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Opinion

Don’t overlook the underdog

I've chosen to pursue sports journalism, despite the risks

An irrepressible surge of awe overcame me as I walked onto the Carrier Dome’s hardwood in December.

I had never covered a game at a venue as vast as the Dome — an indoor football stadium that doubles as Syracuse’s basketball arena — and I felt like that little speck of dirt on your sleeve that only you notice.

I was also finally in Syracuse on a journalistic venture.

Four years have passed since I chose — edit: was forced — to enroll at Binghamton University, which feels like home now. But as a high school senior, I would rather have committed the rest of my life to watching “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” on loop than spend four years here.

Syracuse, on the other hand, appealed to me like Brooklyn Decker in a wet T-shirt. The prestigious S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications plus high-profile Division I sports equaled this aspiring sports writer’s most fanciful dream.

At the time, I frustratingly thought to myself, “Why couldn’t my parents afford to send me to Syracuse? Why didn’t they pursue lucrative career paths?”

I learned the answers during my junior year.

As a sophomore, a panic attack hit me like it was Jadeveon Clowney and I was Vincent Smith — it was sudden, forceful, almost paralyzing. The job market for journalists was shrinking like Costanza’s frightened turtle, and I had essentially put all my eggs in one basket as an English major pursuing a career in sports writing.

So I changed course. I registered for macro- and microeconomics in the spring semester, jettisoning into the Susquehanna Shakespeare and the Israel Kamakawiwo’ole of textbooks — a 3,000-page compilation of good ole Bill’s plays that was both enormous and sleep-inducing. (Israel, your music’s beautiful. RIP.) I would graduate with an economics degree, and if journalism wasn’t in the cards, I could at least reel in fat checks.

Fate had written an alternative script.

My nascent interest in economics waned, and the embers of my passion for sports journalism caught. Honing my craft as a writer took precedence over scouring econ textbooks for rare nuggets of useful information. Fall 2012 will go down in the record books as my worst semester from a GPA standpoint simply because I cared more about covering BU athletics for Pipe Dream than analyzing the GDPs of various countries.

College is about more than getting enough A’s to spell Alabaster, Alabama five times. It affords us an opportunity to learn about ourselves, and that fall semester taught me who I am and answered the questions about my parents.

I realized I loved sports journalism, just like my mom loves teaching first- and second-graders to read and my dad loved helping blind people in many ways before he retired.

Nothing I have experienced has been more exhilarating than breaking news. Nothing as fulfilling as penning a human-interest feature that receives overwhelmingly positive feedback. Nothing like people following me on Twitter just because I am a reliable news source for their team — s/o to my @BingBBallBlog loyalists.

The satisfaction you get from doing what you love far outweighs the meager paychecks you receive in return — at least that’s the theory practiced by a Kramer clan that has never bred an economist. That approach to life has paid my parents in a currency far more valuable than dollars: respect.

One day, I hope my brother Jesse and I will be as well-respected in our field as Arnie and Debbie are in theirs. Money will work its way into the fold, but I want people to understand that I write not for the money but for the pleasure. I hope the passion injected into my stories emanates from the page.

I never needed Syracuse to set that goal — just Pipe Dream, my parents and an irrepressible, if irrational, love for sports. I’ve frequently harked back to Gene Hackman’s famous speech near the end of “Hoosiers”: “Forget about the crowds, the size of the school, their fancy uniforms and remember what got you here.”

Pipe Dream got me here.

Aaron, Adam, Megan, thanks for believing in me. Ashley, E.Jay, Jeff, keep the strong sports tradition going. Please don’t hesitate to summon me next year for help with headlines or back-page puns — yes, especially back-page puns. I’m going to miss those.

Kendall, we’ll never be able to do this again, but I’m confident we’ll still be friends when we’re old men fishermen. And we’ll be the best men at Zackary’s wedding, yoohoo!

Christina, you’re as cool as the other side of the pillow, and Bacharach, I look forward to our paths crossing in professional press boxes in cities across America.

Darian, Mikey, Vega, Cari, Becca, Paige, Geoff, Jacob, Sweetheart and everyone else I’ve had the privilege to become friends with on staff, thank you.

I love you guys.

I love Pipe Dream. I love sports. I love lamp.

I also couldn’t have made it through college without the bush fellas of 6 Seminary and our extended family. Always be sick.

Which reminds me.

If you like sports nerds — name a year as far back as 1960, and I can tell you the NCAA basketball champion — and can tolerate a frugal lifestyle, I’m your guy. We haven’t met yet. That’s fine, though my grandma — whose two pressing hopes for me are that I find a wife and become a doctor — would disagree.

Grandma, you’ll have to settle for a .500 record. Thanks for understanding.

Views expressed in the opinion pages represent the opinions of the columnists.