Friday isn't just the beginning of a new year, and it's not just a day our football team plays a bowl game.
It's also the 61st anniversary of January 1st, 1949: Northwestern's first and only bowl victory. This was 61 years ago. As the title notes, 61 years is a long freaking time. I've been trying to figure out an appropriate way to demonstrate this. First, I wanted to do an NU football timeline, but it was too depressing chronicling all the unfortunate happenings, and was like 400 pages long by the time I was halfway done with it. Instead, accept this comparison of January 1, 2010 and January 1st, 1949.
I'd like to apologize to any readers I may have who are 62+ years of age for a) making it seem like dinosaurs and stuff were still around in your lifetime and b) being a young whippersnapper writing an article that seems disrespectful of all y'all elders and the good ol' days. Not necessarily the case: I just find it fascinating that Northwestern hasn't won a bowl for such a long freaking time, and that the world was such a remarkably different place back yonder. If anybody who saw a football game before 1949 and is reading this would like to come forward, I'm kinda fascinated.
Consider all information Wikipedia'd.
Oh, and I started writing this article before the Daily's two great articles about the 1949 Rose Bowl (which covers a few of the same things as here.) and Pat Fitzgerald's Bob Voigts-iness, and before Lindsey Willhite's blog post yesterday about how different basketball was the last time NU was ranked. I'm not a good author, but at the very least I'm not a plagiarist.
The Rose Bowl was one of four bowls in the 1948 football season, meaning old-timey college football fans were deprived of the opportunity to witness the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Then again, they couldn't watch the Rose Bowl either, because it wasn't televised.
Northwestern was the second team in what was then the Big Nine conference - UChicago had backed out of the conference in 1946, and wouldn't get replaced until May of 1949, when Michigan State filled that spot. The reason the Cats made it to Pasadena despite being second in the conference was because Michigan, who had appeared in the Rose Bowl the year before, had won the conference, and a Rose Bowl rule prevented teams from playing in back-to-back Rose Bowls. This, like Michigan being good at football, is no longer the case.
Football was a moderately different game. First off, it looked like this:
- That's Tom Worthington picking off a California pass. If you think any of those guys would last more than 28 seconds on the field at the Outback Bowl Friday, well, ya dead wrong. First off, all of them would suffer life-altering brain injuries when the hellish titanium enforced concussion machines impacted those facemaskless leather things whose main purposes were to keep a guys head from falling apart and protect their ears, whereas today's help making leading with your head deliver monster hits. While we're talking about uniforms, it should be noted that NU's uniforms in 1949 actually featured Northwestern striping on their sleeves, as opposed to our current uniforms, which are some cookie-cutter things Adidas supplies us with no individuality based on the school they're giving it to. But, moving on. The game was primarily running-based back then, and most guys played both ways. Also, no overtime (now, they have overtime, as you probably found out last year.), and no two-point conversions. Seriously. No two-point conversions.
- I mean, don't two-point conversions just seem so obvious nowadays? How did it take them so long to figure out? It kind of scares me that this hasn't been a part of the game since its inception, because perhaps this means the NFL will someday take a hint from Northwestern IM referees and start including the three point conversion from the 15 yard line, used only by really risky coaches, or that one really dicky team that's made up of like all 24-year old grad students and is up by three touchdowns but missed an extra point along the way and wants to make sure that you can't come back even though there are only three minutes left plus they want to practice scoring from 15 yards out anyway so that when they play a more difficult opponent they can be more ready YEAH I HAD SOME BAD EXPERIENCES PLAYING CO-REC FOOTBALL FRESHMAN YEAR.
On to the obvious stuff: Harry S Truman was president. Harry freaking Truman. Even more old-timey is the fact that he was still serving out Franklin Delano Roosevelt's term. Therefore, if Roosevelt hadn't died of a stroke at the beginning of his fourth term, he still would have been serving as president the last time Northwestern won a bowl. Then again, if Roosevelt hadn't died, it's likely that Roosevelt would have been elected to a fifth term, then a sixth term, and so on and so forth, and it would be likely that further cyborg/zombie Roosevelts would still be serving as President today. (Tasteless.)
My parents weren't born yet. Pat Fitzgerald wasn't born yet. Morty Schapiro wasn't born yet. Not to get all tragic on you, but Randy Walker wasn't even born yet. Walker was born in 1952, meaning that in Walker's 52 years, he was never once alive in a season where Northwestern won a bowl.
- Ryan Field was still called "Dyche Stadium." And Northwestern football wasn't yet associated with unrelenting failure.
- As for the Outback Bowl, well, it was 27 years from being in existence, and Outback Steakhouse was 29 years away from being founded, considering fast food as we know it today, let alone the concept of a family-style sit-down American restaurant with an Australian decor theme, was not yet invented.
