Loyola’s run to the Final Four has most of the greater Chicago area, and even the nation, jumping on the bandwagon. The beauty of their improbable journey is that diehard sports fans and casual observers have something to latch onto… and Sister Jean can appeal to both.
Yet hot-takers nationwide are hating on the 98-year-old nun, claiming she is stealing the spotlight from the basketball team’s monumental achievement.
These opinions started around the Sweet 16 but have picked up steam in the last 24 hours after Loyola made her available to a large throng of media at a press conference Friday morning. Apparently, that caused some backlash on Twitter.
Hating on Sister Jean is an easy take if you don’t know her whole story.
Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt has been a focal point at Loyola-Chicago for years. She worked as a teacher and administrator for Mundelein College, an all-women’s institution that merged with Loyola in 1991. Since 1994, Sister Jean has served as a chaplain for the school’s basketball team, praying with them before every game and offering constant support.
If you ask Loyola fans and students, she is a prominent face at the university. Plenty of stories have come out about her impact on students’ lives. We’ve heard tales about her beaming personality, quick-wittedness and ability to provide spiritual and emotional support at a moment’s notice.
Diehard college hoops fans know Loyola isn’t a fluke. The team plays a suffocating, hard-nosed style of defense that frustrates teams, holding three of their four opponents in the tournament to under 45.5 percent shooting from the field. On offense, they share the ball beautifully and can space the floor for open three-pointers or dump inside to their big man Cameron Krutwig for easy buckets.
And those same people have taken notice of the team’s cast of characters. Names like Krutwig, Clayton Custer, Marques Townes, Donte Ingram, Ben Richardson and head coach Porter Moser have all gotten their fair share of attention.
However, not everyone is enthralled with sports like diehards are. Some people are casual observers and aren’t obsessed with numbers and nuances. They cling to a bigger picture or “fun” storyline. You know, the stuff you see on the Today Show, not on Sports Center.
Sister Jean is the perfect storyline for the rest of the nation to love. What’s not to like about an elderly nun who adores her team and is equally adored by the players and coaches she cheers on?
Absolutely nothing. After all, if the team is okay with it, why should it bother anyone?
“We all think it’s awesome,” Custer told the Chicago Tribune’s Shannon Ryan. “We’ve known how special she is. It’s cool that everybody in the world knows who she is now, and they’re getting to see how cool she is and how amazing she is.”
Even if you’re a diehard sports fan, you should appreciate Sister Jean. She isn’t like celebrities (ahem, Jim Belushi and Bradley Cooper), who hitch their fame to a local team when things go well. She’s been with the team for almost 24 years, watching through thick and thin.
So who cares if the media wants to talk to her? Sister Jean has done a masterful job representing the university, and she is showing the nation that the elderly and those in religious life can have a great impact on others.
Her story should be a win-win. The negative takes are just lazy and uninformed.