Read Part 1 first, if you haven’t already.
Sunday, February 7 – 8:47 p.m. – An Evanston Jail Cell,
Frankly, the holding cells in Evanston are damp and unappealing. Somewhere out there, Super Bowl 50 was being played, but I had no idea what was going on. But in a life consumed by sports and circumstance, there was something vaguely relaxing about not having to pay attention to sports for a few days. I didn’t have to worry about Ken Pomeroy, TweetDeck or Rachel Banham. I merely existed, blissfully unaware that sports coexisted. Of course, this wouldn’t be happening if I were not in jail, but you rarely get an opportunity to disconnect from sports on the outside. Is this what it’s like to not care about sports? I could get used to this…
“Hey Jung, did you hear Cam Newton got pummeled?” the guard sneered. And, there’s reality. So much for inner peace. I’d chosen my path, and there was no going back now.
You see, I had been thrown into prison on $10,000 bail three days earlier by the campus police for “causing a disturbance”, after the tumultuous events of February 4th. Clearly, the long hand of my enemies stretched into the Evanston police department, which isn’t surprising. From what I’d seen, this plot went far deeper than anything I had envisioned when Inside NU’s Henry Bushnell asked me to write the a men’s basketball preview. Now, I was just waiting to be released on bail. The criminal justice system was too busy watching the Super Bowl to get me out on Sunday, but I expected to be released on Monday morning.
In the meantime, I formulated some sports-related thoughts. Ohio State was playing Northwestern in men’s basketball on Tuesday. I assumed my imprisonment and allegations of slander had not spread into the media atmosphere. Again, my enemies had the power of the “Medill Mafia” on their side. My story was on lockdown for the time being. For now, I was just an unruly college student locked up after an altercation.
I thought about Northwestern sports. For some reason, the teams still fascinated me, even as the postseason seemed unlikely. I thought about Jim Harbaugh, who probably thought Northwestern was completely irrelevant to him. I thought about the other “smart schools” in power conferences. Northwestern is a strange eddy in the sporting world. Its alumni dictate the narrative, its teams occasionally produce the improbable, yet national opinion seems to not take Northwestern seriously. I see NW emblazoned across television screens instead of “NU”. Is it that hard for Nebraska to become NE? Is that disrespectful to Tom Brady or something? Anyway, Northwestern had another basketball game. Maybe I’d go watch it once I was released.
The game was in Columbus, which meant that Northwestern could have a tough time. But Northwestern usually plays fairly well on the road, and it’s not like Ohio State was actually good. Ohio State got blown out by Indiana. Ohio State also got demolished against Maryland. This is a winnable game for Northwestern, as long as the defense can stay intact. Kam Williams isn’t going to hit 5 threes again. Tre Demps has been balling ever since he shaved his head. I liked Northwestern’s chances, even though the team might have just indirectly led to me being accused of a misdemeanor and possibly worse.
Sunday, February 7 – 10:36 p.m. – An Evanston Jail Cell
“Jung, you’ve been granted a release. You’re getting out of jail free.”
“We just received word that you were supposed to be released this morning. Sorry, I got caught up at Buffalo Wild Wings. You’re free to leave.”
Well, this was an interesting development. I wondered what had convinced the judge to let me out. Perhaps it was my sterling record as a journalist, or my skills at building my #brand. I walked out of the police station and immediately saw a beat-up Honda. It was Inside NU’s Henry Bushnell and Ian McCafferty.
“We had to bribe the judge,” said Ian. “There was no way he was letting you out unless he had a damn good reason.”
“Thanks, but I’m a bit surprised at the corruption in the criminal justice system,” I replied.
“Dude, we live in the Chicago area, what do you expect?”
“Alright, I see your point. What’s happened since they booked me?”
“You know that Medill freshman that told the cops you threatened her with a hammer?” said Inside NU’s Henry Bushnell.
“Yeah, how could I forget? She was like a scissor, cutting through my day like–”
“Tristan could you stop romanticizing for two seconds? She’s successfully flown the coop and left us holding the bag! She left two days ago and no one’s seen her since.”
“Ah yes, just like the wind, that dangerous phenom–”
“What did I say about romanticizing?! Tristan, you’ve uncovered a massive conspiracy here, and I think this is just the first phase. There’s someone trying to undermine the website and the integrity of journalism itself! It’s our duty as Northwestern students and Northwestern sports fans to figure out the truth. The public is in danger! My evenings are in danger!” Henry cried.
“Look, for the record–”
“That’s the opposite of what’s happening!”
