(Editor's note: from the fanposts! I disagree pretty vehemently with almost everything said, but it is very well said!)
Let me begin by stating the following: I am a Northwestern Football season ticket holder. I own NU memorabilia, and, despite my better judgment, have Rose Bowl dreams for this season. I love this team. I love our fans.
But holy shit, do we suck this year. Here’s why.
We have no identity anymore.
For the past few years, whenever Northwestern matched up with an opponent in a bowl game, or even faced a big name B1G rival, we were the scrappy underdogs—the "smart" school that had a dynamic football team that was exciting to watch, but was ultimately doomed to failure. People tuning into NU/NEB on the Big Ten Network would root for us because we weren’t supposed to win. Flash forward to 2013, and we’re nationally ranked in pretty much every single poll there is. In terms of perception, if the AP poll is anything to go by, we’re 4th in the Big Ten overall right now, behind Ohio State, Michigan, and Nebraska.
We’re not the underdogs anymore. We’re just… mediocre. I imagine we’ll stay right around that #22 mark all season. Pop quiz. Who ended the season ranked #22 last year? Northern Illinois University. A team guaranteed to win between 7 and 9 games every year and be absolutely unremarkable doing so. I imagine we’ll do something like that this year, though I will say that because it’s Northwestern, we’ll probably end up upsetting, like, Ohio State this year, right before shitting the bed and losing to Iowa. So at least we have that to look forward to.
Our fans are fucking terrible.
Don’t worry, I include myself in this section too. Let me just start by gently reminding you that this team, the 2013-2014 Northwestern Wildcats, a team coming fresh off of a postseason win that’s not the fucking Beef O’Brady bowl, and returning the vast majority of its playmakers, still needs to set up a tarp because people don’t buy tickets. Or, rather, we do, but the assholes that buy them never show up to the games. I’ve got a buddy who has been out of school for 2 years and has gone to every single home game in that time, just by mooching off of his friends that have season tickets but don’t show up on game day.
Do you guys remember the Nebraska game last year? How cordial all their fans were? How they all would talk with us before the game, hop between tailgates, give people a couple bucks to cover the booze they drank, and chat with us about how much we all hate Iowa?
Didn’t it make you feel just fucking awful when you were jangling your keys at them during kickoff, chanting "state school", and after the loss, feeling somehow superior because even though we lost, our college is ranked higher than Nebraska in terms of academics?
Didn’t think so.
There was this guy behind me in the young alumni section during that Nebraska game. He was 30ish and fat, wearing Oakleys and eating nachos. Not a shred of purple clothing on him. He spent the whole game yelling "Shit corn".
To be fair, though, that’s not the prototypical NU fan. Shit Corn Man was an outlier. No, the average ‘Cats fan you’ll find in the stands will be wasted by the end of the first quarter, but will still, somehow, be annoyingly smarmy and smart-assed. Remember when Kafka was on the team and we all thought we were so fucking clever when we threw out those Metamorphosis jokes? (I remember personally feeling accomplished when I recited the first line of the book from memory after a play, yelling something like "Mike Kafka awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, having found himself transformed into a GIANT BEAST". I said that. At a fucking football game.) Remember when we still thought we were so fucking clever 3 years later, having repeated the joke literally thousands of times? This also applies to "Two Thumbs Up" for Jeremy Ebert, singing "Danny Boy" for Persa, or any forced trump card pun applied to Mike Trumpy.
If you haven’t noticed, our faux-clever cheers get less and less faux-clever as the games go on and the fans get drunker.
Oh, and speaking of Nebraska, do you think they fucking give a shit who the "real" NU is? Jesus Christ, and we think Illinois’ rival-mongering is sad.
And hell, if that weren’t enough, now that we’re ranked #22, we’ll get a whole bunch of bandwagon fans who graduated from Kellogg having never gone to a single game asking us what an "Ariguzo" is while pretending to have followed the team since the heartbreak years. So look forward to that.
Oh hey, and also, there's this.
"Oregon State, UCLA, and Northwestern cannot be found on the map–zero counties picked them as their favorite team."
