Not all freshmen grew up wearing purple on Saturdays. For those who didn't, adjusting to the athletic culture here in Evanston can take some time. Read the first impressions two of our newest NBN Sports writers:
We just dominated Penn State — Why does no one care?
By Andy Brown
As the final seconds of the first half of the football game against Penn State ticked off the clock, I sprinted to Allison Hall from the first floor lounge of 1835 Hinman to grab a quick lunch. I did the math in my head as I ran: halftime usually lasts about 20 minutes, and it’s going to take two minutes for me to run each way, so I need to get my food and finish eating within 18 minutes. I expected to see several other South Campus dwellers also trying to cram in a meal as I reached the cafeteria, but as I threw open the door, WildCARD extended like a football towards a pylon, I was shocked at what I saw. Hundreds of students were milling around with a noticeable lack of urgency. The lines were moving as slowly as they usually do.
When I found a few friends at a table, I said to them, “Hey, have y’all been watching the game this morning?”
All I got was a few muttered ‘no’s and some blank stares.
Granted, nobody at the table is much of a sports fan. I know that two of them left during the first quarter of the Western Illinois game because they were feeling tired. But the thing is, at Northwestern, it seems like that’s not too far removed from the norm. I’ve only been here a little over two weeks, and it feels like there’s a general feeling of apathy from a significant portion of the student body towards our sports teams. And I get it, sort of. For the casual fan, it’s hard to really get behind programs that, to be honest, have never truly been dominant forces in our lifetimes.
However, the fact that it seemed like hardly anybody in Allison that day could’ve told you/cared at all that our then underperforming football team was up 14-3 at halftime against the then 27th ranked team in the country on the road frustrated me a little bit, and I felt like unleashing a Cris Carter-sized “C’mon, man!” for the entire cafeteria to hear.
At risk of retreading on a tired narrative, Northwestern is the opposite of an athletic powerhouse. This school is known for academics first and foremost. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but that shouldn’t make it so easy to forget that our student athletes, our peers, compete against (and are considered to be) some of the best in the nation.
Where I’m from, Austin, Texas, even non-UT fans like myself can tell you whom the Longhorns are playing next week, the latest on the starting quarterback’s concussion problems and what the head coach said in his most recent press conference. It’s not that they care, but there is so much energy focused towards the football team within the city that it would be hard not to know these things. Sports talk radio shows that already dedicate what seems like more than 75 percent of their airtime discussing the Horns sometimes receive calls asking them to talk about them more, even if they just want to complain about rising ticket prices again or continue to reminisce about what might’ve happened in the aftermath of the 2010 BCS Championship Game had quarterback Colt McCoy not gotten hurt.
It’s an obsession spread thickly over the area of a much bigger town than Evanston, so it was a pretty significant culture shock for me to see that, especially in a more tight-knit campus community than that of the sprawling 40 acres of the UT campus, we’re seemingly so casual about supporting our teams.
Now, I know that for a variety of reasons, Northwestern sports will never match the weight of UT’s. But that’s no excuse for us to not take at least a little more interest in them, whether the ‘Cats are home or away. Our foothold in a Power Five conference and all that entails should be icing on the college experience cake, but right now, it seems like more of a footnote on the long list of reasons why this is a prestigious university.
Sports are never going to be the focal point of our campus culture, but it’s not a dramatic culture shift I’m looking for. Rather, it’s a heightened sense of (dare I say it), purple pride.
Loving the life of an underdog
By Austin Siegel
I wish I could tell you that I grew up bleeding purple. That I was raised on tales of Northwestern’s miraculous run to the Rose Bowl in 1996 or that names like Dan Persa and John Shurna come naturally to me. I wish I could tell you that I’ve always been a Northwestern Wildcat.
But that would all be a lie.
Before anyone ever cared where I would go to college, I was just a kid from Northeast Ohio (I see you Lebron). And like most other kids from Cleveland, I grew up following a “different” Big Ten team. More specifically, the team that played a few hours away in Columbus. As embarrassing as it is to admit now, I was an Ohio State fan.
But I wasn’t just any bandwagon Buckeye. I stayed up past my bedtime to watch Ohio State win the national title in 2002 and I was there in person to watch them lose it in 2006. I convinced myself that calling ourselves THE Ohio State University wasn’t completely obnoxious and I still kind of believe that Terrelle Pryor is a legitimate NFL quarterback.
Of course, everything changed once I came to Northwestern. Actually living here in Evanston and being a part of this community has made me feel like a life-long Wildcat after only two weeks. But in my short time on campus, it’s been interesting to see how Northwestern students feel about our sports teams. Most people I’ve talked to agree that we’re not very good, while some don’t seem that interested in supporting our teams in the first place. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Look, I realize that very few non-athletes took Northwestern’s sports teams into account when they applied here. We’re a school known primarily for our academics and rightfully so. But there does seem to be a general attitude towards our athletic programs, one of apathy and indifference, that I’m not sure is well deserved.
When I was an Ohio State fan, I developed an opinion about Northwestern, one that I believe is shared by most of the Big Ten. And it’s an opinion that’s remarkably different from that of most Northwestern students.
I was jealous of the Wildcats. They were the guys in the Big Ten dining hall who were cool without even trying to be.
At Ohio State, every win was expected and every loss was devastating. The sports teams felt bigger than the university and the players more like celebrities than students. There was something stressful about rooting for those teams, because no matter what anybody told you, nothing less than a national championship would do. Any team that failed to reach that goal was written off as a disappointment and a blight on the school’s athletic record. It just wasn’t fun anymore.
Then I would watch Northwestern come along and casually beat up schools like Nebraska and Iowa who also worshipped their teams. Maybe it’s because they didn’t have the history or maybe it was just all that purple, but no matter how good Northwestern was, they always seemed like underdogs.
So when I found out I would be going to school here, I was thrilled. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d watched Ohio State pull an upset, but in Evanston, they seemed to happen almost every week.
I’ve heard people complain that we’ll never be like Ohio State or any of those other Big Ten powerhouses. And they’re probably right. But that’s exactly why I’m so excited about being a Northwestern fan in the first place.
While sports fans from all those other schools find themselves burdened by history and fear that their school’s teams will never live up to the glory days, Northwestern’s greatest chapter is being written right now.Think about it. Our football team looks like they’re ready to put last season behind them and have a legitimate shot at getting back to a bowl game this year. Our men’s basketball team has brought in the most talented recruiting class in school history and also has one of the most promising young coaches in the game. And our field hockey and women’s lacrosse team are both nationally ranked.
The Wildcats may be more accustomed to winning these days, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon the attitude that got us here. We’re always going to have that chip on our shoulder, but why not embrace it? There’s nothing in sports more fun than being the underdog and I’m looking forward to four years of watching Northwestern shock the world time and time again.