Warren: To all the stories I’ve loved before and never told

Peter Warren, Daily Senior Staffer

Graduation Issue 2021

On a snowy Saturday in January 2019, Vic Law and the men’s basketball team traveled to Madison to take on Ethan Happ and the Wisconsin Badgers. Charlie Goldsmith, Andrew Golden and I traveled to cover the game along with Alison Albelda, who was photographing from the sidelines.

Andrew, Charlie and I had never traveled before to cover a game, and we were all a little nervous. We walked timidly around the arena, trying to find our way around, locate the pregame snacks and claim our seats. There are three press areas at Kohl Center. One is down near the sidelines. One is in the second deck near center court. And one is in the second deck and way off to the side.

The three of us were in the latter area, all by our lonesome except for one random dude covering the game. It was not what we expected, but we were having fun in the first half, chatting about lineup rotations and wild fans while jotting down notes and potential sentences. We felt like we were in our own world.

When the halftime buzzer rang, Charlie got up to get some food, but I told him to wait a second. We have to see if there’s a halftime show, I said.

We watched with confusion and excitement as arena attendants brought large trampolines onto the court. The next thing we knew, there were 15 to 20 people running, jumping, flipping, dribbling and dunking all over the floor for an acrobatic basketball performance.

We ate it up. I have only cheered in a press box once, and it was at this spectacular display of athleticism. Charlie ooo’d and ahh’d at the flips and spins of the dunkers. Andrew pumped his fist as the acrobats slammed home dunk after dunk. I had my hands on top of my head for almost the entire show. We cheered along with the crowd, and wondered aloud how this group is not as big as the famous Red Panda.

I don’t remember much else about that game that I didn’t first Google beforehand, but that halftime show will forever live in a rent-controlled condo in my head.

Across my four-ish years covering sports at this newspaper, I have written a lot of cool stories. I wrote about a mysterious food poisoning at a Chicago nightclub, clubhouse antics and a basketball game that ended in a tie. I covered the reopening of Welsh-Ryan Arena, two Big Ten Championships at Lucas Oil Stadium, a Midwest Fencing Championship and more. There have been so many awesome stories, and I’d like to think I did a good job telling them.

But there is almost always something interesting that is left on the cutting room floor and is never published in The Daily. Sometimes it’s a description of a play that occurred early in the game and appeared to be important but lost relevance as the game continued. Other times, it’s a funny quote that has no place in a story. It’s an anecdote about someone’s life that just doesn’t fit into the narrative of the story, or something that’s happened to us reporters that will be fun to tell our friends later while sipping ice cold ginger ales.

It’s these stories that I think of as I reflect on my time in Evanston.

It’s easier to remember the stuff that’s made the final draft of a story than the stuff that doesn’t make the cut. I have a record of what happened that I can rely upon if my mind gets hazy. For these, you hope you don’t forget the minor details, as life continues and other stories fill your mind.

But these stories tell as much about sports as the big, oft-remembered moments. They reveal what we love about sports, what we find important about them, what we find engaging about them and what we think is worth remembering.

Most people would have forgotten about that halftime performance in Madison. But I can’t forget it. It perfectly encapsulates what I love about sports: the camaraderie of friends, enjoying the moment and savoring an unexpected twist in the action.

We all have moments like that — even if they don’t make it on the back page.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @thepeterwarren