30: Sports writer feigns competence

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Daniel Clay spent five semesters at the Texan covering women’s track and field, soccer, the “Where are they now?” beat and baseball and spent a semester as the Double Coverage editor. With all his free time, Clay will have to write a thesis about something other than baseball.
Photo Credit: Zoe Fu | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: A 30 column is a chance for departing permanent staff to say farewell and reflect on their time spent in The Daily Texan basement office. The term comes from the typesetting mark (—30—) to denote the end of a line. 

“We don’t really do five- paragraph essays here.”

Something along those lines was the first bit of criticism I got from my editor Stefan Scrafield on my tryout article about my friend Reed Hogan’s tryout for the U.S. National Rugby team. 

I was quite confused. 

“How are you supposed to write then?” I thought. “What do you mean you can’t just embed all your quotes in the same paragraph? My art history professors didn’t tell me this?”

That’s a pretty good indicator of what my time at the Texan has been like. I’ve been grossly unqualified for nearly everything I’ve done. 

And ya know what?

That’s only possible because I’ve worked for the best college sports page in the country. 

Only covering Texas sports could I get the chance to have T.J. Ford in my contacts, sit next to ESPN staff at a Texas vs. Texas A&M College World Series Regional game and compete with sportswriting lifers — and Michael Shapiro — to get the inside scoop on Texas baseball. I was doing what the best sports writers in the country dream of doing. 

More importantly though, I would not have been able to keep my head above water had it not been for people like Stefan who were willing to sit down with me and turn my five- paragraph essay into something coherent. 

My other two editors Jacob Martella and Garrett Callahan, as well as the immortal “Sauce” Castillo and #BASED Mirchandani were so wonderfully patient, constructive and willing to show me how this whole sportswriting thing works. 

I was so excited when, this past August, the elite Ezra Siegel asked me to edit Double Coverage. My Texan bosses have been — and I’ve taken God knows how many writing flag classes — the best writing coaches I have had in college. 

I wanted to take that legacy and be a teacher for my inferiors. 

But they ruined my plans. 

Every single one of the Double Coverage writers was fantastic. I didn’t have to give them any guidance. 

The copy, photo and design editors did their jobs before I could find the time to text them and the elusive “Good” review from Peter became the norm for cover photos and spread stories. 

Now though, I must depart. Thanks Daily Texan for the lovely late nights, the silly bets, and most of all, the community of failed athletes and aspiring dads that is the sports department. I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent in that sunless basement because of y’all. 

Now to go write my thesis on art. Which is kind of like baseball but less beautiful. 

I’m probably not qualified to write it, but if I could figure out covering Texas sports, I can figure this out too.

­—30—