Reporter's Notebook: That Time I Covered a Collegiate Women's Basketball Game
Initially, I elected not to get a media pass for me, as the event photographer was already on the scene.
Let me tell you about the time I checked out a University of Minnesota Women’s Basketball game recently.
Back tracking a couple of months, I knew that in planning the early issues of 2023 for Lavender Magazine that the LGBTQ Sports issue will be overflowing with stories. In fact, I got thrown a few stories at me to fill that issue. That is where I’ll leave it.
One of those stories was the announcement of a Pride Game by the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. This LGBTQ themed game was a BIG 10 Conference matchup with the University of Michigan, with a Sunday tip-off at 2:00 PM. Initially, I elected not to get a media pass for me, as the event photographer was already on the scene. She already warned me of the lack of access to the actual press box inside Williams Arena.
Instead, tickets were very affordable. I snagged two in the lower bowl, just in case.
As you can probably guess that there is a correlation between the LGBTQ community and women’s sports. The local WNBA franchise – the Lynx – is very popular within the community. So is most, if not all, of the University of Minnesota’s women’s athletics teams.
Another thing I considered was that the Golden Gophers has a women’s sports icon as their head coach. A recent inductee to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Lindsey Whalen played basketball for the Gophers before her illustrious career in the WNBA with the Connecticut Sun and the Lynx. “Whay” won four WNBA championships and two Olympic gold medals – major credentials for a coach looking to take the Gophers into the NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Tournament.
“Whay” could simply be the story by itself. She has a young team to coach – many of whom are in-state recruits. In some respects, that is how a collegiate powerhouse program is supposed to be built, right?
Driving the 2023 Volvo S60 Recharge Black Edition to the University of Minnesota campus, I ended up coming early. In turn, I ended up with a media pass. Thusly, I was escorted to the press box, which was indeed way up in the corner of Williams Arena. There was a seating chart that gave you the pecking order of where to sit. I was clearly sent to the back of the five rows of tables. At least the seats were comfortable.
The photographer from the magazine arrived a bit later and showed me the lay of the land inside Williams Arena. That included a media room where postgame interviews take place, as well as access to beverages.
Then, it was onto the floor. Williams Arena is a rare old “barn” where the playing floor is raised – not level with courtside seating. There is courtside seating, however, with an interesting view view upward to the court.
After my pregame tour, I went back to the press box. I was just settling in when I received a couple of texts from a University of Minnesota staffer telling me to come down to the court. Since there were three of us up there by the rafters, I couldn’t say “no.”
The seat at courtside offered little room. Yet, I sat next to a few big supporters of the Gophers Women Basketball program. Their knowledge was invaluable, and their support was unwavering. I found that to be true among most of the 4,545 in attendance inside Williams Arena.
And, yes, there were plenty of Michigan fans on hand.
In the end, the Gophers lost 77-41. Michigan had their number. Coach Whalen came into her postgame interview, alongside two of her players, composed and disappointed. Only the reporter from the Star Tribune asked questions. I sat and observed.
In all, it was quite the experience covering this special Pride Game for the magazine. To be able to be there for the publication yielded multiple outcomes. For Lavender, it was a chance to be represented and seen by the campus community. Hopefully, this could close some more gaps between the university and the publication.
Personally, it was a professional experience that enabled me to absorb the mechanics of sports journalism and community reporting. It showed that after a knock on the door, I can be welcomed into the building and be present.
Perhaps I could do this again? There will be some opportunities to do so this year. Let’s hope I am successful in the next opportunity as I was un this past one.
All photos by Randy Stern