Pete Barrows

Sports Journalist — Pete.Barrows12@gmail.com

Dear Louie

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Pete Barrows
Columnist

I haven’t been ice skating in years – not at Rosa Parks Circle, Walker Ice Arena, over the godforsaken Mystic Woods’ pond or on the shoveled off shrimp farm nestled between 48th and the tree that belongs in a Robert Frost poem just off Pierce en route to campus. Naturally, I’m out of practice, but I stay sharp by navigating my drive each afternoon to collect the mail.

It’s an integral part of my hermit lifestyle that I don’t take lightly, except on the 30 days a month that I am not delivered my subscription to ESPN The Magazine. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a bundle of bills and penny-savers as much as the next guy, but there’s a limit on how much kindling/paper airplane/poorly-constructed pirate hat scrap one man really needs. Besides, as an esteemed and tenured writer, I get the Lanthorn for free.

What can I say? It’s just another one of the perks of being the less-funny, less-talented, less-funded mutant meld of Joel Stein, Mitch Albom, Bill Simmons and Amanda McKittrick Ros for a school rag. Take today. Not only did I receive my W2 form, which made me swoon in a wave of giddy anticipation to file my taxes, I only fell twice on the way back up the drive – a new personal best – and played off the second slip by hoisting myself off the ground while brandishing an imaginary penny to the neighbor kids out building icemen that watched front row as I went ass over teakkettle. “It was heads up”, I shout over.

It really must be my lucky day, too! As I inadvertently attempted my own ill-advised version of the Iron Lotus with the W2, the normal supply of what I like to call ‘craft paper’, a new Allendale phone book thin enough to slide under a door and a blank postcard marked Fort Hancock, Texas in hand, out slipped a letter.

***

DEAR PETE:

I enrolled at Grand Valley State University in the fall, and I must admit, it hasn’t been quite what I expected. I enjoy the classes alright, as far as classes go, and have learned to love the teriyaki chicken on focaccia roll sandwiches I order at the Connection, but there’s something missing.

I still get homesick for home-cooked meals, I miss not having access to my own set of wheels and I’m lonely. I’ve met people here and there, have explored what I can, when weather permits, and enjoy the idea of freedom to do what I want. The problem is that I have no idea what to do with that freedom, and whenever I swap stories with my friends at MSU, UofM, and ULA (Go Peacocks!), I feel like I’m missing out.

I don’t think I can last like this much longer, but I promised mom that I would stick out for at least a year. Help a sister out?

ABBY’S GREAT-GRANDDAUGHTER, TWICE REMOVED

DEAR SPAWN OF ABBY:

College, like any other experience in life, is what you make of it and take it from someone who has traveled the scenic route through school, it goes by fast. Too fast. Please don’t let it slip, and don’t feel alone or out of place. You’re not alone, not even close, and as GVSU grows, it’s important to open yourself up to what’s available to you.

Campus Life Night/Transitions are great places to start, but it can be overwhelming to ingest that much at Fresh-style buffets. Spread out your meals (and budget your debit dollars) instead as you take it all in. Life at a Division II school can be different than life at a major Division I university, but different doesn’t have to mean worse.

Join a club, a study group, try-out for a team, check out Greek Life, knock on your neighbors door – it’s not too late — and put yourself in positions to experience uncomfortable growth. Stay ready to take on those opportunities when they present themselves so you don’t have to get ready. And even if none of that sticks, do me a favor. Ditch that UofM, MSU, whoever-else-your-parents-might-have-an-affiliation-with sweatshirt for a night, and gear up to take in a game at GVSU. It doesn’t matter if you can’t tell the difference between a quarterback and a point guard, just do it. Take your pick – you can’t go wrong.

Head to the Brian Kelly Family Sports Center to watch Jerry Baltes orchestrate the Greatest Show on Synthetic Polyurethane, and secretly bet candy bars on races with your friends. Wash down Janel Burgess’ best Pat Summit impression with Ric Wesly’s interpretation of Tom Izzo. Stream the Whale Radio broadcasts of baseball, softball and women’s lacrosse as you study on the deck in the spring breeze. Wear a fancy hat to a crew regatta, watch the Quidditch team practice on the band turf, go run a pickup game with academic adviser Tom Fellows at the Rec , take pride every time you watch NFL receiver Charles Johnson haul in a pass from Teddy Bridgewater next season and once you’re hooked, do everyone a favor and come apply to take my job at the Lanthorn.

Tailgate whenever you like – the tickets are always free to students – and cheer like you’re a part of the finest Division II athletic programs in college sports because you are. What GVSU lacks in scope when measured against bigger schools, it makes up for with soul and as a Laker, you’re not only permitted, but encouraged to take on ownership in the product on the field/court/track without being tabbed a ‘Walmart fan’. Games usually aren’t crowded, players are generally accessible and there’s plenty of room aboard the bandwagon.

Where as you’ll rarely see GVSU on ESPN, you’ll also rarely see GVSU on ESPN! It’s a well-kept secret you’re privy to share with colleagues years later while standing around the water cooler, and it’s one of many ways for you to get involved at school to enhance your stay – a stay, which I hope at the sake of your everyday mail becoming old and boring like mine, is considerable.

Louie loves ya, be cool and stay in school, Go Lakers and all that jazz. Say hello to your grandma (twice removed) for me.

PETE

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Written by peterdbarrows

February 12, 2015 at 2:12 am

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