Believe in the Fairy Tale
In case you haven’t heard, there are a couple big games on TV tonight. The semi-finals of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament are taking place in San Antonio beginning at 5:09 pm when the Loyola Ramblers take on the Michigan Wolverines.
The Ramblers are a special team. Loyola is the only basketball team in Illinois to have won an NCAA Division I championship, and the last time they did it was 1963. They haven’t even been to the tournament since 1985. Yet here they are, an 11-seed making a true Cinderella run for the championship trophy.
There are so many reasons to love the Loyola Ramblers. If you haven’t decided who to root for in tonight’s first matchup, let this Loyola University Chicago alum make it a little easier for you:
#1: Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt. This 98-year-old nun has become an international superstar. She has been immortalized as a bobble head doll (although those have been around campus for a few years now) and her face is on t-shirts and even socks! Sister Jean has always been a Loyola celebrity. You always wanted to start your morning by seeing her; you knew it would be a blessed day just by saying hello.
She joined the order of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin in 1937. She began teaching at Mundelein College in 1961, a women’s college right next to Loyola. The two universities merged in 1991 and Sister Jean’s relationship with the Ramblers began. She has been the men’s basketball team chaplain since 1994. At home games, she always leads the crowd in prayer asking God to help both teams, but to help Loyola a little more.
Sister Jean is beloved on Loyola’s campus. She has always been a superstar, and it’s wonderful that she is finally getting the international recognition that she deserves.
#2: Clayton Custer and Ben Richardson. These two are the total definition of Best Friends Forever. They have been playing basketball together since the first grade and here they are, playing for the NCAA championship. Watch for their reactions after (they win) tonight’s game: their smiles will be infectious and they will probably be giddy like their first grade selves.
#3: Rambler Fans. Yes, we look like we go to Hogwarts with our maroon and gold scarves (we actually have a reading room on campus that is nicknamed the “Harry Potter room” but that is purely coincidental). And yes, we are all just as surprised as the rest of the country that Loyola is in this position. In all my conversations that I have had with my fellow alum and friends still on campus, we are shocked that we now have a “sports school.” Up until this year, our only major athletic accomplishments were the 1963 championship and the men’s volleyball back-to-back national titles in 2014 and 2015. So every time the screen pans to the Loyola fans, those expressions of joy or anxiety are pure. We are all on this crazy ride with our team and are enjoying every moment.
I could go on and on as to why you should root for the Ramblers tonight, but I have some pre-game parties that I need to get to. If you would like to watch the game with Loyola fans, join the Twin Cities alumni group at Billy’s on Grand in St. Paul at 5 p.m. Go Ramblers!