Writer’s Roundtable: Memories on the Mesa (Part 2)

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Alexa Oslowski

All four seniors featured in this edition of Writer’s Roundtable are pictured.

by Breven Honda, Senior Staff Writer

Last week, we talked to four graduating Daily Aztec Sports section writers about some of their recollections during their time as not only writers for The Daily Aztec, but also as students at San Diego State in part one of our Writer’s Roundtable called “Memories on the Mesa.”

This time, we talk to our final four sportswriters: Staff Writers Brandon Freed and Nathan Navida, Senior Staff Writer Amber Salas and Assistant Sports Editor Luis Lopez in part two of this two-part special of Writer’s Roundtable: Memories on the Mesa.

Breven Honda: What is a favorite or memorable game you have seen or covered? 

Brandon Freed: “For me, it was covering the Mountain West Conference championships last year and I covered (SDSU playing) Boise State in the semifinals. That was probably my favorite one because it was my first live standup before the game and during halftime, so I really enjoyed doing that and covering that game. The crowd was electric in that game and people were going crazy, so I would have to say that game was my favorite.”

Nathan Navida: “I transferred from Palomar Community College and it’s been crazy watching all the different sports. Even just being here for two years, there’s a lot of crazy things always happening. My top moment was the San José State-SDSU game (during the 2019-20 season). It was maybe the 10th game SDSU was playing. Malachi Flynn, the star player, wasn’t playing very good that game. There were up a good amount of points in the first half and then San Jose State came back up, took the lead within the last minute and Malachi Flynn clutched up and hit that buzzer-beater and that was crazy. Crazy thing was, the arena wasn’t even that full because no one knew who SDSU was, we were unranked at the time. When he hit that shot, it was like a full Viejas Arena, so it was crazy.”

Amber Salas: “I have to agree with Luis here. This was a really hard one to think of just one because there are so many great memories. For this one, I am going to with a game I was at. I was actually cheering on the sidelines. My favorite memory was the (men’s) basketball game against Utah State where we retired Kawhi Leonard’s jersey. That was such a cool day. I remember getting told I was going to cheer at that game and looking forward to it for so long. But to walk into Viejas (Arena) and see it covered in the white shirts and it was a full house. Even the buildup of everyone trying to get tickets at once and a system crashing down and then to be there to see all the special guests that were there from the Clippers, Doc Rivers, Kawhi Leonard and his family, Steve Fisher. And then, an incredible game where we’re down at halftime and comeback to win in a really big game, so definitely that game will be one of my favorites.”

Luis Lopez: “When I think about the favorite game I covered, it has to be — maybe it’s recency bias — covering the Mountain West Championships in this past 2020-21 season. It was first year being on the men’s basketball beat and to get to go a game that big, a game that saw them clinch a spot in the NCAA tournament, get in a really heated battle with Utah State, especially where they were the previous year getting eliminated by Utah State in the Mountain West Tournament, losing in that championship game. To see them kind of come full circle and come all the way back and qualify for the NCAA Tournament in Vegas was a very special moment.”

BH: What is the craziest memory you have?

BF: “I’ll have to say my craziest moment was my freshman year (in 2017). San Diego State football was playing against Stanford. They were losing and Stanford was a really high-ranked team and the lights out at (SDCCU) Stadium. But then I think San Diego State was losing that game, but when the lights went out it just lit a fire in the San Diego State football team and they’re able to come back and get the victory. So I thought that was pretty crazy and a memorable moment.”

NN: “Just being able to cover the Mountain West basketball championships with you guys and The Daily Aztec Sports team. It was my first time meeting you guys and because of the quarantine and I have only seen you guys on Zoom. It was pretty cool being there and see how you guys operate and learn about the industry.”

LL: “I am going to stay on track with the Mountain West Championship thing. Not this year but the year before when I went as a fan with some of The Daily Aztec people. To see Sam Merrill hit that last-second bucket against the Aztecs and to see The Show and all the Aztecs fans in Vegas get absolutely deflated was a really wild moment especially considering up until that point, we were talking about what seed they were going to get in the NCAA Tournament, we were talking about is this a national-title worthy team and for them to lose in that way was such a crazy moment. Then to be there for the aftermath and seeing the fan reaction in Vegas, inside the arena, outside the arena and then eventually that turning into the realization that that was the last game they would play that season added to the craziness. That whole shot and watching Merrill and the Utah State fans go crazy was an absolutely wild moment.”

AS: “Definitely have to agree with Brandon on the Stanford game our freshman year when all the lights went off. I remember everyone screaming the “I Believe” chant and everyone was going crazy, everyone had the flashlights on on their phones. It was such a cool environment. Like Brandon said, the second the game was back on, you knew there was no way that SDSU was going to lose, which was so cool. Everyone stormed the field. I remember the craziest thing was some kid jumped off the bleachers and broke both his feet trying to get on the field. And also, the Malachi Flynn buzzer-beater against San José State. I remember him getting the ball and I literally closed my eyes when he took the shot because I was like ‘Oh my gosh, there’s no way.’ And then if they lost, it was going to get rid of the perfect record, but low and behold, he makes it and it was unreal.”

