It’s not easy being purple.
There’s nothing I can take to numb the pain I feel this morning. Not Tylenol, not Aleve, not even a couple beers later on can temporarily lift the ache I feel in my heart.
My beloved Northwestern Wildcats, with yet another chance to break a nasty streak, faltered again last night, losing to Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, likely knocking them off the bracket when Selection Sunday comes.
Our men’s basketball team has never experienced March Madness. We haven’t won a bowl game since 1949.
In the spring of 1996, I decided that I was going to attend college at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
It was all positive. I had my academics. I had my sports.
I loved my time there and when I left, I bled purple.
Although I went on to cover sports for a living, I never lost my bias for my team. I haven’t missed a play of a Northwestern football game since my first day as a student there. That includes looking at my phone under the table at weddings and pretty much scheduling life around kickoff. When my wife was my girlfriend, she saw me almost destroy my apartment after we allowed Michigan State to set the record for the greatest comeback in college football history.
After years of listening to men’s basketball games on the radio, I was the first in my community to get the Big Ten Network a few years ago so I could watch all our games. I’m a freak. I still print out the media notes before every game.
This morning, the sports world is laughing at us. Those Northwestern nerds aren’t good enough, they say. Couldn’t close the deal. AGAIN. Too bad for them.
It’s hard to know how we feel, unless you’re a fan of the Chicago Cubs, who have had a similar run of bad luck. We’re not “just happy to be here.” We’re well past “moral victories.”
But I love being a Northwestern fan. I love being a Northwestern fan because it’s harder than being a fan of almost any other program. We don’t get anything free. And when we beat Ohio State in football or Michigan State in basketball, it’s that much sweeter.
We’re really a family.
I love being part of a team whose top brass know a higher percentage of its fans by name than anyone out there. I love sending an e-mail to our athletic director Jim Phillips and getting a reply less than a minute later. I love the fact that our football coach Pat Fitzgerald will invite me over to his house for dinner.
I love the fact that when I see people in Northwestern gear, I know they are true fans.
We wear purple for cryin' out loud.
We don’t have bandwagoners and there’s no one making knockoff Northwestern gear to sell on the New York City streets.
I’m in a lot of pain this morning. But I’ll get by with our loss. I have a bachelor’s degree in sports coping.
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