- As for post-season bowls in Tampa, there was one: the Cigar Bowl, so called because of Tampa's then thriving cigar industry and still thriving Cuban population. The bowl was founded in 1946 and finished by 1954, featuring minor college teams. The edition held on January 1st, 1949 was a 13-13 tie between Missouri Valley College (hasn't had a football team in years) and the University of St. Thomas (a DIII school from Minnesota.) Other schools featured in the Cigar Bowl's brief turn on this mortal coil were Lenoir-Rhyne College, Wofford, a then non-prominent Florida State, and my grandparents' alma mater of the University of Havana, who lost 55-0 to Southern Miss in 1946. Luckily, I don't think either of them ever cared much for football, and neither of them spoke English in 1946, so, I doubt neither of them were too beaten up about La Universidad's shutout. Anyway, you can tell this took place a long time ago, because Cuban university football teams stopped playing exhibition American football matches against American college teams around the same time my family left Cuba. That is, a long time ago.
- 1949 in film featured such films as "I was a Male War Bride" (what?) and "Jolson Sings Again", but the movie that caught my eye is "Father was a Fullback". Take it away, Wikipedia!
Suck it, Notre Dame! Ignoring how blatantly silly that plot is - yeah, because if there's one thing that makes your average jock become attracted to a weird ugly person is their ability to write captivating prose - I really wish life was more like this film, because it would have made the past few months of ESPN's coverage of anything more bearable. Around the Horn would be way more bearable if instead of their usual ND blather, it was just like "well, Charlie Weis is the one to blame here: his daughter just can't write a compelling novella for her life. I mean, if it wasn't for Jim Tressel's daughter's short story-writing capabilities, Terrelle Pryor never would have spent fruitless months wooing her before deciding on OSU, and if the Weis family can't pump out high school football player swoon-inducing light romantic novels, well, the golden domers have to go in a different direction if they want to turn that program around."
On top of the Billboard music charts on January 1, 1949 was "All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth." This shows that the definition of "Top 40" has changed so much in the top 60 years I can't begin to describe, because I cannot imagine the sheer quantity of people that would get merked if any party anywhere in the United States featured the song "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth". The only thing old-timier than this are those really impractical looking bicycles with the one really big wheel and the one really little wheel.
- However, the biggest musical development of 1949 was the invention of the 45 RPM record: the single, the seven inch disc that most popular music was sold on for about 30 years. The year before saw the invention of the 33 RPM, or the LP, which holds about a half hour of music per side. Before that, the most efficient method of listening to music was the 78 RPM: a heavy vinyl disc a bit smaller than the LP which held about two and a half minutes of music per side, and weighed about as much as my iPhone which holds about 5,000 songs, and also, is a phone. Before the LP was introduced, there was essentially no such thing as an album as we know it today: some classical pieces were released in multi-record sets that took up bookshelves, but for the most part, all recorded music up until 1948 was limited to five minutes in length. I'm a moderately avid record collector, (if you don't believe me, peep the vinyls in the left side of my guitar icon next to my name) so I know what I'm talking about here: the 78 is seriously ancient technology and up until about the time NU won their last bowl, it was the primary source of music.
On August 28 of 1949, the final six surviving Civil War veterans had their final meeting. Yeah, just sayin'.
You know China, the country? Heard of it? Well, China wasn't a country until midway through 1949, another thing you think they could've figured out.
- The Yankees won the 1949 World Series. Well, some things never change, punks.
- A gallon of gas cost roughly a quarter, and a six-pack of Coke cost 23 cents, meaning not only had people not figured out that those things should be more expensive, also, they hadn't figured out how to sell things for prices ending in the number nine as opposed to just picking arbitrary numbers. They would've done terribly on The Price is Right, especially because Bob Barker was still like 12 years old and nothing you could purchase in 1949, including houses, was worth more than 48 cents, making the show extremely boring.
State College football coach George Cooper (Fred MacMurray) has more than enough problems on the job without his teenage daughter Connie (Betty Lynn) complicating his life at home. Connie is convinced she's unattractive to the opposite sex and wallows in self pity. Resigning herself to a loveless existence, Connie decides to make literature her life. When a fictional article she pens about a teenage bubble dancer appears in a confessions magazine, the boys come calling. The young authoress dates a high school football star from across town who chooses to attend State College (rather than Notre Dame) to be near his new found sweetheart. George's gridiron and domestic problems are solved.
Point being: 61 years is a long, long time.
Friday is Northwestern's opportunity to keep this streak from surviving long enough to celebrate its 62nd birthday next January. Let's do it.