“I’m not interested in your games, Tom. You’d better explain what happened within the next 24 seconds, or else you’ll never see your precious Yogi again.”
“He’s graduating! I’ll never talk!” Tom Crean exclaimed. He was strapped down to a lawn chair in the center of Assembly Hall. A steady stream of Gatorade washed over his forehead.
“Fine then. We know you’ve been one of the biggest opponents of our organization for decades now. We know everything, Tom. We know how you let those damned Northwestern writers escape. We know you know some of their new secret identities. We can just wait here, Tom. The season is still a week away…”
Living on the run can be difficult, but if you just try to go 1-0 every week, there really isn’t much of a problem. I stood in the Starbucks on Michigan Avenue and waited for my caramel mocha frappuccino, with no whipped cream, to arrive.
“Caramel mocha frappe for Tyrone?” the barista shouted.
I took the blended beverage and barreled my way out of the Starbucks, en route for the Grand El station and a train headed for O’Hare. I’d been hiding out from the agents of C.R.E.A.N. in my cousins’ apartment while they were visiting France for the summer. With the summer now over, I planned to head back to New York for a few days before planning my next move.
My new name was Tyrone Johnson, and I’d reinvented myself as a fairly benign intern at a financial consulting firm, the end product for journalism students everywhere. I made spreadsheets. I analyzed data. I made coffee. I chose life.
In the interim between my miraculous escape from Bankers Life Fieldhouse and early September 2016, the world had fallen apart. Brexit happened. Donald Trump became a legitimate presidential candidate. Global temperatures rose, hurricanes formed and the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals despite having the unanimous MVP. And of course, the entirety of college sports had coalesced into a multinational corporation that benefitted a few schools while continuing to deny payment to athletes. On that front, I wasn’t sure how much had changed.
But that life wasn’t for me anymore. I couldn’t go back to being a writer, not with the spectre of C.R.E.A.N. and the shattered remnants of Inside NU haunting my steps. It wasn’t just time-consuming and low-paying, the journalism industry was dangerous! And with a crazy, “press-freedom destroying” lunatic running for president, it was a good time to get out.
Speaking of Inside NU, the site had been absorbed by the Daily Northwestern and was now unaffiliated with SBNation. Northwestern sports, partly in revenge for my actions, had been downgraded to Division III during the C.R.E.A.N. reorganization of the college sports landscape. The last time I saw the Inside NU team was the shootout at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Yeah, that 72-70 overtime loss to Michigan. No, not the part of the story when Joe McKeown and the staff were surrounded by armed guards. The guards were dumb enough to let me slip through the exits while the rest of the staff fought it out. That’s why I run, after all, to make quick escapes when necessary.
I watched the upcoming Big Ten Tournament game and then I assume the survivors went their separate ways. Everyone assumed new identities and Twitter handles. Even Eddie Jordan got “fired” from Rutgers. Oh wait, that was going to happen regardless.
Anyhow, Northwestern basketball was now headed for a rather depressing season in Division III. On the bright side, the school’s switch to Division III allowed for a men’s cross-country team to be formed, which was cool. Not that it mattered now. I was probably never going back to Evanston again. And besides, I was done with sports journalism. And then, while walking through the airport, I heard it:
“HEY DID YOU KNOW I’M A MEDILL GRAD?!”
I winced and turned around, almost out of spite. A 5-foot-11 man with blond hair and a Medill T-shirt was talking to Kevin Blackistone. Kevin looked slightly annoyed and then fled to board his plane. Then the Medill grad saw me.
“Hey, aren’t you Tristan Jung? Didn’t you work for Inside NU? I saw you on Facebook Live!”
He then grabbed out his phone and started sending an urgent GroupMe message while simultaneously trying to greet me. He was a double agent. My time was up. I decided to just tackle him.
The poor guy, despite being marginally stronger than me, was blindsided by my attempts to bull-rush him. Knowing that my destination had probably been compromised, I grabbed the plane ticket that he was holding as he was trying to get up. The double agent tried to trip me, but I raced out of the airport terminal and headed toward his new destination, Albany, NY.
“Why the hell is he going to Albany?” I thought to myself. “There’s nothing in Albany…”
But it was too late to make any new improvisations. I was headed to Albany, NY, for better or for worse.