BY CHRIS MACKOWIAK
Featured photo: Chris Mackowiak after a football broadcast this fall. Christine Mackowiak photo
It seems as though at least once or twice a semester, I find myself asking a senior student-athlete about how it feels to be entering their final season playing in the maroon and gold. Each year on multiple broadcasts, I witness seniors lining up with family and friends as they face their respective senior days.
Now I finally know how that moment truly feels for that student-athlete.
It is many emotions washing over you, both happy and sad. The good obviously comes with the friendships and amazing moments that you have had the opportunity to be a part of.
The sadness certainly resembles the fact that this chapter in the journey of life has come to an end. It is time to leave the nest.
I remember my first true experience with SU Athletics. In athletic terms, I was a true freshman brought on from my days as a play-by-play broadcaster at North Penn High School in Lansdale, Pa. with little knowledge of what to expect broadcasting at the collegiate level.
After three years of announcing high school sports, I remember being in awe of the statistics and program information that I had at my disposal on a whim as a broadcaster here. With my preparation and a lesson on Maryland pronunciations from then-SU Sports Information Graduate Assistant Kevin Dargin, I was ready for the Elmer Lord Soccer Classic.
Weirdly enough, my first-ever shift with the Sea Gull Sports Network was a solo one. The United States Merchant Marine Academy was visiting the then-SU Soccer Complex to face the SU men’s soccer program.
That day will always have an effect on me. Not only was it my first SGSN broadcast, but also, the result had a unique impact on my future covering SU Athletics.
The result on that fall day in 2015 was also the 400th career victory for then-SU head coach Dr. Gerry DiBartolo. As a freshman still just a few days into college myself, that moment showed me how proud of a tradition SU Athletics was and is today.
It is also one of those days I look back on and really see the beauty in how things developed beyond that moment years down the line.
Over my time with The Flyer and SGSN, I did end up covering and working with DiBartolo many times. Also, one of the coaches that I have developed the best relationship with was waiting in the wings that day, now-SU men’s soccer head coach Alex Hargrove.
Through many meetings over the past three seasons with Hargrove about tactics ahead of practices at Sea Gull Soccer Stadium, the SU men’s soccer program is the program that I can say that I was the play-by-play broadcaster for during all four of my years at SU.
Sept. 4, 2015 was also the day that I first met SU Sports Information Director Tim Brennan. He will attest to this story: Our first conversation came at the end of my first broadcast.
Brennan came into the press box, shook my hand and told me that I would definitely be getting more work. He also informed me that I was saying “Salisbury” the wrong way for the two-hour match. Now, I can say that after 3.5 years covering the Sea Gulls, I am a huge proponent of the “Sawls-bury” movement.
After Brennan quickly dashed out of the press box, I turned to Dargin and asked who that was. Dargin gave me a bewildered look and said that it was our boss. As funny as it is, that is how my relationship began with one of my closest mentors and friends on this campus.
I was very happy that I left a great impression in more ways than one that day, but having a first day like that on the job really drove me to be the best that I could be.
From there, I guess you could say the rest is history. As I saw more work as a freshman early on, I grew close with the senior class of SGSN broadcasters, including fellow freshman broadcaster Drew Kessler (now a student over at Slippery Rock University).
One of those seniors was Ricky Pollitt, who I immediately looked up to as a role model as a reporter and broadcaster within SU Athletics. Somehow, some way, Pollitt and I spent much time together in several SGSN broadcast booths throughout my freshman year.
From the infamous Isaiah Taylor catches in the 2015 Regents’ Cup comeback to broadcasting the SU men’s lacrosse journey to a 2016 national title, our time in the booth together had a profound impact on my development. A random text from Pollitt into the SGSN group chat is what spurred on my hiring as The Flyer’s next sports editor at the end of the 2015-16 school year.
That freshman year set the foundation for the coverage I have provided over the past 2.5 years as sports editor of The Flyer and the last 3.5 years as a play-by-play broadcaster at SGSN. As you can tell, it is always the little things that make the greatest impacts for me.
For anyone that knows me personally, they know that by far I have one favorite television show: “The Office.” Yes, I am one of the many people that have watched through the series upwards of seven or eight times.
Perhaps, though, the quote from the show that gets me the most comes in the final few minutes of the series finale, which aired in 2013.
