CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Michael Reader | The Charlotte Observer) - Loyola-Chicago has earned a spot in its first NCAA Basketball Final Four in 55 years. Perhaps just as improbable as the No. 11 seed Ramblers' run to NCAA glory is the rapid rise in public awareness of Sister Jean, the team's 98-year-old chaplain.
It's not a stretch to think that Sister Jean, whose real name is Jean Dolores Schmidt, is America's favorite nun.
And now pro sports teams are lining up to wish Sister Jean and the Ramblers well or, like the Carolina Panthers, to get her to help send some higher-power love their way. After all, her Ramblers haven't lost since January. (The Missouri Valley Conference champs apparently gave up losing for Lent.) And nuns, especially those from Chicago, have been known to be inspirational.
But first, if you didn't know about Sister Jean, what's not to love?
Sister Jean prays for the Loyola-Chicago basketball team (and their opponents, just not as hard) before every game. She's compiled scouting reports and offers tips about opposing players in the Ramblers' pregame huddles.
She has personalized maroon-and-gold sneakers - "Sister" on one shoe, "Jean" on the other.
Her motto — "Worship, work, win" is featured in the athletic department's weight room.
She absolved the Ramblers for busting her own bracket. She had Loyola-Chicago going out in the Sweet 16, likely because only three other No. 11 seeds have ever made the Final Four,and no matter how much you love an underdog, there's no point in casting your lot with a miracle team.
And now, the Ramblers (32-5) have matched the lowest-seeded team ever to reach the Final Four. Never mind that the other three No. 11 seeds that made it this far — LSU (1986), George Mason (2006) and VCU (2011) — lost in the semifinals. At this moment, Loyola-Chicago and Sister Jean appear to be teaming up on a heaven-sent story.
The nun who was born in 1919, the year the Black Sox threw the World Series and a year before the 19th amendment was ratified to give American women the right to vote, has been on TV nearly as much as Stormy Daniels or those catheter ads.
Meanwhile, bids on eBay for previous Sister Jean bobbleheads are reportedly topping $300with at least one person asking for $500. That makes the new ones seem like a good investment and — bonus time — the proceeds go to the Loyola Athletic Fund and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
And now pro sports teams, including the Panthers, are lining up to try to convince Sister Jean to pray for them as well. Carolina sent out a tweet to the Loyola basketball Twitter account, then upped the ante with custom swag.
However, one would guess that the smart money is on the Chicago Bears or one of the other Chicago sports clubs, such as the Sky, Cubs, Blackhawks, Bulls and White Sox, that have tweeted to her.
For now, Sister Jean is off to San Antonio for the Final Four. And that's where sports royalty, sports broadcaster Charles Barkley, had promised he'd take a stroll down that city's famed riverwalk if the Ramblers made the semifinals. Wouldn't that be fun to see, Sister Jean and Sir Charles together, divinely inspired or not?