“My name is Tim Nolan and I am a freshman here at Syracuse…” (You can tell how old the email is because I hadn’t even taken Roy Terry’s grammar class, and two independent clauses joined by a conjunction always need that comma.)
A week into freshman year, my parents had issued the first of what would — thankfully — become numerous prodding reminders to make sure I took full advantage of Newhouse School of Public Communications and Syracuse’s extracurricular media opportunities. Up until that point, my tuition was spent on half-asleep syllabus lectures with a DJ’s stamp still visible on the back of my hand.
So, I reached out to The Daily Orange’s sports editor after hearing about a shortage of sportswriters. I soon found out that “Mr. Schafer” was really just a college junior named Josh who cracked a joke about how much I sweat on the walk over to 744 Ostrom Ave. He was a broadcast major and a washed-up athlete. I was also a broadcast major and a slightly less-athletic, washed-up athlete. This second characteristic was important because of my arrogant assumption that only “nerds” wrote for the school paper.
Four days later, I tagged along with a senior in Billy Heyen to Nottingham High School for a Friday night football game. A year removed from playing every snap, my job was to sit, watch and then write about it. The plan was to do this all in time to get back to Flint Hall and do the same exact thing we’d been doing for the past week and a half.
Billy first explained what a “nutgraf” was, how it’s better to end on a quote and that nobody wants a regurgitation of stats they can find in a box score. As soon as Billy pointed these things out, it became clear I wasn’t leaving his apartment with a finished game story any time soon.
Over the next three years at The D.O., this nerd would get credentialed to travel to Stony Brook, Boston College and even San Antonio. I bragged about asking questions to Mike Krzyzewski and Jose Alvarado. I also covered every women’s sports team except for volleyball and rowing. My very first ice hockey beat paired me up with Danny, who’d help welcome me into the greatest group of friends someone can ask for at 208.
The D.O. humbled me. While I was also navigating the developmental stages at WAER, its sports director was the son of broadcasting lore. The sports staff across the street was a group of regular college students who knew how to write really well and were definitely not afraid to tell you when you did not.
But the biggest thing The Daily Orange provided me was relationships with people who understood when it was time to step away. I’ll never forget that day this past summer when I called Crane to tell him what I wanted to do with my senior year. A shame we couldn’t get the clean sweep, but we did take four great post-Media Cup photos. I will also always remember telling Skyler that with an opportunity to call numerous football and men’s basketball games, I couldn’t commit to a beat this past fall.
They took it in stride and encouraged me to go all in with WAER and eventually the ACC Network to try and make as much progress as possible as a broadcaster in a year’s time. Jaron, Ben, Brad and company continued to do laps around me as senior year went along, but in hindsight, I wouldn’t change a thing.
We hear time and again from professionals in the business that it’s important to “be versatile.” In my time at Syracuse, I was the only student to overlap between staff at WAER and cover a sports beat for The D.O.
Two prestigious outlets that not only made me a better multimedia journalist but a better person. And two networks of people who’ve given me both the tools and the confidence to pursue a lifelong career in sports with the same promise as I first displayed in that email to Mr. Schafer.
“…If this is indeed the case, I would be willing to work in any capacity.
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Tim Nolan was a staff writer for The Daily Orange, where his column will no longer appear. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @Tim_Nolan10.
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