As the co-sports director at MUTV, Marquette University’s student television station, I traveled to New York City for the Big East Tournament to cover the Marquette men’s basketball team during the university’s midterm week and the final week before spring break.
Planning for this trip began in November, when we booked our flights to depart on Monday. Since the seeds for the Big East Tournament are not revealed until the week before, we wanted to make sure we would be in New York, just in case Marquette faltered later in the season and had to play Tuesday.
While traveling, I learned two things: travel lightly and pack a bag that has wheels whenever possible. I packed a Vera Bradley duffel bag and “on-air” backpack, containing our camera equipment, notebook, pens, academic materials and various things I need while on location. The combination of these two made it difficult to carry everything, but I managed.
Marquette was fortunate. They were the second seed and did not play until Thursday, which pushed the team’s travel to Wednesday. Since we flew commercial, that left us with two full days in New York.
During my two days off, I was productive academically. I wrote two midterm papers, an article for my Digital Journalism II class, read the remainder of a novel for my literature class and edited audio for another class project.
In between my academic projects, I received another kind of education. As a New Jersey resident, I was used to navigating New York with my friends, but it is a whole new experience after spending six months in Milwaukee. I mastered the subway, went to see How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying and even squeezed in a little shopping.
Marquette did falter in their first game. The Big East player of the year, Jae Crowder, went out at the 12-minute mark in the second half with four fouls. Junior Cadougan struggled to run the offense effectively. Head coach Buzz Williams took responsibility for the loss, saying it was his fault.
The whirlwind continued as I returned home to New Jersey for a night and found out Sunday morning where I would be heading for the NCAA tournament. I watched the selection show with a group of friends with my computer on my lap, hunting for the cheapest airfare I could find. When Marquette was sent to Louisville, I was as well for their second and third round games of the NCAA tournament.
Most students spent spring break learning about their alcohol tolerance or how many seasons of their favorite TV shows they can watch. I was dealing with balancing interviews in both a locker room and a media room, while compiling exclusive content that viewers in Milwaukee wanted to watch.
TV is different than print or radio. With TV, you have to gather the video, audio and the b-roll to put together a story. Therefore, you have to be there for every press conference, every availability and every open practice. It is not possible to just get the quotes from a fellow journalist and write a story.
You cannot convey the pauses coaches make in print or the smile a player shows after a key win. This was made very clear to me, especially in the locker room.
If I take one thing from my experience in the locker room it is instant oatmeal. That’s Jamil Wilson’s nickname for Davante Gardner. Like instant oatmeal, Gardner is instant offense for the Golden Eagles, scoring when needed. I asked Wilson simply about alternating with Gardner on offense and defense. Wilson’s face lit up, plastering a huge enthusiastic smile all over his face and he began to gush about his teammate.
It was an exclusive look into the redshirt sophomore. That will never happen at a huge press conference or with a massive group of reporters huddled around a player in a locker room. His candor was due to the relationship that I had built with him.
A strong network of relationships is the foundation of the journalism industry. That was the greatest lesson I learned while away from class. Whether it be with a coach or a manager, it is crucial to maintain connections.
Players and coaches have to know who you are and your name. They have to see you working hard, asking good questions and making an effort to understand the game. Professionals in the industry have to see you asking questions that are pertinent and backed up by statistics or observations.
While on these road trips, I might have missed participation points, notes and in-class assignments. It was worth missing every moment, every PowerPoint slide and every potential point. I gained so much more than an A. The experiences at the NCAA tournament and the Big East tournament are invaluable to me.
I agree that academics are important and a high priority should be placed on them. At what point does professional and real world experience outweigh learning theories from a book?
Each time I raised my hand this week in class, I was expecting a microphone to be brought to ask a question. Then I remembered I was done asking the questions. I had to answer them instead.