This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
The first post is about sharing, well, literally, how we got here. Why are you an NU fan? Why are you posting on this stupid website? Tell me in the comments - I wanna know. But first, I'll tell you my story.
Hey, I'm Rodger Sherman, and I'm part of the reason we can't get anybody from the surrounding areas around Evanston to follow our football team.
Northwestern doesn't have a breeding ground.
Illinois fans are overwhelmingly from Illinois, as are their students. Iowa fans are overwhelmingly from Iowa, as are their students.
Northwestern fans come from everywhere. My first NU game, I was in a row with about six kids from New York and this kid on my floor from Austria. The Outback Bowl, I was with kids from New Jersey, Texas, Florida, one other from New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida. And two from Illinois, the state where we go to school. No surprise we can't get local kids to dream of becoming Wildcats when their eyes might be set on Champaign.
I'm from... wait, where I am I from?
OH, YEAH. New York City. The Big Apple. The Mecca. The greatest city on planet Earth. I'm conceited, but, yo, NY til I die.
But New York is a wasteland for college football. College basketball is the second-highest level of the city's game, so we cared about that come tourney time, even caught a few Big East tourney games when that came to town. But college football? The closest FBS programs are Army and Rutgers, and, well, nobody cares. One kid in my grade was a big Notre Dame fan, and used to wear his green Brady Quinn jersey from time to time to get people annoyed. (Now he goes to Northwestern, and got really pumped last time I shouted him out in a blog post, so I figured I'd do it again.) But for the most part, we had no idea. I remember one night we all met up at a friends house, ordered some wings and beer specifically so we could watch some Kansas-Missouri game when both teams were highly ranked, but past occasional "Mark Mangino is fat" jokes, the focus was less on the game than on where we were going when the game ended, and I think we left before that even. College football wasn't on our minds. And if NU was on our minds, it certainly wasn't because of college football.
The first person I ever heard use the words "Northwestern University" that I know of was Michael Wilbon, on Pardon the Interruption. In 8-10th grades, I watched this show religiously, and every once in a while, Wilbon would rep his school, kinda like Tony Kornheiser occasionally throws in a reference to Binghamton, but way more frequently.
So in tenth grade, my mom asked me over lunch where I was thinking about applying to college. I had no freaking idea. I was in tenth grade. No tenth grader should be thinking about where they're applying to college. I hadn't even accumulated the lion's share of my high school C's that distinguish me from all the smart people at Northwestern. I told her I hadn't thought about it. She insisted that I name a place. I didn't want to. I decided to name a place that she didn't know about to quell the conversation as quickly as possible. I chose Northwestern. It seemed alright if Michael Wilbon went there, and they had a football team he talked about, and nobody from New York has ever, ever heard of Northwestern. (If you see someone on the street in NU gear, a "Go U" is kinda obligatory.) I kinda knew they had a journalism program, but I was just pulling things out of my ass at this point.
Sure enough, it killed the conversation.
A year and a half later, my parents and I went on a trip to look at colleges. I was thrilled, of course, because there's nothing better for an 11th grader than sitting in a car with his parents for a week when all his friends are back at home chilling, waiting for school to start. We visited some tiny liberal arts schools, in sleepy-ass towns in the middle of nowhere. We visited some state schools, with three campuses, 40,000 students. We'd already visited some schools in New York that were a 2.25 subway ride away from my house. We visited UChicago, where I convinced myself I'd kill myself.
And we visited Northwestern. It was a nice day, not like the crappy weather we actually get nine months of the year. The tour guide was this bro-ey dude, and somewhere around what I now know is the Lakefill, he stopped and talked about what he loved about the school. I don't remember most of it, because like every other tour guide, it's always the same stuff, mixed in with an obligatory "I'm walking backwards!" joke. (Trust me. It gets old.) But I remember he mentioned the thing that sounded better than any other thing I'd ever heard. Fall saturdays. Tailgating, and then going to see Big Ten football. He mentioned it in passing. By this point, I knew Northwestern sports sucked, so I kind of expected him to gloss over this. But... he mentioned it. As one of the best things about going to the school. This, friends, was huge.
We had a college advisor at my high school. She asked me what I thought my favorite school was. I said I liked Northwestern. She told me not to apply, because my grades weren't that good. (Remember all those C's I was talking about? Yeah, that. Ever met any person not a scholarship athlete at the school with some of those in high school?As far as I can tell, I'm the only one. And even half of the scholarship athletes had straight A's in high school!)
Because I'm stupid, I ignored her, and applied anyway.
In Cuba, I smoked a few Cuban cigars. I'm not a cigar connoisseur, but I knew right then and there that it tasted like victory. Carry on.
I'm halfway done with my college experience. I don't ever want to miss a Northwestern home football game. I missed one home basketball game - I was being initiated into my fraternity that night, which I was told was sorta non-negotiable.
Northwestern is this one perfect place, where, like, I can be around these insanely smart people at this world-renowned university, and still watch my team swim with the big fishes every Saturday. For over a hundred years, we've been hopelessly out of place in this conference of mega-state schools. Well, we're still out of place. But it's great to meet up six times a year and watch us beat those other guys.