When I think of this football season, I think of the proverbial Sweet 16th birthday in which nothing went according to plan. The one where you invited all the right people, planned all the right activities -- maybe even picked up a six-pack of O'Douls -- and yet, despite your best laid plans, the shit still somehow hit the fan. In fact, the fan-shit encounter wasn't even benign enough that we could clean it up with Windex and some elbow grease. We're talking a full-blown, weird-kid-in-kindergarten level of shit splatter, as if Quentin Tarantino were invited to direct the sequel to 2 Girls 1 Cup (presumably titled 3 Girls, 1 cups).
So here we are. A team with lofty Rose Bowl aspirations, now 4-5. We've lost to good teams, we've lost to decent teams, and we've lost to Minnesota. The season that was "meant to be" has come to a dejected and reluctant hope for a bid in the San Diego Sodomy Bowl®; our Sweet 16 party has ended in blood, tears and the feeling of beer-heaviness without the reward of being drunk.
I am writing this article to plead with you as a fellow student and undying adorer of this school: Don't give up on our 'Cats.
Our game against Michigan tomorrow is as important as any. If we win this game, we'll have a very good shot at making a bowl game (even if it is the bowl game equivalent of the 8th place Brown Ribbons I regularly received in swim tournaments as a child). Michigan's sports program is one of the most storied in the whole country, and a win against them is always huge, especially considering how devastating last year's overtime loss was. On a more personal level, my experiences show that between 40 and 50% of Northwestern students have ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends at Michigan. This is a game we really want to win.
But our persistent faith in this team shouldn't hinge upon the fact that we're playing Michigan. This moment is emblematic of a choice that we all eventually make about Northwestern: Are we true, dedicated, undying fans of this sports program, or are we just fair weather fans? It's delightful to root for a team that does well, but at the end of the day, a sports program is only as good as its fans. No matter how much money we spend on facilities, recruits or publicity, our football team will never reach its true potential if we can't fill out a smaller-than-average student section on a Saturday afternoon.
What it comes down to is this: Our team deserves our fanhood. Yes, we've lost a lot of games this year, but they have fought tooth-and-nail for every yard. 4 out of our 5 losses have been close games, and 3 of them have come down to the last seconds. We're lucky to have a sports program that can hold its own in the Big Ten, even if we've come out on the losing end more than we like. Just remember, we could be UChicago, and not have any football (or sex).
Unless you are happy to be a fair weather fan, there are no excuses to be missing tomorrow's game. I don't give two shits about your Econometrics midterm on Monday. You can better learn about Economics by maximizing the use of your sunk tuition costs. It's going to be a beautiful, crisp autumn afternoon, and it's a perfect opportunity for us all to give ourselves a damn break and take the afternoon off. And if you don't like football, then come for the uniforms. They're pretty.
Win or lose, we have a sports program to be truly proud of. Let's celebrate that.