“Uh, okay. Henry, I’m pretty sure she said that it’s just to get us involved in a lawsuit. You know, the slander thing?”
“Tristan, you’re just a freshman. If you had taken Media Law and Ethics, you would know that only the person who is the subject of slander can sue a publication. We talked about it with Collins, and he knows that quote is BS. That was just a distraction to get us off the scent,” said Ian.
“So what’s the conspiracy? Why did they need me in jail? And why did you bribe the judge to let me out early if I was going to get bail on Monday anyway?”
Sunday, February 7 – 11:08 p.m. – Norris Student Center
Josh Rosenblat’s disguise was awful, but at least he was trying. He was sitting near the Norris Dunkin’ Donuts, sipping water while wearing a huge pair of sunglasses. He wore a Columbia sweatshirt and a Mets hat undoubtedly loaned to him by Burton. Burton was wearing a backwards Cubs hat and a Star Wars T-Shirt. Neither of them looked suspicious, but neither looked very disguised.
“Rapaport and two other staff members are headed to Columbus as you instructed,” Rosenblat reported.
“Good. How much progress have they made since we last talked?” Henry replied.
“We have no idea, but we think it goes as far as the Pac-12. They’ve got contacts across the country,” Burton said.
“Ian, explain the scenario to Tristan as we move out to the vehicles. We have a story to break,” said Inside NU’s Henry Bushnell.
Monday, February 8 – 12:05 p.m. – En Route to Columbus, Ohio
Ian pieced together the story over the next hour. The Inside NU staff had received word from unofficial sources purporting the existence of “C.R.E.A.N.” or the “Committee to Restore Equanimity Across NCAAB“. Nobody was quite sure of what C.R.E.A.N. was up to, but it appeared to be a Northwestern-linked syndicate that was planning something big during this year’s basketball season. My situation was merely the first step in a chain reaction of international chess moves designed to bring about some conclusion.
“I think they’re going to rig the Northwestern/Rutgers game,” said Ian. “How easy would it be to get NYC’s Big Ten team to shave some points and profit?”
“No, it has to be something bigger than that,” said Rosenblat. “There’s no way they’ve got these resources without a bigger payoff in the end.”
My arrest, in addition to crippling the image of Inside NU, the only Northwestern news source willing to follow CREAN’s antics, was ostensibly designed to give CREAN a headstart and remove the only witness to its actions. The story about slandering Collins was designed to create mistrust between Inside NU and the men’s basketball team. The Daily Northwestern had already published seven op-eds demanding that Inside NU be closed down due to irresponsible reporting and attacks on venerable Northwestern traditions like “Put Your Hands Up in the Air”. This latest move, which involved bringing most of the staff to Columbus and trying to figure out what was going on, was a huge risk.
“Look, in all of the meetings, everybody said they wanted to write more and do some more real reporting,” Henry added from the front seat. The SUV was filled with me, Ian, Henry, Rosenblat and Burton. “I just decided that this was the perfect time.”
“But I have a German midterm!” I replied.
“Das ist nicht so gut, but it’s too late now.”
“But you still haven’t answered why you desperately needed me out of jail!”
“You’re the only one who’s been in direct contact with CREAN. We need you to help us find out what’s going on,” said Rosenblat.
“Plus it only cost us a $20 gift certificate to Edzo’s Burgers and a signed autograph from John Shurna,” Ian added.
“Don’t I have to go back for the arraignment?” I responded.
“If we break open this story, hopefully the charges will get thrown out once we take down CREAN,” said Henry.
Monday, February 8 – 8:35 a.m. – A Holiday Inn in Columbus, Ohio
The entire Inside NU staff solemnly ate breakfast. It was a hardy continental breakfast, with hardly an egg to spare. I couldn’t eat. I was exhausted, barely functioning and my ribs hurt from getting tackled by the police on Wednesday.
“You tired, Tristan?” Wingrove said.
“Just send some HGH to my roommate and I’ll be feel much better. Nobody will suspect it me.”
Inside NU’s Henry Bushnell stared at his phone intently. Apparently, his old boss was driving through the area and had tailed some suspicious college basketball fans who only seemed interested in the eligibility of Perry Ellis. In the middle of Ohio. That flag was redder than Tom Coughlin’s face on a cold winter night.
“Alright, Trahan says those guys are driving a blue Hyundai Sonata and are headed for the campus for Ohio State media availability. Let’s track ’em down.”
