Tuesday, February 23 – 7:58 p.m. – Ann Arbor, Michigan
College basketball is afraid of me. I have seen its true face.
The games, the terrible refereeing decisions, hating Duke–they are merely makeup that powders the grim visage of the NCAA. Nothing remains in the sport-watching compartments of my brain bar the rancorous convictions that the past two weeks have given me. I have seen its true face! I have seen the eyes and the bloated skin cells of corruption.
I am writing this blog entry in the Ann Arbor Public Library. Every few minutes, I look over my shoulder to ensure that I have not been followed. For now, I think I am safe. Readers, this may be the only surviving record of the darkness that has transpired in the past two weeks.
Wednesday, February 10 – 10:13 a.m. – Times Square
Rutger was the last safe place. Clutching the pink sheet of paper that Inside NU’s Henry Bushnell handed to me, I drove the 8 hours and 42 minutes to my apartment in Tarrytown, NY. Going home was my only option at the moment, with CREAN agents operating in the Midwest and around Evanston. As an added bonus, New York’s Big Ten Team was playing host to the Northwestern women’s basketball team. Perhaps Joe McKeown could even shed some light onto the situation.
My parents were perplexed when they saw a strange vehicle arrive at the apartment. I did not explain the whole situation, but I secured a place to stay until the end of the Rutgers game. I spent Tuesday doing some actual reporting. The pink sheet of paper was a ledger for CREAN’s finances, but it was sending money to about 23 different shadow companies that all required research.
After a few hours of research, I realized that there was a registered company in every town with a Big Ten school (except Rutgers) and shadow companies at many of the powerhouse basketball schools across the country. I decided to call the first one on the list, Alcibiades Incorporated, a holding company in Madison, Wisconsin. I got an answering machine. Unsurprisingly, none of the companies on the list wanted to speak to me.
I needed to get in contact with some backup. I had not received any contact from the Inside NU crew, so I assumed CREAN was either blocking communication or that the staff had all been arrested for attacking Thad Motta. Luckily, the WNUR crew was flying into the Big Apple for the game. I was still technically on the WNUR Sports Listserv, which meant I could expect the full backing of the organization.
“Tristan, go back to school, this is ridiculous,” Austin Miller and Ben Goren simultaneously shouted as we stood in the middle of Times Square. It was cold, but the tourist trap was still crowded.
“Look, Ian McCafferty can explain it all to you. He was there in Ohio State. The Committee is a real thing! Isn’t he supposed to be on this game?” I responded.
“We haven’t heard from Ian or any of the Inside NU people in 48 hours. I took his spot on the call for this Rutger game,” said Goren. “Look Tristan, I know you’re traumatized from getting arrested, but this conspiracy you’ve conjured is ridiculous.”
“But I haven’t conjured anything! Look at the facts!”
“All you have is a piece of paper and some coincidental locations. Is it really surprising that there are some companies that exist in the United States that don’t want to talk to you?”
“Tristan, you can take the flight back to Evanston with us on the team charter. I have on good authority that the charges against you have been dropped,” Miller said.
“No, I have to drive the car back to campus.”
“Suit yourself. We’re going to go see a Broadway show and the Central Park Zoo. Gotta enjoy all that New York’s Big Ten team has to offer!”
“But Rutgers is several hours away…”
“No, no, it’s right here in Manhattan!” said Goren.
“It’s New York’s prime example of intellectual and athletic achievement on the collegiate level.” said Miller.
“You aren’t even on the radio, why are you two still joking about Rutgers?”
“Rutger ain’t no joke, Tristan…”
Wednesday, February 10 – 8:14 p.m. – THE RAC
I am still unsure at how Northwestern lost the game. Northwestern was leading, then it was tied, and then suddenly Rutgers had a buzzer-beating layup and the game was over, over, over. Maybe Northwestern should try guarding Khalejah Coøoooøooøperre on wide-open layups. Also, the refs totally should have called a foul on Northwestern because the Wildcats had a foul to give and Lyon hacked one of the Rutger players. Stupid Rutgers.
Suddenly, as I sadly walked through the RAC, I saw Eddie Jordan. I decided, as one last gasp, to ask him about my supposedly crazy ideas.
“Do you know what the Committee to Restore Equanimity is?” I shouted as he prepared to leave the building. He stopped dead in his tracks.
“Kid, you shouldn’t be messing around with that. Those are some power conference bigwigs that you can’t take on.”
“So you know what is is?”
“All I know is that schools like Rutgers and Northwestern weren’t invited to the party, okay! They’re going to change everything, and you can’t stop it.”
“But what is C.R.E.A.N.?”
“Look, I don’t even know who the hell you are. It’s mostly just rumor and superstition. Get lost.”
“But I’m already lost!”
