The Review meets ESPN, school spirit shines on Super Bowl Sunday

A crowd of Washburn faithful gather at Yager Stadium early Sunday morning for the cameras of ESPN. 

AJ Dome, Washburn Review

Sometimes my nocturnal habits pay off.

Usually the only reward I get for being a night owl is sleeping past my alarm, and being late for lunch dates. This time, it netted me an opportunity to be part of a very cool experience. I mean “cool” in a literal sense as well as metaphorical.

Fellow Review reporter Andy Huff and I ventured out onto Yager Stadium at approximately 6:15 a.m. Sunday morning, shrugging the cold off our shoulders. We were curious about the families and couples filing onto the football field, huddling in groups for warmth, and holding signs slathered in slate blue paint, saying things like “WUper Bowl 2013!”

We heard around the grapevine that, because two Washburn alums were playing against each other in the 2013 big game (Cary Williams of the Baltimore Ravens, and Michael Wilhoite of the San Francisco 49ers), ESPN would be hosting a live remote from Yager Stadium. Their stand-up man Pedro Gomez would do a live interview with Washburn’s head football coach Craig Schurig, with excited Washburn folks in the background. 

I hope Sportscenter was happy, because they certainly got what they came for. By the time Mr. Gomez was ready for to go live, approximately 500 people were rallied behind him, dressed in all things Washburn, flailing signs and trying to stay warm. All manner of faculty, staff, and students were present. The entire football team, most of the cheerleaders, and a good chunk of the marching band was in attendance, as well as local media. The Topeka Capital-Journal, WIBW-TV and Kansas First News had to get their own coverage of the early morning school spirit.

Andy and I ventured through the crowd, chatting with folks as we went. The men from ESPN had arrived the previous night to catch the basketball game between the Ichabods and the Pittsburg State Gorillas. Also of interesting note, that was the first-ever basketball game I had been to at Washburn. I know, I’m a bad person, but I’m glad that was my first Ichabod basketball game. Both the mens and women’s teams won by fair margins. 

Many of the same fans who sat in Lee Arena the previous night were out on the football field before sunrise, waving and shouting for the national cameras. Mothers wrapped little kids in scarves and mittens, shuffling their feet to keep warm as the sun rose. Airbods Radio’s own Kara Protasio, the host of Bow Tie Sports Talk, also braved the chilly temperatures with Andy and I. Cheering on Washburn pride became a family affair, and we helped out in our own way.

ESPN finally went live at 7:07 a.m., and Mr. Gomez didn’t fail us. Interestingly, he was the only person out there who officially worked for ESPN. When a larger media company like that needs people out in a certain area–like Kansas–to cover events or provide footage of something, they hire out licensed freelance videographers or sports reporters to cover it. All of the equipment and most of the people get hired out of Kansas City, for example, and commute out to Topeka for an early morning live video shoot. That outsourcing is how I got my job last summer with National Geographic, and that’s how someone else will get a job in the future. I really like that use of local talent; it’s encouraging for me. 

After the scheduled live feed was over, Mr. Gomez took photos with fans for about 15 minutes before going home. Apparently he’s a class act, and the crowd loved him. I probably should’ve stuck around to shake his hand, but my hand was frozen solid by that point, so hot coffee sounded more appealing. Perhaps there will be another time for that introduction.

And, hopefully, both Williams and Wilhoite perform well in this “Big Game”. I’m personally bandwagoning the 49ers, but I wouldn’t put it past the Ravens to pull off a great game. I’m expecting a very interesting interview with both of them after the game. I wonder if they watched Sportscenter this morning… 

Andy and I didn’t pull an all-nighter just to see what all the fuss was about on Sunday morning. But I’m glad we did, because the amount of school spirit we felt, standing on that football field on a chilly morning in February, was well worth it. Ichabod Washburn, eat your heart out. 

The Baltimore Ravens went on to defeat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 Sunday. Wilhoite finished the game with a solo tackle for the 49ers. Williams deflected two passes, one of them almost an interception. He finished with three solo tackles as the Ravens came away as world champions.

Although Williams is the only Ichabod to win the Super Bowl, Washburn University, the community of Topeka and the state of Kansas are all winners for having two Washburn alums in the big game.

In the end, everyone’s a winner.