...as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced...
So here we are. 0-2 in conference play. Looking at our purple shirts and ties Monday morning before getting dressed for work, and with a heavy sigh, deciding against wearing them to avoid the inevitable discussion about this past weekend that wearing school colors would invite. Avoiding Sippin' on Purple, avoiding Northwestern blogs, avoiding thinking about what could happen this coming Saturday. The season feels like it's over already, so why care? We knew this would happen, it does every year. We always get so close, so close to breaking down that door that separates us and the rest of the B1G elite. And we've missed our chance. So let's all just sit back smugly, content in the knowledge that we all called it, that we all are acutely aware of the futility of being a Northwestern football fan.
Or, on the other hand, you could actually be a goddamned football fan.
Every team has bad losses. Georgia lost to Mizzou. Michigan lost to Penn State. Hell, the Jags gave Denver a fight on Sunday. It happens all the time. Sometimes it's a blowout. And that sucks. But it's not an excuse to pretend like you were never interested in the team to begin with, or feel smugly superior in your pessimism about a truly exciting team, a team that looks dynamic this year and is set up for continued success in the future with legitimately intriguing newcomers including Warren Long, Matt Alviti, and Zack Oliver.
Northwestern fans often want to have it both ways, and it comes with the territory of being a team that is neither mediocre nor great, that has neither arrived nor is absent, is neither relevant nor irrelevant. We will go to games, but after one big play, we will loudly remark "game over", and though we will stay at the game, we will do so with our arms crossed above our chest, not allowing ourselves to get involved in the passions of the game of football until we are ahead by multiple touchdowns.
I get it. We've been hurt before. Heartbreak is difficult, as are crushing defeats. But things like this fucking happen. It's been years since a great win, but it's also been years since a bad loss. And in terms of bad losses, though our team looked flat at Camp Randall, we were not upset, and we still have a chance at the B1G Championship game.
Any sports team can look insanely different from one week to another. It so happens that we saw the best and the worst of Northwestern football in two consecutive weeks, and unfortunately, in two consecutive losses. But if there's one thing I can't stand, it's the reactionary nature of the fans that I've come across in the past few days. They don't want to watch NU/MINN. They don't care anymore. And these are the same people that woke up at 4:30 to get to the lakefill for GameDay just a week ago.
You're either a fan or you're not. You don't need to have to have season tickets, you don't have to post on, or even read Northwestern sports blogs. You don't need to go to the games. You don't need to be at your TV for kickoff. That's not what makes someone a sports fan.
But if you have locked yourself out, if you've steeled yourself to the point where your passion for the Wildcats only includes room for pessimism, you might as well not watch. If you greet every opposing touchdown with a smirk and a nod, if every Kain Colter touchdown is dulled by the fact that you're sure the team will find a way to piss it away, reserving hope only for the most secure of situations, the most certain of victories, you're missing out on what makes sports great.
Being a sports fan is about uncertainty and hope in the face of insurmountable odds, and the eventual payoff is made sweeter with the knowledge that you've gone through all that heartbreak with the team, with like-minded fans. It makes every touchdown, every interception, every field goal worth it, because you're part of the story. Ask Justin Blackmon how he felt about being given the chance to compete with the Broncos. Ask the Jags' D about being given the chance to bring Peyton Manning back to earth. Hell, ask Fitz 2 weeks ago how he felt about hosting OSU.
Everything can change on any given weekend. Everything. And you're doing yourself a disservice if you've forgotten that and resigned yourself to easy, passionless fanhood.
See you at the Rose Bowl.