When I came to Wisconsin as a transfer student after spending a year at UCLA, one of the first things I tried to do was find a way to experience college athletics in a different way from that of the average student fan. I had been involved either on or off the field in sports for my entire life and didn’t want to cut that off because I was facing a bigger stage. But even I have to admit when I walked into the Cardinal office in September 2010 looking for an opportunity to cover the Badgers, there is no way I could have imagined the next three years playing out as they did.
After covering a few minor press conferences to get my feet wet, I received a call from then-sports editor Parker Gabriel asking me to help cover the upcoming home football game against top-ranked Ohio State. So yes, my first game as a reporter was an upset of the nation’s top-ranked team and a field rushing many UW students probably consider their most lasting memory as a fan.
From that moment on, I spent virtually every Badger home football or basketball game up in the press box, a spot that would eventually become like a second home to me. Although I gradually found myself morph from an avid fan that could write into a true student journalist, I never lost sight of the fact my job really wasn’t a job at all. In three years with the Cardinal, I have had the opportunity to not only attend, but also have unparalleled access to three Rose Bowl games, three Big Ten men’s basketball tournaments and three NCAA Tournaments, all without shelling out even a penny for tickets. That’s plenty of compensation for simply putting my reactions and reports on paper.
While I will always be thankful for the experiences I have had covering Wisconsin athletics, they would not be the same without the people I have been fortunate to share them with. After hiring me as an inexperienced sophomore, Parker would go on to be a frequent travel partner, joining in on trips to the Rose Bowl, car wrecks en route to Columbus, last-minute journeys to New Orleans and snowy drives to Iowa City. Often joined by a 6-foot-7-inch photographer, it was nice to have another sub-six footer to share the remaining compact car space.
Each and every year, I had the pleasure of working with editors who did everything they could to give me the resources I needed to cover the Badgers wherever they went. From Parker and Mark to Matt and Ryan and finally Vince and Matt, my editors at the Cardinal were always there to help get travel funding, page space and even to defend me when I made my inevitable excursion across the fine line of political correctness.
Outside the Vilas Hall office, I received tremendous support from all of the staff at UW Athletic Communications. Patrick Herb was always understanding of the unique situation facing student journalists and did everything he could to provide us with the resources we needed, from parking to credentials and even suggestions on BBQ joints in Kansas City. Assistants Karl Anderson and Jeremy Wodajo—a former Cardinal writer—were also helpful whenever I needed information, public or otherwise.
I also have to thank the “professional” writers who cover the Badgers every day. In addition to helping me out by asking questions I was initially too timid to pose in press conferences, many of these writers went out of their way to offer advice, direction and, in the case of Tom Lea and Jim Polzin, even the occasional ride to and from a UW road game.
Finally, I just want to thank the Badger players I was privileged to cover. Though I realize they had little choice in deciding to talk to me during media availability, I never got the sense they were anything less than pleased to answer the questions I had for them. They understood the job I was assigned and the necessary role they played in making that job as easy as possible. The honesty with which Badger players answered my often-critical questions made the final product I was able to produce that much better.
Looking back at the three years I have spent writing for the Cardinal, I can say with confidence I achieved my goal of experiencing college sports in a unique manner. Sure, I missed out on a few Saturday tailgates and March weekends in Madison, but these experiences paled in comparison to what I received in return. Though my degree will be in business and my career likely in law, the bulk of what I have learned while studying at Wisconsin comes from the time spent and experiences had while writing for the Cardinal. For that, I will forever be thankful.
This is Max’s final column for The Daily Cardinal. Have any law school words of wisdom? Want to state your case on why he should or shouldn’t stop using his Twitter account? (He’s planning a halt at tweet No. 20,000.) Whatever you’ve got, send it to Max in an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.