasons for the ice hockey, women’s basketball and men’s lacrosse teams during my time on those beats. I covered the softball team’s record-setting, 45-win season in 2011 and the men’s basketball team’s improbable run to the Final Four this season.

Each team played memorable games — some ending in victory, others in defeat — that I wrote about. But I also simply got to ask the coaches and players about their stories.

Why were sports special to them? What brought them here to Syracuse to continue their careers?

They remembered the first time they picked up a ball. They smiled when a special memory came rushing back to them. They reflected on the bonds with their family, teammates and coaches, and how they’ve influenced them.

The coaches and players here took the time to answer my questions, giving me some insight into their lives and who they are. Their families and friends took the time to tell me all about them, too.

And it was all so I could tell their stories.

Those experiences are what I’ll take with me. They remind me why sports are special.

So as I finish up this final column, I think back to my dad’s stories and some of his advice.

He coached with fire and passion. It was reflected in his teams, defined by their competitive play and hustle. He’d often tell his players to “go nuts” on the court. It was his way of saying, “Play hard.”

And when we’d go to the baseball field to hit, he’d constantly remind us, “Don’t get cheated.” It was about swinging hard every time.

I still think about those two short phrases. They’re really about working hard and pushing a little harder.

I hope I was able to do that with the stories I told. I hope they captured the emotions, personalities and experiences of the players and coaches I covered. Because when stories do that, they show why sports are special.

It’s certainly been a special ride for me the last three years.

Ryne Gery is a former sports editor at The Daily Orange, where his columns no longer appear. You can reach him at rjgery@gmail.com.

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