MOTIVATIONAL MONDAY – One of the most vivid memories of my career at Northwestern was our second round NCAA tournament game at Tennessee. The Lady Vols had a bye in the first round. Pat Summit flew to Chicago and sat in the front row to scout us. At the end of our victory over Georgia Tech, our student body started chanting, “Ten-nes-see! Ten-nes-see!”
I looked at our point guard, Nancy Kennelly. Her eye grew wide and her brow furrowed. We both just wanted to enjoy the win before thinking of our journey south.
There were 13,000 fans waiting for us in a sea of orange. A rep from the Vols said we were free to take a tour of their locker room before the game. (Who says that?) Players came out of the huddle with #1 fingers in the air. My dad drove 20 hours straight to make it on time. My mom and cousins and sister were there, too, watching us turn the ball over three times out of the first three posessions.
I didn’t think we were going to break 10 points.
It felt like there were seven of them out there.
We somehow managed to keep the final score within about 20. It was not a pretty end. Not after I got slightly into it with a player who said something at the end of the game that was not well received.
Instead of reliving the end of that blow-out, I’ll go to the part of the story that stopped my sulking. The band accompanied us and so did a handful of NU student-journalists and sports media interns. Considering how long the trip was for our families, this group was our cheering section, even as we were getting thumped. Go U Northwestern/Break right through that line/with our colors shining/we will cheer you all the time! U – rah-rah!
I looked up at the clock and wondered if they would take time off of it.
As we pulled down Central Street for our final few blocks to the parking lot of Welsh-Ryan Arena, the band starting singing softly the alma mater.
I realized that we’d all come together to celebrate something meaningful. The outcome didn’t matter. Granted, it stunk that we lost and if we played the Lady Vols 100 times, we’d win maybe two games if somebody got hurt.
There’s a reason why they come out of that huddle believing they are #1.
They were tougher, faster, bigger, more aggressive, far deeper. They didn’t just expect to win. They expected to destroy anyone who stepped in their house.
I think our band and fans knew it. We just weren’t there yet.
At the end of Northwestern’s loss to Maryland on Sunday, I saw the players at the end of the game stand in front of the band. The players who put together a heck of a comeback stood there and listened to the band play the alma mater.
Maybe it’s one of those things where if we’d been forced to do it after every game, I’d probably not appreciate it nearly as much as the circumstances that created the powerful memory.
Northwestern Alma Mater – Quaecumque sunt vera
Hail to Alma Mater
We will sing thy praise forever
All thy sons and daughters
Pledge thee victory and honor
Alma Mater Praise be thine
May thy name forever shine
Hail to purple
Hail to white
Hail to thee Northwestern