A safe space for Sister Jean dissidents

Sister Jean is a sweet old lady and light of goodness in these dark times. But also, it’s okay if you conscientiously object.

Let us be super clear because I don’t want an angry phone call from the Chicago Tribune: Sister Jean seems lovely. She’s a 98-year-old nun, after all, which means she’s probably a sweetheart with questionable politics who means well and genuinely loves God and basketball and Loyola. There’s a lot to love about her. More power to ya if you do. We’re not here to attack Sister Jean or her acolytes. We are simply here to empathize with the fans who conscientiously object to the way she makes up 50-80 percent of all March Madness coverage. To create a space in this chaotic online world to say, it’s okay to be over it.

It doesn’t make you a bad person if every time they show Sister Jean on screen or run another story about her, you read the room to see if maybe someone else around is also tired of this relentless coverage. The Miami, Tennessee, Nevada and Kansas State fans for whom Sister Jean is the embodiment of salt in the wound of heart-breaking tournament losses are not bad people. Basketball fans who wish someone would talk about what, besides God, makes Loyola such a winning team are not bad people.

Sister Jean has been everywhere since the March Madness media — including FanSided, we’re complicit here — discovered that a sweet old lady with a way with one-liners was integrally involved with a Cinderella team. Loyola is on a couldn’t-script-it-better run which has seen the team advance to the Final Four on three (basically) buzzer-beaters from three different players (Donte Ingram, Clayton Custer, and Marques Townes) and a decisive blow-out. And Sister Jean, a 5-foot 98-year-old nun with deep scouting reports and her own bobblehead, is getting the lion’s share of the love.

Unfortunately for the haters, she is, by most accounts, the real deal. She truly does have a high basketball IQ, providing insight and advice that head coach Porter Moser finds useful and not tedious. She genuinely does care about the players, and pretty much every other student at Loyola too. She’s a visible presence on campus with a constant open-door policy. Loyola athletic director Steve Watson told ESPN last year that she’s “not just an iconic figure who we parade around and put in front of folks. She works longer hours than anybody.” So, it makes sense that she would become a good luck charm for the Ramblers faithful. Good for Loyola. Good for Sister Jean.

That doesn’t mean that in Week Three of Our Lord Sister Jean, some of us — fans of opposing teams, fans of Donte Ingram, and fans of the separation of church and sport — can’t find her presence lightly disagreeable. And in the face of such wholesale national love and adoration, we just want you to know it’s okay to conscientiously object to the patron saint of college basketball.

It’s okay if you rolled your eyes at “really if I can correct you, international.” Or when she said usually doesn’t travel with the team because the players would worry about her too much. Or when she said that the players “treat [her] like a queen.” Or when she said that the players won because they listened to her words. Or when she was made into a dunking Lego. Or got a second (!) bobblehead.

It’s okay if you wish the conversation surrounding Loyola’s Cinderella run was more about the potential reversal of the Chicago and Illinois basketball talent drain. Or the historic civil rights accomplishments of the 1963 championship team. Or Donte Ingram. Or Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer. Or Marques Townes. Or the kind of system that could produce three separate obscenely clutch players. Or the Mississippi Valley Conference, even.

It’s okay if you’d rather game crews spent less time with the chaplain and more with the players. And if the media picked up and carried, and the readers clicked and read, those stories about the players. (There are a lot of fun things to say about the players!)

It’s okay if you don’t think a Catholic nun is the feel-good antidote — the “pure and good in a game that is so often corrupt” — to the ethical problems with the NCAA.

It’s okay, too, if your reasons are personal or petty. You don’t have to explain yourself. Being immune to the charms of Sister Jean does not make you a bad person. Only rooting for Duke makes you a bad person.

Most Sister Jean dissidents and conscientious objectors presumably do not know Sister Jean. If you did, you probably wouldn’t object to her, given that everyone who knows her loves her. But most of us don’t know her. Most of us are just watching a No. 11 seed on a grass-roots rebuild with in-state and hometown kids in a city obsessed with basketball do something remarkable in the most volatile sports tournament on Earth — and being told the only good story therein is a 98-year-old Catholic nun.

It’s okay if you can’t possibly believe that’s true.

It’s okay if you object to Sister Jean.

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