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Friday · November 07 2003

I was thinking about going to the NU-Penn St. game in Evanston tomorrow. Then I saw the high for saturday will be in the high 30s. Now that idea doesn't sound as fun, but maybe we'll break out the winter gear and go anyway. Stace and I haven't been to a game at Ryan Field (Dyche Stadium begone) in a couple years. The Wildcats have been awful recently, but the games are nearby and a good time, even if they have grown up with success.

Before the Rose Bowl season in 1995, games were free and the stands were empty. The only reason anyone except the band made it up to the stadium was for the tailgates. Victories were so rare, students mobbed the field and carried the goalposts to the lake after the annual win. The east parking lot on saturday mornings was a loud, hungover party filled with smoky grills, fraternity banners, blasting speakers mounted on truck beds and, of course, endless free beer for the underage drinker. We brought marshmallows inside the game to pelt each other with, jangled our keychains on every kickoff, and sarcastically shouted "STATE SCHOOL!" at the other Big Ten fans who enjoyed legitimate football programs.

We secretly wanted NU to be better, but smarmy pride insisted we didn't really care one way or another. The Rose Bowl season in 1995 changed everything. Gary Barnett gave students, players, and alums a reason to "Expect Victory" and the team in the tight purple pants won game after game. The trip to Pasadena, which I still regret I didn't make, raised Northwestern above joke status. Everyone took Northwestern seriously (at least for a short while) after that season.

Everyone also wanted to go to the games and be serious about their football. The school started charging for admission. Marshmallows were banned and confiscated at the gate. The administration came down hard on the tailgates, first for the noise, then for the alcohol. The saturday morning atmosphere declined with the team's success. I don't like the changes because restrictive actions tend to work one way. The games will never be free again, no matter how bad the team is. No school official will ever allow tailgates as they were before. Even if I never do another freezing kegstand (and I won't) or get blasted with a bag of marshmallows in my hair, I like to think that the NU football games are more than watching the Cats get their faces smashed in. Tradition, ya know.

What you had to say:
November 07 2003

I enjoyed going to games in college. It was fun tailgating and throwing marshmellows - made it worth standing out in the cold and watch the wildcats lose in the 4th quarter. My family would always make jokes that I didn't choose my college for the football team.

Anyway, in 1995 I was already out in California, so Michelle and Heidi came out and we went to the Rose Bowl. Even though we lost, it was great seeing so many fans in purple and so excited NU was there.

Since I have been back in Chicago, I haven't been as interested in going to games. Tailgaiting is non-existent, you have to pay to get in, and the goalposts will not come down no matter what you do. Anyway, it has lost a lot of the charm it used to have. I still root for the Cats and am not against going to a game every so often. But I feel like you need a good football team to watch if you take away all the other things that made attending football games fun. Plus the last time we went it was so cold we had to run inside the bathrooms every so often to defrost. Brrrrr.

© 2003 Jason Keglovitz