A Final Farewell to WZBC Sports

A Final Farewell to WZBC Sports

By Anthony Iati, Boston College Class of 2017, WZBC Sports Co-Director 2016-17

About a year ago, someone close to me and very familiar with my devotion to sports asked me a unique question: if sports could only retain either their ubiquitous stats and numbers or their storylines and personalities, which would I, as a fan, rather hold onto? The answer was easy– the human-interest stories– even though I had never considered a sports world without the numbers that make up batting averages, save percentages, and fantasy football leagues. 

Pondering that question reminded me of one of the most memorable columns I have ever read: The Consequences of Caring by Bill Simmons on his now-defunct site Grantland in 2012. I highly recommend taking 15 minutes to read it, but even if you don’t, the gist of the column is this: Simmons parallels the frustration of his young hockey-fan daughter at her Los Angeles Kings with his and his father’s disappointment when their Boston Celtics come up just short of the NBA Finals. New fan or old, Simmons reminds us that everyone to whom sports are important knows the exact same feelings of anticipation, euphoria, shock, and devastation. I bring up Simmons’s column here because there is one passage in particular that I think relates to my completed four years with WZBC Sports. 

“Then I remembered something. Sports is a metaphor for life. Everything is black and white on the surface. You win, you lose, you laugh, you cry, you cheer, you boo, and most of all, you care. Lurking underneath that surface, that’s where all the good stuff is — the memories, the connections, the love, the fans, the layers that make sports what they are. It’s not about watching your team win the Cup as much as that moment when you wake up thinking, In 12 hours, I might watch my team win the Cup. It’s about sitting in the same chair for Game 5 because that chair worked for you in Game 3 and Game 4, and somehow, this has to mean something. It’s about using a urinal between periods, realizing that you’re peeing on a Devils card, then eventually realizing that some evil genius placed Devils cards in every single urinal. It’s about leaning out of a window to yell at people wearing the same jersey as you, and it’s about noticing an airport security guy staring at your Celtics jersey and knowing he’ll say, “You think they win tonight?” before he does. It’s about being an NBA fan but avoiding this year’s Western Conference finals because you still can’t believe they ripped your team away, and it’s about crying after that same series because you can’t believe your little unassuming city might win the title. It’s about posing for pictures before a Stanley Cup clincher, then regretting after the fact that you did. It’s about two strangers watching you cry at a stoplight. It’s black and white, but it’s not.”

As the student broadcasting organization at Boston College, what WZBC Sports does generally and did for me specifically is pretty black and white, too. The club broadcasts Boston College Athletics, hosts talk shows, and covers BC’s teams in podcast, written, and social media forms. Throughout my four years of involvement, I tried everything the club had to offer and found great fulfillment in almost every experience. 

The 2017 Beanpot semifinals at TD Garden with Scott Geyman.

But, as Simmons reminds us, nothing with sports is so black and white. WZBC Sports is no exception, for reasons I’ll get into later– which makes it very hard to summarize my time with the organization. My story of discovering the existence of WZBC Sports is very similar to that of my directorial predecessor, Kevin Fritz ’16: a sweltering September day of confusion at my first Student Activities Fair as a freshman, strong convincing to attend the first meeting by seniors who saw the mix of uncertainty and piqued interest on my face, etc. I attended that first meeting the following week. I left it with no more certainty but no less interest than I’d gone in with.

Everything about the meeting was disorganized and difficult for newcomers to understand. The one piece of information that was conveyed clearly was that broadcasting the BC vs. Duke basketball game was very much off-limits to underclassmen.

Broadcast the Duke game? At that point in my college career I’m not even sure I could’ve found Conte Forum on a map of campus or named more than two BC Basketball players. Fine by me. 

What did really intrigue me, though, was the idea of hosting a low-stakes, weekly talk show about anything sports-related. I felt a lot more comfortable starting out in a talk setting than in a live game broadcast. Fortunately, two people were in attendance that night whom I was friendly with from my floor in Cheverus Hall– Ryan Short and Niraj Patel. We agreed to sign up for a show slot together and figure out the details later. Incredibly, the three of us figured out what we were doing and ultimately kept the same show at the same time for eight semesters in a row.

Co-hosting a weekly show with only family and a few friends listening (on a good week) was the constant of my WZBC Sports experience. Other things varied much more, like leadership. At the end of my freshman year I applied to be on the club’s e-board for 2014-15. When I saw an email confirming my selection, I recognized a few other names on the board of people in my class, but I didn’t know them very well. I’ll always remember Casey Hague, who would go on to be my co-director senior year, texting me before our first meeting as board members to ask whether there would be “initiation” at the Mod for the new board members like us (there wasn’t). 

I served as the club’s AM Talk Show Coordinator my sophomore year under the guidance of co-directors John Del Signore and the always-entertaining Kyle Egan. I wasn’t given many specific responsibilities in that position and I got the sense the same thing happened to a few other people.

Moments before the infamous 3-0 football loss to Wake Forest with Andrew Kelley and Casey Hague.

What gave it away? An upperclassman board member was unable to identify his role in the club at a second semester meeting and there was a discovery in about April that someone had been named to the board the previous spring and subsequently left off every board email and event thereafter (unintentionally). 

Structure and organization eluded us still. 

WZBC Sports strengthened itself my junior year. Kevin Fritz and Ryan Poor were promoted to the co-director roles and made it a priority to bring respectability, professionalism, and coherence to the club. I believe they succeeded and made my job the following year far easier than it could have been. I was happy to see my roommate Scott Geyman join the board in 2015-16 and, unbeknownst to me, we also added the three most competent sophomores imaginable in Quinn Kelly, Steve McAlee, and TJ Hartnett. Casey and I served as Kevin/Ryan’s assistant directors, which was another roving position with few concrete tasks that forced us to dabble in and learn about all aspects of the organization. 