“I wish there was a way to know you’re in ‘the good old days’ before you’ve actually left them,” Andy Bernard said, played by Ed Helms.
Every time I watch the series finale, I connect my time at SU with that quote. While it did connect with me working more in my final semester this fall, I always knew in some way how truly “good” these days covering SU Athletics were. Luckily, I somehow knew that during these four years.
On a given day in the past two spring seasons, I might be picking the brain of the winningest coach in NCAA lacrosse history. Or talking soccer tactics with Hargrove at practice ahead of an SU soccer match. Or listening to gridiron tales from Coach Wood. Or taking in SU men’s basketball shootaround.
I always have felt like I was too lucky to get these opportunities. That is why I always tried to make the best of them in the moment. While I do represent myself while I am broadcasting or covering a story, I see it as much more than that.
When I put the headset on or start typing away on my keyboard, I am documenting the journey of many groups: the school, a team, a family and of course a student-athlete.
Why do I put so much effort and work into every broadcast? It is always because the SU student-athletes, families, friends and school administration have entrusted me to tell their stories, whether they consist of a single play, an entire season or a whole career.
That goes for opposing teams as well. For just that two- or three-hour period, I am representing their program and student-athletes, too. Because of those many phone calls to coaches across the NCAA Division III world, I have had the pleasure of meeting so many amazing leaders.
When I say to student-athletes or families that it is a pleasure and an honor to cover the SU programs, I truly mean it.
One of my most profound SU memories actually took place about 3.5 hours away from campus this past spring. SU Assistant Director of Sports Information Justin Farrell invited me on the road to help in covering the 2018 NCAA Semifinals for men’s lacrosse.
The adventure up to Gettysburg College brought me much more than just aiding in SU’s coverage of the game.
Farrell and I stopped for lunch in the middle of town before the game preparation began. As we waited for our food to come, a gentleman came up to our table. He said that he recognized me from the SU men’s lacrosse broadcasts.
From what I recall, it was part of SU midfielder John Wheeler’s family. Wheeler was listed as a native of Richardson, Texas, so he was very familiar with our SGSN broadcasts. The gentleman thanked me for the work we do to put the broadcast together.
Just having one moment like that reaffirms why I broadcast and cover sports.
During the actual game later that day, I was consistently going up and down the bleachers between the press box and the field retrieving game footage. On multiple occasions, I was stopped along the way with similar remarks from parents, families and friends.
After the game, I also remember another father coming up to Farrell and I bordering the field following the SU victory.
It was that day this past spring that it all truly hit me. I knew that I only had a semester left, destined to graduate the following December. Hearing those kind words from the people that were ingrained in the stories and the journeys that I was documenting meant that I was doing SU Athletics justice, my original goal a few years ago.
While as a broadcaster and reporter it is always excellent to hear positive feedback, my goal in this role is to never be the focus of the game’s coverage or of a headline. I am simply there to provide context and to document the history unfolding among our student-athletes and coaches every day.
Over the last few weeks, I have received similar remarks from coaches and other members of the SU community that I have worked closely with over the past 3.5 years. Nothing means more than to hear that.
While I do understand the “thank you” messages, I should be thanking you all instead.
Thank you for letting me be a part of your story, for entrusting me with the responsibility of telling your journey, whether over the air or on paper.
Thank you for being a part of my journey, whether in life or as a professional broadcaster and journalist.
I cannot begin to describe how much I have learned from you, the SU community. From falling in love with the game of lacrosse to simple interview sessions with coaches and players at practices, every detail has had a profound impact on myself.
Thank you to my family and friends for their love and support as always. Ask Brennan or Farrell about the amount of times they had notifications about the Mackowiaks doing something with “@suseagulls” on Twitter. I would love to know an actual stat for that, too.
Of course, thank you to the many faces throughout The Flyer over the past few years as I developed my written voice journalistically. Some of my best friendships have come through this organization.
While I might be the face or the voice you see or hear on SGSN each time the Sea Gulls are at home, there is an immensely talented group behind the scenes working as sports information staff, broadcasters, camera operators, replay technicians and computer operators. SGSN would be nothing without our team mentality. We are a family, plain and simple.
At some point, a new chapter always comes around the corner in the book of life. That point is now for me.
Signing off for a final time, I’m Chris Mackowiak.
Thank you, Sea Gull nation. Go Gulls.