As I write this column on Thursday (yesterday), the sports office of The Daily Texan, as I’ve known it for the last four years, has remained relatively unchanged. The red couch with pillows bursting at the seams still festers with the stench of sweaty writers who plop on the couch regularly after coming back from some availability or another to furiously file a story. The small tube TV sitting on top of a ruddy filing cabinet is still missing the power button and the remote only functions when you hold it at just the right angle from just the right distance.
The sports section’s proudest issues from the last decade are still taped to the walls, while some of our least favorite issues litter the desks, floors and recycling bins. The front door has the writer’s job application folder — the same one I pulled my application out of as an 18-year-old — as well as some photos of jokes and office memes throughout the years. There are the same three Mac computers in here, but that damn computer in the back corner still doesn’t turn on.
In a couple of months this office of solitude in the back corner of the dungeon won’t exist. Someone thought it’d be a great idea to gut this place up and herd every department’s reporters into one general room. Yuck.
I jest, of course, because along with the University, I fully understand that the Texan has been evolving for a century. Since I’ve worked here, mulling through The Daily Texan archives quickly became one of my favorite things to do on campus. We’ve got some papers that date all the way back to 1912, and it’s amazing to think that for more than a century students have toiled to churn out this paper.
Right now I’m looking at an issue from Nov. 16, 1912. The front page’s headline story of the day? “Texas Overwhelms Mississippi; 53-14.” Seems like football was still the dominating presence way back then as well. Apparently the Longhorns played a great game. According to the reporter who recapped the article, Texas’ game featured a bevy of “beautiful runs, pretty forward passes, and lightening-like plunges.” There are ads from piano players offering there services to frat houses for what I can only assume was the 1912 equivalent of a rager. And there are so many advertisements for suit dealers and laundromats and barbers that UT must have had some fresh looking kids back then. I wonder what they’d think of the oversized frat shirts and Nike shorts combo?
I’m not sure why I’m so fascinated by the old issues, but maybe it’s because the further into the past I travel, the less I have to deal with the reality of one day not working here. Why? I have no idea. When you descend the office stairs that lead to the basement, you feel like you’re walking into a horror movie, and sometimes you might as well have. If I had a dime for every nightmare I’ve violently woken up from fearing a misspelled headline, a misplaced caption, replacing a writer’s name from “Christian” to “Christina,” or a poor critique from Doug [Daily Texan’s editorial adviser] , I’d be a rich man.
Turns out, I’m not the only one with these horrific dreams. Ask any of the two-hundred odd student employees that oil this machine, and they’ll tell of the cold sweat that keeps them up at night hoping their story, page or edits look right. Journalists are a bunch of masochists, but sometimes for good reason.
I’ve done a lot in my time on campus, and nothing really compares to working at this place. I’ve hated and loved every minute of it so much that I’m not sure I’ll be relieved or sad when it hits me tomorrow (today) that I’ll never have a hand in the production of the sports page again. It’s been a fabric of my experience at UT that has taught me more about hard work, the importance of diligence and mental fortitude than most of my classes. It’s challenged me, beat me up, and kicked me in the crotch a few times, but it also afforded me the opportunity to interview incredible people, pick the brain of Mack Brown and work with talented, driven students.
One day I’ll come back and sift through the archives again, while a new batch of reporters crammed in the middle room of the office stare at what they’ll assume is some old fart being creepy. I’ll look back at the 2008-2012 range of sports pages and see the work I put in as a young buck on the women’s swimming and diving beat, to the editor of Double Coverage and the sports page and feel proud of most of my work while laughing at some of it as well. And hopefully this place will be around another 100 years so the sports editor, who will probably be covering a robot version of football by then, can open to a dusty 2012 edition with the same feeling of romanticism that gets me when I open 1912’s.
If you’ve made it this far through this column (read: stream of consciousness) then just know this: The Texan is a nice place to cement yourself within the bricks that build this university, an even better place to meet amazing people and the best place on campus to learn a lot about yourself and what you’re made of.