I’m back. In my last post, I bet my grandmother’s gumbo that I would witness history in-person. So, you know, I am from Louisiana, and in my family gumbo is equivalent to the Bible.
But moving on, yes, I traveled to Salt Lake City for Northwestern’s historic first and second round games in the NCAA Tournament. There weren’t any buzzer beaters or major upsets in Vivint Smart Home Arena, but there was a lot, and I mean a lot of Northwestern Purple flowing in downtown Salt Lake City.
The same night this year’s tournament bracket was announced, Northwestern’s Sports Information Directors sent out the credential request form. I didn’t think I would get approved just because there were so many other media members going to solely cover Northwestern. But I did. I got the “credential for Astasia Williams approved” in the middle of class. I have no idea what was discussed for the rest of class. All I could think about was what to wear and how would I get to Salt Lake City.
I caught a last-minute flight and was on my way to Utah the very next day, and I was able to stay in the media hotel in Salt Lake City. I’d never been to Utah before, and I got off the plane astonished by all the mountains. The only mountain I’ve seen are the crawfish mountains.
Before the madness started, I did a lot of exploring, just to get familiar with the place (Note: I still ended up getting lost walking to the arena. I wasn’t aware of the media shuttle the first day. Rookie.).
Wednesday morning came and it was time to pick up my credential and prepare for media availability and public practice for all four teams. I found my way to the arena and located the media workroom. I left for the first press conference early enough that I was the first one there. I watched all the big-time media writers come in. I knew a few from Chicago publications and a couple other national writers, but I had to remind myself that I wasn’t just a student; I was also one of the working media members. It was an awesome reminder! I had the opportunity to ask a question during a press conference, and yes, I am that person who still gets excited about asking a question. It’ll wear off sooner or later, but for now it’s lit!
As media day went on, there were lots of press conferences and locker room sessions where the players were available for interviews. Phew, that was a party. Of course, everyone wanted a piece of the Wildcats and Coach Collins. It was in the middle of that craziness that I came to appreciate the value of building relationships with players and SIDs — it makes your job so much easier when it comes to one-on-one time with coaches and players. I’d covered Northwestern all season, so the Wildcats’ players and staff knew who I was. Through the party, I got my story, a feature about the not so fairytale journey of Scott Lindsey.
Thursday, March 16, 2017. Game time. I arrived to the media room early again, just to get myself comfortable for the day that was about to happen. There was what seemed like and endless list of Northwestern Alumni arriving at the arena following the N-Zone pep rally. Amidst the purple, the Medill Alumni made their presence known. By the way, I finally got to meet Rachel Nichols, which was on my Medill bucket list. Not anymore! There’s no picture, but I promise, it happened.
It seemed like all of Evanston, Illinois, packed itself up and shipped itself to Vivint Smart Home Arena. The place was roaring with “Let’s Go Cats” flowing through a sea of purple. You would think that it was a home game back in Welsh-Ryan. The Wildcats used that to their advantage and gained their first NCAA tournament win. It was extremely complicated to keep my emotions in while I had that credential around my neck. The student in me wanted to take over.
Although the party came to an end against the No. 1 seed Gonzaga (we should discuss what goaltending is.), this was an experience I will never forget.