“How did you figure that out so quickly?”
I had only been in Spokane for about six months, it was January, it was cold outside and I wasn’t really sure she was talking to me.
“You’re the new editor at the newspaper, right?”
This isn’t always a fun question to answer when you’re the new guy, but she immediately followed by saying that she liked most of the changes I’d been making to The Spokesman-Review, so I was fairly confident I wasn’t about to get yelled at.
“Yep, that’s me,” I answered.
She told me I had recently spoken at a lunch for her group and she recognized me. Then she asked again how I knew to do that. I asked her what exactly I had done.
“How did you know that you should cover Gonzaga basketball a lot more than the paper used to?”
I was totally ready for this one.
“I’m not really very smart, but I am pretty good at obvious.”
She laughed and told me to stay warm, which – by the way – is almost always good advice.
Decades before I ended up in Washington, newspaper companies around the country would ask me to build their websites. All my life, I’ve always loved data and research, but building new things for the internet focused me on paying attention to what people really read.
In doing that research for our family’s move to this area, it didn’t take long to figure out Gonzaga mattered. It also didn’t take long to realize that Zags basketball might mean more to us than most expected.
There aren’t many things that can truly bring a community together, but all the numbers told me Bulldogs basketball did that here. It didn’t matter whether you lived in Spokane Valley or on the South Hill or in North Spokane. It didn’t matter whether you were Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or Wiccan.
It didn’t matter if you attended Gonzaga, let alone graduated from there. Heck, it really didn’t matter if you’d even graduated from high school. Gonzaga was our school, regardless of whether we had a piece of paper hanging on the wall that confirmed it.
When the Bulldogs played, we watched the games together. And talked about the games at work the next day. We hoped our favorite players were OK, and we asked each other if the Zags were really as good as it seemed they might be.
That basketball team brought us together. It made us proud. And I love it when newspapers not only cover these sort of special communal moments, but over-cover them. Besides, subtlety is overrated. Especially when your team is undefeated and in the top 10.
That brings up another point. My research data also showed that people loved to learn more about the history here, even if they were the third or fourth generation to live in Spokane.
This made a lot of sense to me, too, because it’s hard to know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. Now you know why we run so many history stories in our newspaper.
This past year, The Spokesman-Review began holding events in our building as a part of our Northwest Passages book club and community forum series. They’ve become so popular that we often have to move them to the Spokane Civic Theatre or the Bing Crosby Theater.
It hit us this summer that we should combine all of these things right before the Bulldogs’ season began this year.
What if we did an event in early November, right after our annual basketball preview section was published, that focused on four or five of the biggest players in Gonzaga’s history and had them tell us the stories behind some of the program’s biggest moments? We could call our buddies over at KHQ/SWX to help us, we could show historical highlights, and we could make it a celebration of one of the things that makes our community so great.
The best part is that all of this is going to happen, and we hope you will join us for it.
On Nov. 5 at the Martin Woldson Theater inside the historic Fox, The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages Community Forum and SWX are hosting an evening with some of biggest names in the history of the Gonzaga University men’s basketball program, appropriately called “Gonzaga Legends.”
Casey Calvary. Matt Santangelo. Dan Dickau. Adam Morrison. They are “Gonzaga Legends” who helped turn a small university in Spokane into one of college hoops’ elite programs.
Our “Gonzaga Legends” event will give Bulldogs fans an exclusive chance to hear about the team’s remarkable 20-year rise from the players who lived it. Hosted by SWX sports director Sam Adams and Spokesman-Review college basketball writer Jim Meehan, along with longtime S-R columnist John Blanchette, the evening will be filled with highlights from each player’s career, never-before-shared insights, lots of laughs and more than a few surprises that no true-blue Zags fan will want to miss.
We’re all so excited about this event that it’s going to be broadcast live on SWX — which means it also is going to be replayed a whole bunch of times. Which also seems totally appropriate.
Before the event, the Gonzaga cheerleaders and Spike will be there, so you can take the photos and selfies that are too hard to get when you’re at a game in The Kennel. After the event, there will be an autograph session with the “Gonzaga Legends” players that will feature exclusive posters of each player from their days as a Bulldog. Everyone in attendance will get all four collector’s posters for free, as well as a 2018-19 basketball schedule poster from Gonzaga University.
The best part of all of this? It’s only going to cost you $6 to get in. That’s cheaper than most of the things at the concessions stand.
Better yet, it’s inexpensive enough that you should bring your neighbors with you. And that’s totally the point.
Gonzaga basketball is one of those things that brings our community together, and that’s exactly what we’re hoping will happen on Nov. 5.
Like I said, I’m not the smartest guy around, but I am pretty good at obvious.