People fucking feel sorry for us.
Whenever I talk with somebody about Northwestern Football, I always get the same look. It’s a look in the other person’s eyes—they’re struggling to convey empathy for something they don’t understand, as if to say "wow, I have no idea what it’s like to root for a historically awful team that is now only beginning to kind of get noticed, but jeez, good on you for sticking with it". It’s the worst feeling ever. We lean on the fact that we were the only Big Ten team to go undefeated against the SEC this year, and everyone bites their tongue, not wanting to crush us by mentioning that we beat fucking Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.
I start to talk about our undersized, dynamic running back, and the way we run the read option, and our dual-QB offensive attack. The response might as well be "Oh, how cute. He thinks they’re a real football team". They look at the fact that we fucking think we stand a chance in hell against Ohio State and stifle piteous laughter. It’s like we’re god damned children, and nobody wants to tell us that Santa doesn’t exist.
Sure, we can beat anybody in the NCAA, but only for 3 quarters.
Everyone likes to talk about our margin of defeat—how we were 3 plays from an undefeated season or whatever. Doubtful. In each of our 3 losses, we were leading the opposing team going into the 4th quarter. We were leading Penn State by 11, until our defensive coordinator apparently just fucking left because he had to pick up his daughter from her soccer practice at New Trier. How the hell else does a team allow 22 fucking points in a quarter? Fucking how?
There is no other team in College Football where being ahead by 2 scores makes you feel like the team is losing. I was actually dreading a 4th quarter lead to the point where I literally rooted for the other team to, I don’t know, kick a field goal or something so that the game was tight enough that the team didn’t start playing babytown frolics football.
I could make an argument that we would lose to Maine this year, and the sad thing is that there would be Northwestern fans that would truly be scared, viewing it as a real possibility.
What the fuck are we expecting from this team?
Remember earlier when I said I had Rose Bowl dreams this year? Think about how funny that is. Not only did I say that about a team that until last year, had not won a bowl game since 1949, not only did I say that about a team that really only found its stride in the 1990s, and not only did I say that about a team who until recently, could not win a game while ranked, but holy shit have you seen our schedule this year? We play OSU, Michigan, Mich State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. We might be favored against Michigan State, but to win even one of those other games would be huge. We’d be very fortunate to get to 8 wins this year, let alone ten.
I have never seen a fan base go so quickly from biting their nails, hoping for bowl eligibility to true belief that their team has a shot at winning their division. Ever. This is a team that historically has been so bad that we would literally destroy our football field by tearing down the goalposts and throwing them into the lake every single time we won. And we won so rarely that it wasn’t even that big of a deal for the Athletics Department’s budget.
Granted, part of that is what makes Northwestern a great team to root for, that in the past few years, our success has been exponential—it only makes sense that we’d set the bar high.
But deep within, there’s a hope in each Northwestern fan that someday, Lee Corso will put on that Willie the Wildcat head on College GameDay.
It’ll never happen.
The Worst Wildcats of All Time
1: Stefan Demos
It’s just fucking salt in the wound that he turned out to be a perfectly serviceable AFL kicker after he graduated.
2: Those goddamned cougars in Red Dead Redemption
3: Darren Rovell. It takes a singular talent to be able to make sports completely utilitarian and boring. So, you know, kudos, you fuck.
4-infinity: Literally everyone who played for the team before 1989 (except for the Rose Bowl squad. Y’all are all right by me).
Why Our Team Sucks
Despite the fact that we actually have a really good team, the ‘Cats still haven’t really put together many full games despite having a ten-win season last year going into the bowl game. We’re so close, but never there. We have just slightly not enough talent at many positions, and it’s most notable in our secondary. It’s crushing to think how much better we could be if we could put together a complete team that can play four quarters.
Why Our Team Doesn’t Suck
Fitz. I can’t even jokingly make fun of the guy. I love him too much. He’s been a monster recruiter, and has almost single-handedly turned this team into a competitive force. He’s beloved on and off-campus by fans, respected by coaches around the country, and brings a youthful and GIF-friendly energy to the sidelines that electrifies the football experience.