The staff quickly headed for the exits. We drove up to the campus and all took different approach routes in order to find the Hyundai Sonata. The second car, driven by Armacost, reported that the Hyundai Sonata was in a parking lot west of Ohio Stadium. Five of us converged on the site while the rest headed to media availability to find some evidence.
“I’ll search the car!” Henry shouted. He shattered the windshield and quickly jumped into the vehicle and grabbed documents. As the alarm went off, we canvased the car as quickly as we could before we fled. Campus police arrived 10 minutes later, but we had already left.
Monday, February 8 – 12:10 p.m. Somewhere on the Ohio State campus
We all met at a random classroom on the other side of campus and began to scour the data. Even though we had the whole staff, it did not make any sense. It was just a jumbled smattering of random college basketball data that did not add up whatsoever. There were files related to Perry Ellis. There were recording labeled “Stanley Johnson” in the tape recorder. There was a small manila envelope with “Georges Niang” written in Sharpie on the front. It was just a useless collection of college basketball stuff.
“Did we just rob a journalist for no reason?” said Ian.
“Sure looks like it.”
“OH, BUT THAT IS WHERE YOU ARE SORELY MISTAKEN!”
Thad Matta was standing at the doorway flanked by Trevor Thomspon and Keita Bates-Diop.
“Our plans have been developing for years, and I’m not going to let some SB Nation site take it away from me now. TO CREAN!”
“TO CREAN!” chanted the two Ohio State players.
“Northwestern is really such an embarrassment, letting you all get away with burglary and assault and whatnot. It really is such a shame… When I was a young lad growing up in Illinois, Northwestern was truly terrible in every sport. I would not have gone even if they asked. But they didn’t, of course, because I’m not a goddamned quirky nerd. The fact that there’s a whole sports media community at the school makes me laugh. Face it, you’ll always be the fluky, quirky Big Ten team. CREAN will ensure that, I daresay.
Alas, this is the end of the road for you. My stand-in at media availability alerted me to your sudden departure and I surmised you had compromised my associates. No matter. It is all over now.”
“Also the Chameleon won’t work against our athleticism,” Bates-Diop added.
Matta bent over and picked up a pink piece of paper.
There was one flaw in Matta’s plan. Even if he was surrounded by two basketball players, there were still 13 of us and just three Buckeyes at the entrance of the doorway. Henry thought of a witty reply.
“Well, Mr. Matta, if Northwestern sports and Inside NU oral histories have taught me anything, it’s that we will always have a sense of belief without evidence. It keeps us wildly optimistic and extraordinarily mad online whenever things happen. Even when we believe the worst about the team, there is always a distinct lack of rationality behind our motives. The true essence of Northwestern sports fandom may be casual misery and unbridled optimism, but none of it is rational. You know why? Because we understand that sports, on the whole, are completely irrational. But we generally don’t treat it sarcastically, and we’re not dumb about it like Tennessee fans.
We don’t need manufactured traditions. We’re real sports fans. We can be annoying at times, but we support our team to the end. Even when there is no evidence. Even when the rest of the campus doesn’t show up. The real Northwestern sports fans; that’s where it gets real,” said Henry.
“And someday, despite the great maw that is college sports, we believe that the vicious bite of history will be breached by the cavernous spectacle of witnessing Northwestern play an NCAA Tournament game, and thus we shall strive on, forevermore,” said I.
“That’s all corny bullshit. Have you not all realized college sports is just a business? Boy, what the hell does that flowery prose even mean?” said Matta.
He never got an answer. There wasn’t an answer. We all charged Matta, Bates-Diop and Thomspon and tackled them to the ground in true Pat Fitzgerald fashion. Burton punched Matta in the face. Oppegaard and Armacost dragged down Thompson. Bushnell and Rosenblat wrestled with Keita Bates-Diop. I snagged the pink piece of paper from Matta’s hand and ran out the door. Henry tossed me the keys.
That I could do. I sprinted to the parking lot only to find the rest of the Ohio State basketball team waiting for my arrival. However, I didn’t spend four years of running in high school for nothing. JaQuan Lyle and Kam Williams tried to run at me, but I sprinted away. The whole team followed me as I desperately searched for the car.
With blood pumping through my ears, I hit the panic button on the key and spotted the car in a northwestern direction. I sprinted the last 400 meters in 54.75 seconds, a new PR, and hopped into the front seat.
And with that, I fled from Columbus.
But as Ohio State disappeared behind me, I felt the call.
I felt the call of Piscataway.
(Just in case I do get sued, none of the characters in this story bear any likeness to real life. All resemblance to real-life people is coincidental. Really.)