ESPN’s Zach Lowe to the GHS Class of 2024: “Get out of your comfort zone and fail.”

The Greenwich High School class of 2024 commencement speaker was Zach Lowe, an ESPN journalist and member of the GHS class of 1995.

Mr. Lowe has been a journalist covering the NBA for almost 15 years, the last 12 at ESPN.

In 2016, Slate named him America’s Best Sportswriter.

ESPN journalist, and member of the GHS class of 1995, Zach Lowe was the commencement speaker at the class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024. Photo: Leslie Yager

Many know Lowe’s parents, Joan and Terry Lowe, GHS faculty members who have about 70 combined years at the school.

In fact, Mrs. Lowe was an English teacher, then a guidance counselor and social worker at GHS for 38 years.

Terry Lowe taught math for 39 years and just finished his 56th year as the swim team coach.

Zach Lowe said while he always wanted to be a sports journalist, the path was indirect. He pursued a teaching career, but harbored that desire for a career in sports journalism.

Eventually he said he worked the crime beat for the Stamford Advocate, and ultimately transitioned into sports, and his job at ESPN.

But first he shared recollections of his years at GHS.

“This place is not easy. It’s huge. It’s scary and it’s loud. I still get butterflies in my stomach when I see the glass corridor,” he said. “My first day here, the seniors seemed like giants. The student center was a mosh pit of noise.”

“And just like now, today, the New York Knicks and New York Rangers were awesome when I was here,” he recalled. “When both teams were in the finals in 1994, the entire student center would erupt in chants, ‘Let’s go Rangers, Let’s go Knicks,’ during passing time. I still get chills thinking about it.”

Lowe said he spent his open blocks debating sports.

“We debated whether the Knicks could ever beat Michael Jordan. No. And of course the Mets versus the Yankees. If you take anything from today – Mets versus Yankees, it’s a clear cut case of good and evil. The Mets are good!”

Lowe said he had always wanted to be a sports writer, but didn’t see a clear path.

He recalled an embarrassing situation his freshman year at Dartmouth College when someone wrote an essay in the school newspaper about how Greenwich was “a bubble” and everyone was “snooty.”

“Naive 18-year-old me, I was fired up. Who was this guy? How dare he? I wrote in a response defending Greenwich and this was the start of my journalism career,” he recalled. “What I wrote was awful. The same writer wrote a response back to me and told me I was a silly little freshman who knew nothing about anything. I was humiliated. That was the last thing I wrote publicly for 10 years.”

Talking about how many young people in Greenwich benefit from advantages, as he did, many don’t experience true adversity as teens.

“I’d never done anything daring, never exposed myself to real, actual failure. I never went into New York City. I thought it was like a criminal hellscape,” he said. “But I didn’t have to be daring. I didn’t have to risk failure. This can be a very safe place”

Lowe said he stuck with what was comfortable after college and became a teacher. From there he left teaching high school to study to become a college professor but was disheartened.

“I was totally lost. Maybe it was time to try journalism,” he recalled, adding that he then pursued low-paid freelance work covering high school football games.

“Eventually I got a job covering crime at the Stamford Advocate from 3:00pm to midnight,” he said. “I learned real fast what journalism really is. You think it’s going on TV and giving your opinion and yelling at people? No, it’s asking strangers uncomfortable questions, making people angry.”

He said that while sports journalism was very enjoyable, it involved hard work and sacrifice, sometimes missing family events and holidays, as well as working nights and weekends.

“I write my columns on planes. I travel with a wifi hot spot so I can watch games in Uber rides. Every second counts,” he said. “And even now, you think, ESPN guy must be so secure and confident. It’s still super uncomfortable. Every day brings new chances of embarrassment, failure, unwanted attention.”

“Mark Cuban cursed me out on national TV for calling Luka Doncic a whiner,” he recalled. (Google that!)

“There have been times I’ve wanted to hide, crawl into my hotel bed, pull the covers up. But you have to keep on going,” he said.

After talking about the anticipation of interviewing athletes including LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, Lowe said,  “I’ve learned that the more nervous something makes me, the better off I’ll be for trying it.”

“Like a lot of you I bet, I fretted about grades and where I’d what go to college when I was here. The older I get, the more I think that none of that matters. It can get you in the door, but it can’t keep you in the door. What matters is grit, toughness and endurance.”

“Get out of your comfort zone as often as you can. Meet people who don’t look like you or sound like you, or come from places like Greenwich.”

“Learn to be empathetic,” he added. “Go live in a foreign country where you know no one, and you don’t speak the language and figure it out. One of my great regrets from college was that I did not do that.”

Lowe also recommended spending time in a city.

“There is nothing more exciting than being in your 20’s in a big city and going out at night and letting the city just sweep you up. You will met the most interesting people from all over the world. One chance meeting can change your life.”

He also urged graduates not to set deadlines for achieving certain goals.

“Life does not unfold like that. It’s fine if you don’t have anything figured out when you’re 25, 35, or 40 – maybe ever. Do not compare yourself to people who look like they have it figured it out. They don’t.”

“Get uncomfortable. Fail. Get more uncomfortable. You will never learn about the world or become what you are supposed to be until you start breaking out of your comfort zone all the time.”

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Greenwich High School class of 2024 graduation. June 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

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