Granted, yes, he has built a cult of personality around himself as a coach—willingly or otherwise—but hell, when has that ever gone wrong for a college football coach in the past?
Emails from ‘Cats Fans
Being a Northwestern football fan is like being a rag-clad beggar lying nearly starved to death in the middle of the street. Some guy in a purple helmet walks up to you and generously offers you a gourmet meal on a silver plate. Just as the food touches your lips and you ALMOST taste it, it is pulled away and handed to a fabulously wealthy and grotesquely obese viscount clad in scarlet and grey. Assholes like Lee Corso look on and pat you on the back about how nobly you endeavored to almost eat that food.
But hey, at least it's better than basketball season!
I categorically refuse to be a part of your insidious libel against Our Dear Fitz and the People's Democratic Republic of Wildcatinghamshire-upon-Avon
The best player on our sidelines, the most enthusiastic fan we've got, the heart of this team, (and the man whose wishes not to become the next Joe Paterno have been totally ignored), has been ineligible to play for the Wildcats since 1996.
Pat Fitzgerald is Northwestern Football. And the rest of Northwestern Football will never measure up. We will always live with the ghost of 1995's Fitz.
Northwestern is, in a nutshell, a tease. There are a lot of things about the team that everyone can agree are good: Football? Great, duh. Smart guys playing football? You'd expect smart players to be good players, sure. Supportive administration? Yeah! That's a new thing in these parts. Basically, every arrow is pointing up. However, every time the arrow points up, it gets smacked back down. Fourth-quarter leads, rankings, preseason expectations...every time something looks to be going well, it fails. And here's what I, sadly, have to compare it all to:
The Chicago Cubs from 1998-2008. Yeah, I'm a Cubs fan too.
The Cubs went to the playoffs four times in that span, and none more memorable than the 2003 season right in the middle featuring the five-outs-away Bartman-aided collapse in the NLCS. Everyone had optimism for this team, and they wanted more. Everything looked to be pointed up, but still, the Cubs managed to lose, either in the playoffs or the regular season. It hurt. It hurt a lot.
And that's what the Wildcats keep managing to do, raising expectations, and then crushing them. But we, sadistic fans that we are, keep watching, hoping that THIS is the year of something special. What do we want, just increasing success? There's a plateau somewhere, and the team will soon show us just where that is.
What really gets me about the 'Cats is a lack of a consistent strong finish. C'mon guys, this ain't hockey. You gotta worry about 4 quarters, not 3 periods. Can't tell you how many games I've witnessed gone south in the last quarter. Yeah, a good nailbiter of a game is fine every once in a while, but when every game begins to feel like the climax of a sports movie something's wrong.
Ed. note: it's even worse because it's always a sports movie where we're the bad guys.
The 'cats will NEVER win a BCS championship. Why? NO DEPTH. We could have starters capable of beating any NFL team, but the backups will be such scrubs we'll refuse to give them snaps, and then in the 4th quarter our starters will be so exhausted that Jerome Bettis could beat our secondary on a go route. Case in point: last season. HOW could a team that only spent 7 MINUTES of a whole fuckin' SEASON not winning only win 10 games? It's disgraceful. Northwestern may be great at shaping talent, but until we can recruit raw ability, we'll never be able to close out the games that count.
NU is finally good at football. And by good I mean actually pretty darn good. But nowhere NEAR good enough to make up for the utter futility that is NU men's basketball. I mean WHAT THE LIVING FUCK?!?!? Just when I think I can finally survive a conversation with Big 10 friends about sports, all they have to do is pretend they care about basketball and I might as well shoot myself in the middle of my own face. And it's not like they do care about basketball, oh no. It's that our hundred year quest to never play in the NCAA tourney is so impressively horrific that it's worth caring about. I mean, JESUS CHRIST.
Being a ‘Cats fan is a combination of blind optimism and willful denial, but what makes every 4th quarter loss hurt more is that we’re all smart kids. We know better. We know how our team is supposed to perform.
But hell, we all thought we’d suck last year. Look how that turned out.
See you at the Rose Bowl.