I was scrolling through Twitter on Monday when I saw a tweet talking about how there are no beat writers covering Loyola basketball. I couldn’t help but wonder — what does that make me, Lu and Fernando?
The Loyola men’s basketball team played in 33 games this season and our small but mighty group took on all of them. We covered every game, home and away, dealt with seemingly constant breaking news and wrote long form stories like features and data analysis.
We did this all on top of being full-time students with complete course loads and personal lives that expand beyond the world of sports. We spent the entire season on constant alert, ready to cover a story at the drop of a hat.
We are also faced with the unique challenge of covering a team at a school we attend. The players aren’t just the subjects of our stories, they’re our classmates and peers — which is one of the huge blessings of covering sports at a mid-major school like Loyola.
I also want to make one thing clear here — this is not me throwing us a pity party. Covering this team over the past year has been one of the greatest joys, and I know I speak for all three of us when I say we would do it all again and again.
This season was a crash course for us in work-life balance, facing problems and identifying solutions and working with a team to provide the best content for a more than deserving audience.
For almost the entire month of March, we became journalists first and students second. It’s still hard for me to grasp the entire weight of the work we did in St. Louis and Pittsburgh, but what I can say is that it was an experience I’m unbelievably grateful for.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t experience a bit of imposter syndrome when I walked into PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh for March Madness media day March 18. I mean, what was I — a then 21-year-old — doing on one of the biggest stages in collegiate athletics?
Seeing my name on press row helped me snap out of it. That name card represented the more than 30 stories I wrote about the team this season and the countless videos I put together for Rambler Sports Locker, the broadcast show for which I serve as the executive producer.
The fact of the matter is that Lu, Fernando and I probably knew more about the team, at least this season, than any other media member there. It’s the kind of knowledge that you can only get from being there day in and day out.
When the final buzzer sounded on my last game covering the beat, it was a completely surreal experience. It felt like I was quitting a job I just started and all of a sudden I was just a regular college student again.
It felt like whiplash, going back to classes and homework after spending a whirlwind three weeks on the road working as journalists out in the real world. For Lu and I, it meant returning to Chicago and preparing for impending graduation and our adult lives.
This is where Twitter comes back into play. After seeing that initial tweet, I knew I had to say something to acknowledge our five months covering this team. I wrote and posted a quick message, ending it with “Student journalists are real journalists!!”
The response to that tweet was overwhelming. Likes and responses poured in, with so many people thanking us for the work we did this season. It all culminated in a response from head coach Drew Valentine.
I wanted to write this column not just to provide a little peek into what the season looked like, but to thank everyone for the kindness they extended to us. It does not go unnoticed, and we are all so grateful.
I also want to shout out Jack Barron, our writer who covered the women’s basketball program this season all the way from Rogers Park to the Quad Cities for the Hoops in the Heartland tournament. There’s a lot of exciting news to come out of the program, so be sure to tune in.
Loyola athletics deserves fair and consistent coverage — it’s what the programs and the fans deserve. As long as there are sports stories to tell, The Phoenix will be here to share them all.