Good things come to those who wait. Back when I was an underaged Northwestern undergrad, circa 1972, football and basketball, the "big" sports of the Big Ten, were an afterthought, or more truthfully, a non-thought for most of the student body. The last place football team had just graduated Mike Adamle, its only star, and the basketball team was rooted even more deeply in the cellar. I got my education, my degree, my med school admission without once getting the nerve to scream out "Go Cats!" And no one cared.
I didn't even think about NU athletics until the mid '90s. Then came Fitz, Darnell Autry, Gary Barnett and an upset win at Notre Dame. Son Michael pushed me onto the bandwagon and with him I went to Evanston to watch NU play for the first time in over 20 years. Soon there was a Big Ten Football Championship and I almost won Rose Bowl tickets from Roy Leonard, my WGN radio favorite.
But then Barnett left for Colorado, Fitz and Autry graduated and after a few years Purple Fever lost its heat.
Despite the cooling, Mike and I maintained a tradition of one NU football game a year. We cringed through critical broken bones (receiver D'wayne Bates), historic blown leads (against Michigan State 2006) and a scary road trip to Madison. We threw in a basketball game now and then, highlighted bywatching 6th year Senior Evan Eschmeyer and his 'Cats lose in the NIT to local rival DePaul.
This year, basketball hopes and hoops were of a higher caliber. Then Mike and I sat in the cheap seats for the Northwestern-Illinois game last month. As we left Welsh Ryan Arena with all the other disappointed fans, I thought the NCAA Tournament dream was ending again. But no--some big late season wins and here we are, dancing! The exciting first round win aided by bad Vanderbilt mistakes, clutch free throws, and lots of screen time for player-mom Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Tomorrow we face number one seed Gonzaga, a school that was almost unheard of not that long ago. I'm afraid that game maybe a rough one, but as Michael told me, I need to just sit back and enjoy the ride. And always be proud to scream out "Go 'Cats."
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