Here at Gonzaga, we know we have one of the best men’s basketball teams in the nation.

With a 17-game win streak, the Bulldogs are No. 1 in the NCAA, beating celebrated teams like three-time March Madness champions Villanova. Since 1999, the Bulldogs have participated in every NCAA tournament held, a perfect participation record for head coach Mark Few.

I remember watching GU’s performance in the 2017 March Madness tournament the week I arrived in Spokane; our furniture had not yet arrived, but on the TV we brought with us we watched as the Zags went from the Elite Eight to Final Four to the championship game itself. Even though I was still new to Spokane, I felt the city’s heartbreak when the Bulldogs eventually succumbed 71-65 to the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, and I also felt the city’s pride in the team for going so far in the tournament.

At school, if a teacher was a GU alumni, it was common for them to have a GU poster with the current team in their classroom. By the cafeteria, there was also a poster of the latest game schedule for the men’s team.

The more I saw “Zag Swag” around school, the more fascinated I became with the Bulldog’s (and by extension GU’s) influence on the Spokane community.

Since I’m now a GU student, it makes much more sense to me that so much of GU’s marketing surrounds the men’s team; people who thought GU wasn’t a real school now know otherwise thanks to the Bulldogs.

It also makes sense that the popularity of the team has actually rebounded onto the students. Who wouldn’t, in a pandemic-free time, want to tent out to watch the best team in the nation live for free?  

I wonder how the Bulldogs of the past, who averaged a new coach a season from 1908 to 1920, would have reacted to the news that their team made it to the final of the NCAA tournament. 

When I first came to Spokane, I watched the men’s basketball team play in March Madness. Later, however, my family would develop the tradition of going to see the women’s and men’s soccer teams play on weekends, as well as the women’s basketball team. 

Whether you’re a student, faculty or staff member or someone who knows one, everyone inside of the Zag community knows that what makes GU special is the diversity of educational and cultural opportunities.

Even though one thing might define a particular area, what’s amazing about GU is that underneath the surface are all of the other people working to develop and improve the GU experience our school is known for.

It is OK to be known for one thing. Chopsticks are known for picking up sushi, and Lana Del Rey is known for writing pop music with an orchestral sound. But what makes GU great is the fact that it’s not a sports school, rather a school known for sports.

For me, GU is my composition professor providing me with lessons and feedback on my work before officially becoming my composition professor. GU is also BRIDGE, a program that is “Building Relationships in Diverse Gonzaga Environments.” GU is also the work opportunities, from tutoring French to writing for The Gonzaga Bulletin to serving as a work study for the nursing department.

My challenge to all of us is to not see or portray GU as the school with the best basketball team in the nation, but as what we individually define GU to be. In the end, as people who are actually involved in the GU community — whether in person or online — how we view this school is the reality of how we exist in it.

So, the next time the Bulldogs win a game — which will no doubt be very soon — feel pride that we have the best basketball team in the nation. But also feel pride in the math classes, the cultural clubs and the SpikeNites that make being a Zag such a great thing.

In the end, “Let’s go, Zags!” means all Zags.

Red Kwenda is a staff writer. Follow him on Twitter at @RedKwendaWriter. 

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