WZBC Sports made great strides and started new initiatives my junior year, namely the website on which you’re reading this piece. When it became apparent in the spring of 2016 that Casey and I were going to be the WZBC Sports co-directors for our senior years, I tried to further the semblance of structure and professionalism that Kevin and Ryan had started to introduce. Casey and I decided we could take on a large board (14 members) to lead. After some doubts about that decision early in the 2016-17 school year, I can now say I’m really glad we did. 

National Anthem as seen from the booth before BC’s 6-4 win over Michigan State.

Being a director of a student organization I cherished so much is the most rewarding thing I did at Boston College. Difficult and frustrating though it often was, I write this four weeks after commencement knowing how much I gained from my year of leadership. I’m not talking about the perks of the position, as nice as they were. Over the course of my four years, I had the privilege of broadcasting 30 BC games across football, men’s basketball, men’s hockey, and baseball. The Eagles went 11-18-1 in those games, buoyed by a 9-7-1 combined effort from hockey and Birdball. I got to watch some incredible student-athletes and call games from some great venues. For that I consider myself very lucky.

Death Valley with Casey Hague

A year ago, before being the club’s director, I probably would have said the most special and memorable part of my WZBC Sports experience would be traveling to broadcast a night football game in a rocking Memorial Stadium at Clemson, or my then-upcoming trip to cover BC’s football game in Ireland. 

Being in a position of true leadership my senior year changed that. Of course, I will remember those broadcasts and others fondly. But to finally bring us back to Simmons’s column, it’s not that black and white to me.

 

Ultimately, WZBC Sports came to be much more about the camaraderie and friendships than it was about getting to call a BC-BU hockey game or watching Justin Dunn pitch his way to stardom. It’s about Conor Hawley screaming at me on a Sports Saturday show that David Ortiz was not named in the Mitchell Report (he did fail a drug test though, pal). It’s about crying of laughter as Jake DeLorenzo colorfully and emphatically explains in words I cannot repeat the type of players BC needs to recruit to build a winning basketball program. It’s about TJ Hartnett finding me and Scott Geyman in the Conte Forum stands before a hockey game and recruiting us to broadcast a game with him on a whim when his partners didn’t show up. It’s about listening to the final minutes of BC Football’s win over NC State to snap its ACC losing streak and hearing the voices of Quinn Kelly and TJ crack with relief and joy on the airwaves. It’s about recording a podcast with Joe Tessitore of ESPN and realizing he really was once just like us- a college kid trying to get as close as he could to the games he loved with the friends he loved. It’s about Andrew Kelley excitedly reminding everyone during a board meeting to Trust the Process, any process- the Sixers’, the Phillies’, BC Athletics’. It’s about accepting I’ll never be able to get Michael Graziano to stop talking in those same meetings, and loving him for it anyway. 

It is these underlying lessons and memories, Simmons writes, that make sports what they are, and that is why we care about them. To be surrounded by people who share my passions was a gateway to some tremendous relationships. It’s how I know that even though my first job out of college is in the business world, not the sports world, that passion is never going to dissipate. It’s black and white, but it’s not

Casey and I are extremely fortunate to be handing the reigns of the WZBC Sports directorship to three outstanding seniors. I can safely say that I would trust any of TJ Hartnett, Quinn Kelly, and Steve McAlee to run the organization alone. That the three of them will be working in tandem is a blessing that should only make them stronger. They are going to achieve fantastic things for the club and for their own individual developments. No one deserves success more.

No broadcast here, just taking in a BC-Louisville basketball game with Quinn Kelly, Michael Graziano, and Scott Geyman.

I have an extraordinary amount of people to thank for enabling my four years with WZBC Sports to be so rewarding: the previous student leaders, specifically Nate Coyle, John Del Signore, Kyle Egan, Andy Dunk, Kevin Fritz, and Ryan Poor. The Boston College Athletics department, namely Chris Cameron, Jason Baum, Brad Bates, Jamie DiLoreto, Zanna Ollove, Mark Majewski, and Matt Lynch. The WZBC Newton 90.3 FM station management, particularly Professor/Advisor Judy Schwartz, and the community DJs, especially John Grebe, “Reggae” Robin, and Yvon Lamour. The incoming board members who I sadly will not get the chance to work with but made my job as director easier by getting involved as underclassmen: Andrew Linnehan, Sam Parsons, Al Preziosi, Matt Seelig, and Matt Sottile. The honorary board members, Scott Hill and Arthur Bailin, who always brought plenty of humor and energy to the table. The returning upperclassmen entering their second years on the board, who proudly carry the torch for the Classes of 2018 and 2019: Landon Komishane, Kyle Maslan and Ben Neuwirth. The aforementioned new directors, in whom I could not have more confidence: TJ, Quinn and Steve. 

And above all else, I have to thank the group from the Class of 2017: Scott Geyman, Ryan Short, Andrew Kelley, Jake DeLorenzo, Michael Graziano, Conor Hawley, and Casey Hague. It was an honor forming what has to be the strongest class in WZBC Sports history with those seven men. As I said at the beginning of this article, sports would be nothing without the people in and around them and their stories. Similarly, WZBC Sports would be nothing without everything this class contributed. I can only hope that being a part of WZBC Sports the past four years meant half as much to them as it did to me. With their graduations, the club is losing a lot of good ideas, leadership, and dedication. The next leaders will not allow that to be a hindrance; I know they will maintain the tradition and pride that makes WZBC Sports so special, one of the many things I am grateful for as I reflect on the past four years.