Farewell From a Sports Director

By Eric Rynston-Lobel

It’s been a long ride. A very long ride. 

When I first took over WNUR Sports with Kevin Sweeney in early March 2020, well…I didn’t exactly expect things to transpire as they did, to say the least. But let’s backtrack for a moment.

I didn’t even know WNUR Sports was a thing when I first got to campus in Sept. 2018. But when I saw their table at the Medill Pub Fair, I was very excited. I had done a couple radio shows for my high school station, and once I saw the WNUR table, it felt like the right fit.

That fall quarter, former sports director Tim Hackett could not have been nicer to me, letting me come on his show Stats are for Losers every Sunday night at 7:30. I wasn’t used to having someone older to look up to like Tim, who genuinely cared about me and wanted me to feel just as at home at WNUR as he did. I can’t overstate how grateful I am for his generosity my entire freshman year. 

When I first joined WNUR, the station was pretty small––maybe 10 to 15 guys who were super nerdy about sports. The one thing that made me enjoy it most was the camaraderie that was there. I didn’t really know anyone that well, but I could sense how much fun these guys had when it was time to have fun; and I also saw how unbelievably talented they all were and how much they cared about passing that experience down to the younger members. 

Ben Krieger and Parker Johnson did an excellent job running the station from spring quarter my freshman year through winter quarter my sophomore year, and I was grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from two people who cared so much about what they did. They made my job with Kevin in March 2020 so much easier because of all the work they put in during their year in charge. 

I’ll never forget sitting with Kevin in the lobby of McTrib in early March 2020 interviewing station members to be on our exec board. The news around COVID-19 and everything moving remote had started to swirl, but I thought we’d be back in Evanston by May. Instead, once Northwestern sent everyone home, Kevin and I had to figure out what the heck we were supposed to do without Northwestern sports happening. 

On Thursday nights that spring, we would rebroadcast old games (shoutout to any alums I Twitter DM’d and asked to live tweet for us); on Sunday nights, we’d play Jeopardy! (shoutout Jake Liker) and stream the SportsVoice on Facebook Live; on Tuesday nights we’d still have our weekly meetings on Zoom. At that point in time with everyone stuck at home, isolated and really, really bored, I think we all realized just how much WNUR Sports meant to us, and it made me appreciate my role that much more.

If I tried to rehash everything that’s happened in my two years at the helm, we’d be here for quite awhile, so I’ll spare you that. But there are a couple of highlights from the last two years that I’m proud we were able to accomplish. First, led by my current co-director and then-editor-in-chief, John Volk, we completely redesigned our website. If nothing else, the stories on the website no longer highlight in bright green when you hover over them, so that’s assuredly a plus (if you know, you know). On Twitter, former social media director Pat Timlin produced some phenomenal graphics and video content, while our outgoing social media director Sriman Narayanan designed some fresh new logos and continued to make incredible graphics for us. Our podcasts are now available on Apple and Spotify, and our outgoing podcast director Margaret Fleming did a great job producing them (with some music in the intro!). I’m very pleased with all of the work we’ve been able to do over the last two years, and I hope our station members are as well.

Aside from content, I could’ve never predicted how our station would grow. For WNUR Sports to have evolved from a group of about 10 to 15 guys to meetings where we’d have 40 people show up was incredible. Navigating running the station during the pandemic was a major challenge, but having so many people interested in doing what we do made working through those obstacles worth it. 

Now it’s time for a bunch of thank-you’s. To my two co-directors, Kevin and John, I would not have been able to have navigated the last two years without you guys. This is a very taxing job that was made even more challenging because of the pandemic, but you guys were always there to chat, and I hope you know that I always appreciated that. I was so fortunate to get to work with two great friends, and that’s certainly made this an even more meaningful experience.

To former sports director and current women’s basketball SID Amit Mallik, thank you for all of your help, always sending game notes, setting up interviews and being a friendly face on women’s basketball road trips that I could complain to about various things going on. To everyone else with NU Athletic Comms, especially Paul Kennedy, Ray O’Connell and Zach Wingrove, thank you for all of your help. Your support has been paramount to our station continuing to get the amazing access that we do, and I’m super grateful for that. On the women’s basketball side, I also want to shout out director of operations Ollie Goss who was a phenomenal person to work with. I’m really appreciative of how accommodating he was to our station, allowing us to continue to travel with the program. 

And to my successors, Andrew Neville and Brea Lassek, I’m excited to see what direction you take the station in. It’s been a joy for me to see how you’ve both grown as broadcasters and people over the last two years, and I’m looking forward to watching you continue to do great things.

I could go on, but I’ll wrap up with this: WNUR Sports has been so central to my time at Northwestern; most of my closest friends are from WNUR, most of my great college experiences are with WNUR and the best journalism experience I’ve gotten has been because of WNUR. My time as sports director, while unequivocally challenging and exhausting, was also incredibly rewarding. I’m immensely proud of where our station is now, and I’m glad I was able to play a role in hopefully making WNUR Sports a meaningful experience for everyone who came along for this two-year journey. It’s been very special to me to have had this job for two years, and I’m so grateful for everyone who has supported our station along the way.

Eric Rynston-Lobel

Sports Director, WNUR Sports