(Editor’s Note: Sarah Lounsbury and Justin Haberstroh covered the College Football Playoff National Championship for the Sports Capital Journalism Program website, the ninth time that IUPUI students have covered the title game. In the nine seasons of the CFP format, 22 students have covered a semifinal or championship game. Here are their reflections after a long, unforgettable weekend in Los Angeles.)
Electrifying is the best word to describe SoFi Stadium an hour before kickoff of the College Football Playoff National Championship. I have never seen so many cameras. On the sidelines, in the press conference room, in the tunnel leading into the field, cameras are everywhere. Professional athletes, celebrities and sports broadcasters fill the sidelines as the Georgia Bulldogs warm up with the TCU Horned Frogs set to begin their pre-game routine shortly. Heart-pulsing music pumps through the speakers as fans begin to flood into the stands.
Soon after Georgia’s historic 65-7 victory, Bulldogs pose with newspapers reading “Back 2 Back” on the front page, cigars dangling out of their mouths and national championship hats perched on their heads. Coach Kirby Smart and quarterback Stetson Bennett each hoist the national championship trophy above their heads as confetti rains down from above. Georgia football looks like it is on top of the world.
The following morning, Smart announced to a hotel conference room full of reporters that wins and losses are irrelevant.
I was surprised at what I was hearing. After experiencing the glitz and glamor of Monday night’s game, I found it hard to believe an unprecedented second consecutive national championship in the playoff era wasn’t the defining achievement of Smart’s coaching career or Georgia’s football history. The Bulldogs are the best team in collegiate football. Wins and losses are irrelevant?
I always believed that the “wins and losses don’t matter” mantra was an excuse. Of course wins matter. What’s the point of playing a sport, setting out to reach a specific goal and investing time and effort into something if accomplishments essentially don’t matter? But hearing the head coach of a recently crowned national championship team say that wins and losses are “irrelevant” struck a chord with me.
It’s human nature for our accomplishments and failures to define us as human beings. It feels great to win, it’s satisfying to watch all the hard work, blood, sweat and tears pay off. Failure, on the other hand, feels dismounting. It means something went wrong. It means that all the time and effort wasn’t worth it. But as I’m starting to learn from Smart, our accomplishments and our failures really don’t define us.
This got me thinking: if wins and losses don’t matter, then what really does?
Drawing upon my experiences as a student and as an athlete, I thought back to some of my greatest accomplishments. Graduating last May with high distinction, traveling to Australia to report on the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup, winning tennis matches and accepting the job of my dreams are all at the top of the list. But as I had the chance to reflect, the times that stuck out the most were not moments of accomplishment. Instead, I thought of car rides with my tennis teammates, laughing until our sides hurt. I thought back to the helpfulness shown to me by some of my professors during my time at IUPUI. I thought about the times friends and family went out of their way to show me support in times of turbulence and how much their support meant to me. I realized that maybe Smart was right.
At the end of the day, the kind of job I’ll have, how much money I’ll make, the number of tennis matches I’ve won, my GPA and the awards I’ve received will not be what people will remember me most by. I hope the type of impact I leave on this world is not found in my accomplishments but in who I am as a person. How I treat people, the quality of my character, the relationships I build with family and friends and the everlasting memories that arise from these relationships are what really matters most.
By Sarah Lounsbury | @saraahlounsbury
With confetti dropping on my head as the Georgia Bulldogs celebrate their second straight national championship, I couldn’t help but think of two things. First, how did I get into this position today? Second, where will these opportunities take me?
I think to accurately explain how I got into this position I have to go all the way back to high school. I was a below average student with a GPA between 2.8 and 3.0, depending on how hard I tried in my math class that semester. All I ever really cared about was basketball and trying to look cool. All of my friends were applying to colleges and getting accepted by Indiana University and — more importantly — Purdue, about 10 minutes away from where I grew up. I didn’t get accepted into any large school, and I became really upset about this. I wanted to be like everybody else and get into a big school, but I didn’t. The only school that accepted me was IUPUI, and it was my saving grace.
When I played high school basketball, I always remember my coaches talking about giving it 100% of what you had that day. After I started school at IUPUI, I gave my academics all I had every single day. Before I knew it doors started to open for me. I grew a good relationship with one of my first professors, Chris Lamb, and got all A’s and maybe a few B’s my first year of college. My second year I did even more. I started writing for The Campus Citizen, IUPUI’s digital student publication, and I worked for the athletic department taking photos for their social media. From what I had heard from people some journalism professors started to talk about me a bit more and I was gaining a small reputation. I never thought of myself as a good writer, but I am happy some people did. Junior year started and I am now the editor of the sports section and I work for IU Health, helping run seven different social media accounts and ghost-writing publications. Just yesterday I felt like a scared kid applying to colleges, and fast forward to my junior winter break and I am in a hotel room in Los Angeles covering the College Football Playoff National Championship.
It makes no sense to me, but I think I figured out why I am here. Hard work and keeping every door open. I credit my high school basketball coaches for teaching me with what hard work means. The moment you think you’re doing enough is when you’re not doing enough. That really resonated with me. The last thing I want to do is dabble in mediocrity. I want to get better every day, as a writer, student and as a person. I also got here because I kept my doors open. If I didn’t check my email — like many other students — I never would have seen an email from the Sports Capital Journalism Program about an opportunity I don’t want to turn down. I applied to about 20 internships, and I got the one I couldn’t even dream would be this good. I kept my opportunities open and I was rewarded.
After covering the CFP National Championship and meeting the extraordinarily kind people here and getting a sense of what sports reporting is like, I cannot wait to see where I go after college. I have so many hopes and dreams for places I will go and things that I can do with journalism. My number one writing goal is to tell the best story possible, and I cannot wait to continue doing that.
By Justin Haberstroh | @JustinHaberstr1