Rearview mirror: 2012 hit list

The middle months of 2012 presented a crisis of confidence for me: For quite a while, I found that I simply couldn’t write the way I like to. A large part of it was finding the time, as I was stretched too thin between day job demands, moving to a new home and planning a wedding. I had plenty of ideas that never came to fruition, and it took a lot of editing and re-editing for me to get comfortable with the ones that did.

This isn’t to say I didn’t write a few things I felt far more than good about. About a year and a half ago, I decided to spread my wings a bit, so I started writing some pieces for a few different publications and web sites besides this one. It was an adjustment to have someone filtering my writing, but it was also rewarding to know stuff I wrote passed muster with people other than myself. My goal is always to write something that hopefully people enjoy reading, including myself, and I think I had a few of those this year that I’d like to share.

I don’t generally do lists — with one or two exceptions — but below are five essays I felt good about last year. Hopefully this time next year, I’ll be able to expand the 2013 iteration of this list to, say, seven or eight, starting with a profile on Karl Towns I’m writing for Dime now. (As a result, don’t expect to see me around these parts much for the next couple of weeks or so.)

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When nothing else matters

Blue steel

The texts and tweets started rolling in around 8:30 on Friday night, as I stood next to a police officer looking at what was left of my Mustang. According to my phone, my alma mater, Duke, was behind No. 15 seed Lehigh late in their NCAA Tournament game.

I obviously didn’t particularly care very much in that moment. But as I watched my fiancée climb into an ambulance to be examined by EMTs, I couldn’t help wondering why I ever cared that much to begin with.

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Nostalgia, ultra

Hang ten

Right before Christmas, I flew down to North Carolina to visit Duke, something I’d previously done five times since I graduated in 2001. Though a lot remains unchanged in my life since my last trip three years ago – same job, same apartment, same obsessive sneaker collection – I’ve since met my future wife, which qualifies as a very significant positive change.

When we stopped for a snack at the general store adjacent to my freshman year dorm, a couple of wide-eyed freshmen, still shell-shocked from their first final exams, asked me what had changed about Duke in the thousand years since I’d been a student, and it got me to thinking.

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Black socks in the hour of chaos

Contrast I watched ESPN’s Fab 5 Documentary the night before I left for vacation and very much enjoyed it, lamenting the fact that I wouldn’t have time to weigh in on Jalen Rose’s comments about Duke. Considering the instant-gratification Twitter-borne sports culture we live in, I assumed that by the time I got back a week later, it would be a non-issue.

It was to my surprise when I got back that it was even more a topic than it had been before I left. I still need a late pass, since the approaching baseball season has sucked up a lot of my time since then, but it’s still on my mind.

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Senior moment: Parting ways with Nolan and Singler

Black/white Kobe Vs: A good look Four years ago, following Duke basketball’s weakest season since I enrolled there in 1997, my dad and I got really excited about the potential of the team’s incoming freshman class.

In late 2007, right after my second marathon, my dad — who isn’t really a sports fan, but got into Duke basketball when I started there — surprised me with Beckett-graded basketball cards he had won on eBay of Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Taylor King in McDonald’s All-American jerseys. We arranged the cards under the glass of my coffee table with some other Duke cards we’ve collected over the years, a sort of makeshift micro-Hall of Fame.

And we began to follow their careers together.

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Sympathy for the Devil: Why Kyrie Irving’s injury hits home


The texts and e-mails started rolling in on Wednesday, asking me how I was doing in the wake of Kyrie Irving’s toe injury. They came from people who know how I’ve followed Kyrie’s early career over the last year or so.

I’m obviously concerned, more for him than about anything else. As incredible a player as Kyrie has looked, he’s still a freshman. And I know what it’s like to be a New Jersey kid at Duke, where a 500-mile difference can seem like 500,000 miles when you’re alone.

Despite Mike Krzyzewski saying he could be out for the season, I have to hold on to hope that this year is going to have a happy ending for Kyrie. He’s got a tremendous medical staff on his side, and the healing powers of youth.

But a part of me misses a simpler time, watching Kyrie do his thing at high school games at Kean University. And there’s a part of him that deep down probably agrees with me.

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Visit to home office shows Coach K living a dream with Team USA

Master of his domain

I went to the Garden a week ago to watch Team USA play France. And as I watched Mike Krzyzewski sit on the bench, studying his players and working the refs, it brought me back to an October night back in 2000, when I sat in the home office in Mike Krzyzewski’s basement.

Krzyewski is about as close to a living legend as there is in his profession. But he has dreams and aspirations, just like the rest of us. And it was a remarkable opportunity to get a rare window into what Coach K himself would define as success.

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Playing the percentages: Singler wins numbers game with Duke return

Net profit
The usual disclaimer: If you’ve been here before, you know I went to Duke. And of course, I’m excited for another year of watching Kyle Singler play, and I certainly don’t mind that it makes the team a title contender again.

But truth be told, it seems like a very good move for him.

The simple thing would have been for the Final Four Most Outstanding Player to strike while the iron was hot and enter the NBA Draft. But just like his coach, Singler is going against the grain somewhat, and to me, he’s doing the right thing.

The biggest reason for that is that all this lockout talk is messing with everyone’s heads.

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