On New Year's Day, the beloved Northwestern Wildcats football team won the Gator Bowl, beating Mississippi State 34-20. It was their first bowl victory since winning the Rose Bowl in 1949. (I mean, even Moses only had to wander in the desert for just 40 days.) It was a joy to see, having started going to NU football games when I was 7 -- but as pleased as I was myself, I was most thrilled for my dad, who taught on the NU medical school faculty for decades, and was a season-ticket holder for...51 freaking years. That's the definition of a football fan (or total loon...) -- it's easy to follow a team that wins, but he kept going through the 34-game losing streak, through seasons when crossing the 50-yard line was a moral victory, through snow, cold and rain, when they were the losingest football team in NCAA history. For 51 years. And he kept traveling to bowl games, hoping to be there for a win. He couldn't go to this one, but he watched. And finally got to see the Wildcats win.
Making this all the better:
We always had a family tradition. "Dad, can we go to the Rose Bowl this year." "Sure, if Northwestern is in it." Needless-to-say, we never went. But then 1996 came along. When Northwestern got into the bowl game, my dad went to the campus directly to get tickets, rather than risk mail. There was, of course, a loooong line of students. And amid this loooong line of students, waiting to buy a ticket, there was one 75-year-old senior citizen. And one-by-one, ALL the students in line saw him, figured he must REALLY love Northwestern football, and they all had the presence of mind and remarkable decency to let him pass through the entire line, go to the front, and get tickets before any of them.
I always liked Northwestern a whole, since a little kid. That day entrenched them for me, forever.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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