Beyda: When sports and school collide, who wins?

Packard 053 holds a special place in my heart. From the same corner of lab benches in that cluttered room in the Electrical Engineering building’s basement, I’ve GameTracked the Giants’ epic comeback in the 2012 NLDS, SlingBoxed Richard Sherman’s heroic (villainous?) pass breakup at the end of this year’s NFC Championship Game and, as of this week, smart-phoned my way through the heartbreaking end of Stanford basketball’s loss to No. 1 Arizona.

If you know anything about me, then you should be disturbed that I wasn’t at Maples Pavilion on Wednesday night. I was going to Cardinal men’s basketball games in utero, had season tickets every year growing up and now work at games as a statistician for the Media Relations Department. I would never miss a game against the No. 1 team in the country, much less if that game were against Arizona, which was always the Cardinal’s biggest basketball rival when I was growing up.

But Wednesday was the only night when both my lab partner and I could work, which is why I spent 7:45 to 8:15 p.m. frantically switching back and forth between Twitter, iMessage and the SportsCenter app in an effort to fight poor signal strength. Ironic, for a radio design lab.

I don’t regret my decision to trade in the smell of sweaty sneakers for that of lead-laden solder, at least for one night. School comes first; that’s how we got to Stanford in the first place.

Of course, most of us have prioritized our extracurricular passions over school at some point or another. But even though I care about my teams, I know their successes don’t honestly hinge on whether I’ve got my eyes on the game or on my spectrum analyzer. That’s why it has always felt a lot more acceptable to let “productive” activities — a tennis practice, an interview for a newspaper article, a Boy Scout outing — get in the way of my coursework than it has to let a sporting event do the same.

At what point, though, have I sacrificed enough in the name of school?

Ever since I started high school, I’ve had a mortal fear that the San Jose Sharks would make their first Stanley Cup Finals, but that I would miss the Cup-clinching game because I was taking a final exam — or at graduation. (It all usually happens in the same week of June.) I’ve actually flirted with this choice before. On the eve of my AP U.S. History exam, I watched the Sharks get shellacked 7-1 in a second-round playoff game instead of cramming for the next morning’s onslaught. I still got a 5 — and more importantly, the Sharks won the series in that many games.

Luckily, this won’t even be an issue in 18 months. Once I’ve graduated, my nights will be my own to fill with whatever sports I please, and potential employers should know that any job that requires me to travel extensively on Saturdays in the fall is off the table.

For the time being, though, every student-fan needs their own formula. Here’s mine: In the event of a Pac-12 Championship Game, Sweet Sixteen or Stanley Cup Finals, the TAs better darn well have a makeup final ready. If a top-five football matchup between Oregon and Stanford is being played in my backyard, I’ll turn in that problem set a day late.

But anything less? Well, I’m off to Packard 053, my gEEky haven of op-amps and oscilloscopes — and my black hole of sports memories never made.

Joseph Beyda’s editor cannot believe that he could be better at electrical engineering than he is at sports journalism — not even Steve Wozniak could be that good. To tell Joey why he should change career paths, email him one at jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Joseph Beyda

Joseph Beyda is the executive editor of The Stanford Daily. Previously he has worked as the football editor, a sports desk editor, the paper's summer managing editor and a beat reporter for football, baseball and women's soccer. He co-authored The Daily's recent football book, "Rags to Roses," and covered the soccer team's national title run for the New York Times. Joseph is a junior from Cupertino, Calif. majoring in Electrical Engineering. To contact him, please email jbeyda "at" stanford.edu.