By Maureen Rice
I was ready to break out of my rut and set off on an adventure.
That’s why when the sports editor was looking for someone to go to Sudbury to cover the basketball playoffs I immediately volunteered. I had never written a sports article in my life and I’m not a big sports fan. But I was in the mood to do something really different. I was ready for the challenge.
I left Lake Devo with Ryerson’s men’s basketball team last Wednesday night. I was the only unfamiliar face on the bus. And though the players were unfamiliar to me as well, I began to feel an inexplicable closeness to them after the four-hour bus ride.
The women’s basketball team was following about 15 minutes behind us. I wondered what the atmosphere was like on their bus. A fellow sports reporter and I speculated they might be doing more female things and watching chick flicks.
We were watching Blazing Saddles, Slapshot and some basketball videos. I found it odd that the men didn’t really talk much about the game. I felt like a foreigner — though I couldn’t decide whether it was because I was a female, or an outsider or both.
The bus ride took me back to my high school days, reminding me of my road trip to Hartford and Boston with the girl’s hockey team. Ironically we had also watched Slapshot on the way there.
We arrived at the Venture Inn in Sudbury Thursday just after midnight. Later that morning I watched the Rams practice at Ben Avery Gym at Laurentian University. They looked to be in good shape but I really had no one to compare them to.
At their game against the Voyageurs that night, I was overwhelmed by Laurentian’s school spirit. Fans were dressed in the school colours of blue and yellow, wearing clown wigs with painted-on sideburns. They banged pots and pans, yelled out obscenities at the Ryerson players and cheered on their Voyageurs. The fans demonstrated a school spirit I had never seen before.
I was also overwhelmed by the skill of the men’s teams and by the drama of the games. I found it even more exciting than the snippets of NBA games I’ve seen on TV.
On this road trip I finally understood what it meant to have school spirit. The fact that we were at Laurentian University didn’t matter. The fact there weren’t any Ryerson fans at the games didn’t matter. The spirit came from the solidarity the Rams players shared.
On Sunday afternoon I left Sudbury with the women’s basketball team. I was sad we were leaving. As the chick flicks played on the bus — My Best Friend’s Wedding and A League of Their Own — I reflected on why I didn’t want to leave Sudbury and why I had become so attached to this northern city. And then it came to me — it was the warmth, closeness and spirit I was having a hard time saying goodbye to. It’s a feeling that can easily get lost in a big city like Toronto.
My rookie sports reporting experience is one experience I’ll never forget.