by Malini Gandhi
News on college sports may seem like nothing more than pages of scores, win-loss records and other bold-faced, computer-produced statistics.
But put senior Ivan McGovern in the Harvard football stadium and he can not only relay the players’ numerical merits, but also rattle off what instrument one athlete plays, the family life of another and a description of a star athlete who also happens to be talented at Germanic studies.
For McGovern, an aspiring sports manager who is currently working as a video mixing specialist and a sports feature writer at the Harvard Crimson, sports is as much about the people as it is about the scoreboard.
Through his work, which involves creating sports video mash-ups for the Crimson’s website and writing articles featuring football players for the Crimson’s game program, McGovern said he has “really gotten to know the athletes” and has discovered the interplay between the athletic and the personal.
McGovern received his position at the Crimson by a surprising turn of events. According to McGovern, he has always been passionate about sports and is an avid follower of Harvard games, and over the years, he had become friends with a couple of Harvard athletes.
During his sophomore year, he spent time making video mash-ups of NBA players set to music and posted the links to the videos on Facebook—one of which caught the eye of his Harvard athlete friend who happened to be interning at the Crimson.
“My friend showed one of my videos to his boss, who was impressed and asked if I wanted to do the same for Harvard’s basketball team. It all sort of followed from there,” McGovern said.
According to McGovern, the team sent him video clips with highlights from the games, and he strung the clips together and set them to a backdrop of music to form videos spotlighting specific basketball players or capturing a certain game. The videos were then posted on the ’s website. Harvard’s basketball team was having a stellar season, and soon, the videos became popular, he said.
“The videos were exciting, and they really strengthened my relationship with the team. The players would watch them and tell me, ‘That’s so cool, I want one highlighting me this time,’” McGovern said.As he got to know the team better, McGovern found that his relationships strengthened his video editing skills by adding personality and meaning to his videos.
“After a while, I’d know the players well enough that I would hear a song on the radio and immediately fit it to a certain basketball player,” McGovern said. “If it was a ‘boom boom’ song I’d set it as the backdrop for a video spotlighting, say, an aggressive player who dunks a lot.”
McGovern drew upon this idea of displaying the people behind the athletes once again when he took an internship position this past summer writing features on individual football players to be published in the Crimson’s game program magazine.
According to McGovern, sports feature articles add a whole different dimension to sports journalism that simply recaps of games cannot capture.
“The football player features are valuable because after reading a feature on a particular athlete, you really start to look more at that player throughout the season and feel more connected to them,” McGovern said. “You start to realize that the players are not just athletes—they are people, musicians, and writers.”
A particular article that stood out to McGovern was his very first spotlight of junior Treavor Scales, a star running back for Harvard.
“Treavor was the only player I’ve actually interviewed in person, and it adds so much to the feel of the interview. You can see the answers physically,” McGovern said. “I remember coming home not only inspired to write the article, but also inspired as a teenager and as a person.”
Another inspiring—and challenging—article was McGovern’s feature on the captain of the Harvard football team, which was published in the Harvard-Yale game program Saturday, Nov. 17 and distributed to over 30,000 people.
McGovern said the article was special not only because it was distributed to so many people, but also because the captain was “so unique to profile.” He was out for the season due to an injury and acted like a coach from the sidelines.
“This fact really put a twist on the article,” McGovern said. “For most of the football players I had a set list of questions, like ‘What do you feel when you’re lining up for a play,’ but I had to change my questions for the captain and approach the article from a different perspective.”
The job comes with its downsides, particularly in meeting deadlines. According to McGovern, the Harvard athletes are incredibly hard-working and busy, and “often times, I’ll email them asking when they are available for an interview, and they will literally give me a single one hour slot in the whole week. This can be tough when you’re working on a week deadline,” McGovern laughed.
However, in general, McGovern said the work has been “such a rewarding experience, and sometimes, I have trouble believing it’s happening.”
One major plus of the position is that for a student looking to go into sports’ management, the chance to interact with people in the sports world is invaluable.