Photo courtesy of IU Athletics |
As a student media member, I knew my own senior day would eventually come. For four years I dreamt of this day and all that it would mean to me after it had come and gone. On my last day covering IU men’s basketball inside Assembly Hall, one thought sticks out to me more than any other: Thank God I didn’t go to DePauw University.
Now I say that in a joking manner of course considering there’s nothing wrong with DePauw at all. However, it takes a serious and in-depth look back at my last four years covering Big Ten basketball to realize that I had it better at IU than I would have anywhere else. No other school would have provided me with the opportunity to begin covering a major men’s basketball program my freshman year, and how grateful for that opportunity I am.
I learned one of the most valuable journalistic lessons from my former teacher and current mentor Bob Kravitz. The Indianapolis Star columnist told me that you cannot be a fan of the team you’re covering. For those who know me well, this is why I’m such a stickler for not using the term ‘we’ when referring to a team or swinging one way or the other to show one’s support.
I was worried I’d get emotional on senior day having never been in this situation before. It’s not that I’m sad to see any player in particular go but rather the fact that my time covering IU basketball is slowly coming to an end. If I didn’t feel an ounce of sadness that a major part of my collegiate life is winding down, then that would have made the last four years of covering IU men’s basketball insignificant and clearly that was never the case.
As I take a look back on some of my fondest memories from my freshman to senior year of college involving IU basketball, a lot of people would probably be surprised to hear that reporting the losing aspect of a team has its benefits. For one, learning how to cover a team on the road – a losing team for that matter – is difficult. You never know what access you’re going to get, if you get anything at all. A loss at Northwestern last season was enough for Tom Crean to only speak for three total minutes outside the Hoosiers’ locker room – and we didn’t even get any players to talk with. This concept simply teaches you how to adapt in times of high stress and limited access, something to be expected with high profile programs.
Dealing with adversity as IU did for their first three seasons under Crean helped me to deal with my own forms of difficulty in my work. It taught me one of the greatest skills I’ll ever learn as a journalist. Anyone can say something positive that people will want to consume when the team they’re covering is winning. It’s learning how to cover loss after loss that teaches you how to become a better journalist. One of the biggest skills I walk away with from the last four years is how to remain positive yet critical when a team is consistently losing. It also taught me patience.
Yes, patience is an important virtue that every journalist should possess. I was lucky enough through these losing seasons to not lose it myself and become frustrated with the Hoosiers. I learned more about how to talk to players and coaches that are visibly frustrated with losing more than anyone can imagine. If anything, loss after loss taught me more about the humanistic side of reporting and how to be understanding while still objective of the team I’m covering.
To be honest, I’m with those who say that Indiana is a year ahead of schedule in terms of where they stand in the win column this season. I didn’t underestimate the power of this team, but I did think it was going to be ‘The Movement’ that took this group to the next level. I couldn’t have asked for a better year of basketball to cover and yes, the wins were very sweet.
I’ll never forget filming Christian Watford hitting the buzzer beater against Kentucky and jumping over a photographer from Lexington seated in front of me to film ten thousand people rush the court of Assembly Hall. I’ll never forget being at Michigan State in December to see IU lose their first Big Ten game of the 2011-2012 season and subsequently cover them the second time they played the Spartans showing just how much Cody Zeller improved against other teams’ bigs in a short period of time. Indiana knocked off No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5 in the same season, not to mention beating Purdue twice in one year. Any media member, student or professional, would kill to have the opportunities those covering the team had this year.
Looking back on it, I never thought that the rebuilding process would culminate in my senior year. Sure, this team has a long way to go before they’re hanging banners up in Assembly Hall once again, but clearly progress has been made. It takes some reflecting to realize what exactly I’ve been covering over the last four years. In the daily grind of a season, players and coaches aren’t the only ones affected. In between covering three games in three states within a nine-day period this season, all the games sometimes bleed together. It takes moments like this to uncover what really stood out to me and just why it did.
An emotional night it was for all those involved with the team. The five seniors: Kory Barnett, Verdell Jones III, Daniel Moore, Tom Pritchard and Matt Roth have been the rock that held this rebuilding process together. Each of their stories are different and their impact on this program will forever be a reminder of the lowest of lows of Indiana basketball and how a coach with players of the right mindset banded together to bring it back to prominence.
As I look back on the last home game I’ll ever cover as a student media member, I think it’s important to realize this is an opportunity many may never get to experience. It goes beyond the four years I was given to cover this team on the road, at home and throughout their daily workings. It’s more than just reading a stat sheet and determining who makes the biggest impact game after game or recapping how IU won or lost a matchup.
Above all else, this is about the story of how we all, as media members and the team collectively, grew over the past four seasons. I know I have evolved into the best student journalist I can be thanks to the opportunity to cover a team from the ground up. Most importantly whether I am able to make a career out of this someday, I will always have these past four years to thank for making me a better journalist, storyteller and person. For that, I am forever grateful.