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Alumni Perspective: Making our way to The Big Dance

J.A. Adande

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Good thing Northwestern will never be a team that’s never been to the NCAA Tournament again, because this whole first-time thing’s been stressful. It was stressful because it was MANDATORY to be at the Wildcats’ first taste of the tournament, which meant entire mornings lost to booking contingency flights and hotel rooms at sites around the country, followed by that utterly helpless feeling of waiting.

I haven’t traveled to cover the NCAA tournament since 2007, when I followed USC to Washington state and then New Jersey for my Los Angeles Times column. I’d forgotten how unsettling it can be to have your travel plans in the hands of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee. And I’d never been so emotionally attached to a result as I have been for this, this need to watch my alma mater and now employer participate in the greatest American sports event.

Then the magic moment finally happened and the Cats were sent to Salt Lake City, the one place I hadn’t accounted for, and I was too busy scrambling to buy airline tickets to pay much attention to the joyous leaps and jubilant sounds at Welsh-Ryan Arena on my TV. It wasn’t until later, when the flights and game tickets had been secured, when the CBS show was over and I switched to the Bracketology special on ESPN and saw them lead the two-hour show with a clip of the Cats celebrating, that I could set my concerns and emotions aside and simply feel good for those who made it possible. For every alumni email chain making the rounds this past week, for every student and administrator who went to Welsh-Ryan on Sunday to be a part of it and even for the coaches who succeeded where all of their predecessors had failed, this belonged to the players. They rushed out of their seats, left everyone behind, gathered in a circle, jumped around and pumped their fists and locked arms, broke out molar-revealing smiles and reveled in this creation that was all of their making. I’ve never been more appreciative for one group that gave me so much added work and worry.

J.A. Adande (Medill ‘92) is a former Daily sports editor and the director of sports journalism at Medill.