Caselli: The importance and solace of Stanford sports

June 7, 2012, 1:45 a.m.

When faced with one of the biggest decisions of my young life back in 2008 — choosing where I would attend school for the next four years — I knew very few specifics about what I wanted out of my college experience. However, three things were certain: I wanted to go to a “good” school (whatever that means), the weather had to be tolerable and sports were important. By default, small liberal arts schools and the Ivies were out, and my application list quickly came to resemble the more temperate half of the then-Pac-10 conference.

As inconsequential as my criteria may seem, they reveal a great deal about who I am and how I ended up at Stanford. My mother, a Stanford alumna herself (the great class of 77!), emphasized the importance of academics throughout my upbringing and inspired longtime loves for reading, writing and the arts — loves that first brought me to the Daily building in the fall of 2008 for what would ultimately become the most defining activity of my college career. Growing up in perhaps the nation’s most moderate climate, in the lovely East Bay city of Alameda, Calif., I am pathetically uncomfortable when the weather deviates too far below 60 or above 80. Neither snow nor the extreme heat would see their ways into my undergraduate life.

And then there are sports. It’s impossible for me to describe when sports became prominent in my life because there was never a time that they weren’t there. My father, who played football for a couple of years at a certain East Bay university, was the quintessential sports dad: the guy who helped coach Little League baseball and rec-league basketball, provided running color commentary on every home video and had to be restrained by other dads when my brother was violently taken down in a soccer game. Photo albums from the first five years of my life document a smattering of Giants and A’s games and great retro Bay Area sports paraphernalia, and many of my earliest memories involve traveling up and down California (to glamorous hotspots like Modesto and Morgan Hill) to watch my older brother’s various (and frequent) sporting events.

But in 1995, my family of four was rocked by tragedy when my dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor; nine months later, he was gone. My brother, 11 at the time, sought solace in his busy schedule of athletic commitments. A six-year-old girl now lacking a father figure, I sought solace in my brother.

From that point on, what my brother liked, I liked, which meant any team facing the Lakers, the World Cup before it was trendy in the States and Barry Bonds, despite his surly demeanor and regardless of whether or not he took steroids (ask either of us, he didn’t). When my brother chose to attend Stanford in 2003, I became a Stanford sports enthusiast right alongside him, celebrating the glorious 2004 basketball season (minus its untimely end) and woefully enduring zero Big Game victories during his four-year tenure.

When I too became a Cardinal in 2008, our sports worlds converged still further, and now, most Saturdays in the fall are spent sharing drinks with friends at Gate 10 followed by raucous cheering in Stanford Stadium. Forever bonded by a passion for Stanford athletics, I have no doubt that our future holds years of season tickets, bowl game excursions and March Madness brackets that optimistically take Stanford farther than they’ll go.

On Sunday, June 17 — barring any academic catastrophes — I will graduate from Stanford University. My commencement falls squarely upon Father’s Day, and although my dad won’t be present alongside my mom and brother in the stands to watch me receive my diploma, I like to think that he would be proud of the daughter, and more specifically, the sports writer, editor and enthusiast that I have become in his absence. And even though he was a Bear, I know he’d be a closet Andrew Luck fan.

Caroline Caselli doesn’t write columns often, but when she does, they’re the best. Thank her for her four years at The Daily at carolinecaselli “at” stanford.edu or follow her on Twitter @carolinecaselli.

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