And he left without saying another word. I drove back to Evanston and arrived late in the afternoon of the next day. My colleagues had all disappeared and I was back to square one.
Tuesday, February 16 – 7:12 p.m. – Sargent Hall
I spent six days going to school as if everything was back to normal. My charges were mysteriously dropped, and my name was cleared. The university did not even acknowledge the incident, doubtlessly concerned with the planning phases of another building. Everyone was moving on, and yet nothing was moving. I thought about going to a WNUR meeting to ask about what was going on, as I am on the LISTSERV, but I never had the time.
It’s fair to say I was feeling a bit paranoid. The thing about real paranoia is that the feeling of dread never, ever leaves your mind, no matter what you do. Real paranoia is when you cannot stop thinking while brushing your teeth in the morning. You check your vacuum for evidence. You refresh your phone 45 times a minute in your spare time looking for updates of any kind. You can sort of go about your day sometimes, but the feeling sits in the general admission section of your brain, occasionally climbing up from the crowd to punch you in the face.
Paranoia is not a wool blanket of darkness thrown over your eyes. It’s not blinding, it’s over-sensitizing. Paranoia is a pulsating strobe light that is placed in front of your consciousness and turned up to eleven. And it’s still just standing on the floor of the concert hall, holding the strobe light and burning your eyes. And yet, you still have to play the concert as best you can. I think that no one is ever paranoid that something good will happen to them. The only fear worth worrying about is one of irreversible defeat. That’s why you check the vacuum filter for signs, that’s why you lock the sheet of paper in a cabinet in order to dress yourself, that’s why you throw your phone out the window when it gets to be too overwhelming. It’s a good thing I have an Otter Box. I swear, that thing is tough enough to shatter a windshield.
But honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I make it out to be. The confusing part was that the website still had #content with everyone’s writing styles, so they had to be out there somewhere. The latest Northwestern news stories were all being posted. Somehow, despite the fact I hadn’t seen anyone, the site remained resilient. Purdue beat Northwestern and there were player grades, a rapid reaction, the whole thing. The site was operating through some ghostly manner. I had no clue what was going on. The men’s basketball team was off until the next Wednesday, so I wrote a brief preview of the Northwestern vs. Michigan game.
With Caris LaVert, Michigan’s second best offensive player by ORtg, possibly sidelined, Northwestern did not have much of a talent deficit. The matchup probably wasn’t as bad as Indiana or Michigan State. Michigan has decent players, but they’d lost four of their last six. Michigan had two signature home wins against Purdue and Maryland and played Maryland tough on the road, but the team has definitely been on the downswing in recent weeks. But Michigan is playing for its tournament hopes, and the Wolverines cannot afford to lose at home to Northwestern. In fact, I still believe that Northwestern has a shot in this game. If Olah comes to play and Michigan’s 154th-ranked defense doesn’t shut down Demps and McIntosh, Northwestern could finally get that elusive quality victory.
I wrote out my preview and tried to submit it onto the site. It failed. I thought maybe SBNation had pulled its article submission services after publishing the worst longform piece of all time, but that probably wasn’t the case. It seemed that I had been removed from Inside NU. My main platform was gone. I didn’t know what to say.
And so I sat in my dorm room, when I heard another suspicious knock on the door.
“Tristan, I’ve come bearing an ultimatum,” said Anna, my old adversary from a few weeks ago who got me into this mess.
“DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO ME AND MY COMPATRIOTS!” I replied curtly. “Just get out! I don’t want to hear-”
“Look, if you want to see any of the Inside NU staff members or your family ever again, you should probably hear me out,” said Anna.
“Your friends are being held by some of Harbaugh’s goons up in Ann Arbor. You’re basically going to be the guy who delivers the ransom. All you have to do is bring the pink sheet of paper you were carrying and $5,000. Honestly, we don’t even care about the money, but we figured you should have to pay for some of the expenses we’ve been paying. After that, you’re free to go as long as you don’t ever talk about CREAN again.”
“I can make that work as long as you tell me what CREAN actually is.”
“It’s all in the name.”
“That doesn’t answer anything! Where are you getting funding? Who is running this NCAA Mafia?”
She didn’t answer. She just left.
Tuesday, February 23 – 8:00 p.m. – Ann Arbor, Michigan
And now I’m sitting here, waiting for the agents of C.R.E.A.N. to arrive within the next hour. I’m not sure what to think anymore. Is this the true face of college basketball? If so, I intend to elbow it in the jaw, regardless of whether I am assessed a Flagrant 1 or Flagrant 2. Or maybe it’ll be just a common foul because the face of college basketball is as blind as some of the Big Ten refs.
(I don’t know how this got so dark…don’t worry it’s saving up for an absurd finale.)