BH: What is a favorite story you have written? 

BF: “I got to take this back to last year. At the end of the (men’s) basketball season, I wrote a story on the top five moments of the college basketball team and last year, they had a really historic year with Malachi Flynn, the 26-game winning streak and then Kawhi Leonard getting his jersey retired. When I wrote about the five moments, I thought it was really cool to write about and it was really fun for me to do.”

NN: “It has to be one I wrote (a few weeks ago) about SDSU’s lacrosse team getting their first-ever win against USC. It was really cool talking to (head coach Kylee White) and the feelings they went through and what that was like, what that meant for them, not only as a team, but what it meant for teams prior.”

AS: “This one’s really hard. Trying to go back through all of the memories. There’s a few. I have to go back to last year when I was covering hockey. It was always one of the first few stories I did. That one is always special for me because that’s when I truly got into it and I think I finally figured out how to write and tell a good story. That team was really fun to cover because they had one of the best years in program history. But my all-time favorite story was one I did at the beginning of this year on Dwayne Johnson Jr. starting a non-profit, to provide wifi and resources to people who might’ve struggled during this unique time of online learning due to COVID-19. That was a really cool story to kind of show who are athletes are off the field and especially during a time like this where COVID was causing a lot of uncertainties. It was cool to see Dwyane step up and be more than just a football player and really provide to the whole community.”

LL: “I think the favorite story that I’ve written during my time here was last spring, I got to do a story about the impact Nipsey Hussle had on some of the athletes here at SDSU. It was cool because I got to talk to athletes from different sports. I talk to Darren Hall from the football team, KJ Feagin, a former player on the (men’s) basketball team and Aaron Eden from the baseball team. All of them, being from Southern California, really love Nipsey and the message that he provided. They loved his music and the community work he did. That was a really cool story for me because obviously you get a chance to see more of what these athletes are about, that they’re more than who they are on the field  For those who don’t know, I love sports being in the position I am, but another passion of mine is music. I am also a huge fan of hip-pop, so to be able to combine those two things and do it in a way that made it relate to SDSU and talk about a rapper that’s missed by so many, I thought that was a cool moment.”

BH: What is a message you have to future, new and younger writers for The Daily Aztec?   

NN: “My message to them would be to take risk, jump in head first. I’ve only been with The Daily Aztec for this semester and I honestly wished that I was able to join during my entire time here. But, I was hit with a lot of work when I first transferred here, so I felt like I wasn’t able to take on more. But with how crazy it’s been this year, I’ve really proved myself wrong. Everyone at The Daily Aztec have been really grateful and I’m grateful for everything you’ve guys have done with helping me out with my writing skills. I hope to keep pushing myself as a writer and as a person and once I graduate. So, take risks.”

BF: “I would say to work hard and try to write as much content as you can because it’s really good for resumes and you guys are all done and graduated. I wish I had actually joined earlier like Nathan. I mean Breven was the one that brought it up to me my junior year. So that’s when I started. I would say to work hard and keep pushing, but don’t forget you can always ask for help. If you need help, you can always ask people.”

LL: “I think the best piece of advice I can offer to younger writers or people just stepping into The DA is to not be afraid to try new things. Some people come in with the mindset, ‘Oh, I’m just a sportswriter. I can’t really do so much else.’ You can use your time at The DA to do so much more. When I first started at The Daily Aztec, I didn’t really have any broadcast journalism experience. I’d done some stuff around the camera, but not nearly as much as I’ve done now. Now I feel like I can go into an actual professional position in broadcast journalism. That’s how much The DA has taught me and then it doesn’t even apply to different types of journalism. If you think you are just a sports guy, but you’re also interested in arts and culture or news, this is the place to try it. You’ll get experience here that you won’t necessarily get at an internship or in another professional environment. So, that would be the best thing I can offer is try new things and don’t be afraid to get your feet wet in something else.”

AS: “Yeah I think everyone has gave some great advice. I would echo all of that and say really take hold of every opportunity The Daily Aztec has to offer, whether that’s making friends who have similar interest here that can help you learn and grow, going to networking events where you can hear from guest speakers that working in the industry right now and like everyone said, really try it all, whether it’s broadcast, whether you want to do the live show, whether you want to do a standup at a game. No matter how scared you are, no matter how bad you might think you are when you’re starting out, just continue to write every single week because you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll grow and like everyone said everyone’s there to help you along the way. I look back at some of my first stories and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh. Who let that be published?’ But it’s so cool to see where we all are now and just how much we’ve grown just from sticking with it and writing every week and continuing to get feedback. So, I would say take hold of every opportunity. You’ll make lifelong friends and some great memories and leave with the best of them.”

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