It’s amazing how rapidly the story of Northwestern basketball in the NCAA Tournament went from underdog to oversaturated to OVERKILL to deserved backlash. That’s a shame because there are so many true blue Northwestern basketball fans out there who truly embodied the idea of “act like you’ve been there before,” even though their program had not.
Then there is the team itself, which although not elite, very solid and battled a great Gonzaga team to the very end despite getting egregiously hosed on a major momentum shifting basket interference call. This Northwestern basketball team plays a fairly entertaining brand of basketball too.
They’re not exactly the showtime era L.A. Lakers, but they’re also nothing like the aesthetic atrocities you see at Virginia, or on the Wisconsin teams that were coached by the father (Dick Bennett) of UVA’s current leader Tony Bennett.
The Wildcats players themselves, and the small group of legitimate die-hards who support them are a likable bunch. If this story existed in just a vacuum, as purely a hoops tale, it would have been truly a feel-good affair.
However, nothing exists in a vacuum, and the hype, promotion, cross-promotion, self-promotion and self-congratulation that surrounded the Northwestern basketball story was somewhere between nauseating and deplorable.
Or perhaps nauseating and deplorable at the same time.
Press row purple. Go team! pic.twitter.com/bDbSABISW8
— Steve Greenberg (@SLGreenberg) March 18, 2017
Some forecasted the Purple Mafia being over-the-top well before the tournament started, but no one could have seen this level of self-indulgent tripe coming. Many Medill graduates reminded America why so many people who didn’t go to school there call this sort “Medilldoes.”
If you wanted to publish a “Detestable Northwestern Alums in Sports Media Power Rankings.” it would be hard to limit the list to just ten. While no one could have really expected the NU alumni in the sports media to be unbiased, fair and objective in this situation, no one expected them to be this obnoxious.
It would also be difficult to rank because there was just so much smugness, by so many, in your face at all times. The best season in Northwestern basketball history also ended up being the best validation of the old joke “Northwestern is where the villains in every John Hughes movie go to school.”
Seth Meyers is a funny guy with a great television show but why do we need to see any of his tweets about Northwestern basketball? We certainly DON’T need to see every single one.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a daughter of a billionaire who possesses some comedic talent should be excited about her son’s team, but why did March Madness degenerate into sponsored content (or native advertising if you prefer) for the HBO series Veep?
Why did every single columnist hack, who make the “Team XYZ does things the right way” their signature move have to break out that mind-numbing shopworn tripe over and over and over again, and affix it to Northwestern basketball?
When Gonzaga was on the verge of eliminating NU and ending their season, Yahoo’s Henry Bushnell, Northwestern class of 17, Tweeted this:
It says a lot about Northwestern alumni (and Medill alumni in particular) that people are so happy this is happening
— Henry Bushnell (@HenryBushnell) March 18, 2017
I couldn’t have said it any better.
Credit Bushnell’s very next Tweet for summarizing perfectly exactly what happened here: “This should have been the best underdog story ever. It turned into anything but.”
Sure, some of the blame for why this happened lies with the current media landscape that we all live in- 24/7 information overload.
However, most of the blame lies with the influencers who shape and mold opinions. They revealed their true colors here, and it was anything but redeemable. NU making the big dance, on a micro level, from just the building of a basketball program was an underdog story.
However, it became packaged in and then consumed by a bunch of wealthy, powerful, attention-seeking elites doing little more than reminding you how elite and powerful they are, and why you need to once again pay attention to their elite standing.
Next year, the Northwestern basketball team should be even better, perhaps much better, at least on paper. In 2018, the community built around them will truly get the chance to “act like they’ve been here before.”
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network. and News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times and NBC Chicago.com, contributes to Chicago Tribune.com, Bold, WGN CLTV and KOZN.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks