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Reflections on Arizona: The fondest memories aren’t about the game

Zach Wagner (right) and Frank Gogola at the media hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Zach Wagner (right) and Frank Gogola at the media hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona.

It wasn’t until I was on the plane ride back to Indianapolis that I realized that the fondest memories I carried from the previous five days in Arizona had very little to do with the game that took place between Alabama and Clemson. The fact that the game was so competitive on Monday night was almost like the cherry being placed on top of a big ice cream sundae, in the sense that a terrific week was made complete.

In hindsight, I can’t even begin to describe the kindness that was displayed from all of those who made our stay one to remember. Everything was perfect, and everyone around us was, as well. It was through that benevolence that my nerves dissipated, and I could experience the joy of being able to paint the picture of a fabulous event.

With getting the opportunity to cover the College Football Playoff National Championship and all the events leading up to the game, I experienced and saw first hand the amount of work it takes to become one of the industry’s finest journalists. With today’s media landscape being so dependent on outlandish hot takes or pointless offbeat opinions, it was a breath of fresh air to see reporters going about their business with the utmost professionalism. I saw the importance of that professionalism in the Alabama locker room after the game.

Among those outlets present included the Associated Press, Yahoo! Sports, and many other high quality news organizations. It was great to hear the questions that were being asked, not so much because of how intelligent they were, but rather in the poetry of how one question almost perfectly set up the one to follow.

There is truly an art to telling a good story and seeing so many of the best attempts to make that effort throughout the week goes far beyond what anyone can ever hope to teach you in a classroom.

While the educational benefits of the process are certainly there, a classroom discussion can’t put you face to face with this season’s Heisman Trophy winner. It can’t put you in a parking lot shooting video with crazy tailgaters from two of college football’s craziest fan bases. It can’t put you in position to write a feature story on a kooky Alabama fan with just two hours left before the kickoff of the College Football Playoff National Championship.

The classroom experience can prepare you, but it’s really not the same until you’ve done it.

Experiences like these are why I chose to attend IUPUI and become involved with the Sports Capital Journalism Program. For the chance to gain first-hand knowledge of what it takes to be great in the field of sports journalism and to continue to grow, as well as improve, my overall skill set. By the time my journey within the program comes to an end, I will certainly look back at the events in Arizona as some of the most influential in the shaping of my outlook towards being a journalist.

— Zach Wagner | @zachwagner22

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