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Homecoming at Northwestern! And a Football Preview Too!

More Fun at Homecoming

Last night’s SpiriTeam Reunion was great. We got together at The Celtic Knot in Evanston and shared tales and a meal. It was great to meet Spirit Leaders, Grinders/Grynders, and Band Geeks from both before and after my time of service.

Afterwards, we went to NUMB’s Thursday night Spirit Session and watched the current band do their thing spirit-wise. It was really interesting to see how the traditions have morphed over the years since I was the Spirit Leader (during the Dark Times). Essentially, it has been many many generations of SpiriTeams since my time. The biggest difference was the hats - the Spirit Leader and Grinder/Grynder hats have changed radically since I had the honor of wearing one of the hats. (I’ll explain the hats later.) The cheers have changed somewhat, as has the cadence. There are some new traditions while others have faded. We were honored by the current Band, which was nice. All in all it was like a family reunion - the type that you actually want to attend.

Tonight was the Pep Rally and the Homecoming Parade. I will say that the local spirit has changed radically since my time. The mayor of Evanston was in attendance and was given applause. The head of Northwestern University (Morton Schapiro) is an enthusiastic supporter of the students, the faculty, and athletics (especially football) at NU. He was very fired up about the Homecoming game tomorrow. The Homecoming honoree was Professor Dale Mortensen, this year’s Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics - and a long time NU Professor. He is also enthusiastic about the Wildcats.

Folks, this is the kind of education you get at Northwestern - Nobel Prize winners on the faculty. You *want* to come here.

The Pep Rally really got cranked up with Coach Fitzgerald addressing the crowd, getting everyone fired up, and getting everyone excited. I was especially struck by his obvious affection for the Marching Band. He “directed” NUMB on a couple of things - Darth Vader’s Theme/The Imperial March - and Go U Northwestern! He knows all the words and led the crowd in singing the fight song.

I can tell you that NU’s football coach when I was there did not know the Fight Song. He didn’t much care for NUMB either. Which was really churlish when you consider that we were the only group consistently cheering on the football team game after game, loss after loss.

Coach Fitz is a class act. And very genuine. He’s a keeper.

After finishing the Pep Rally with the Alma Mater, I lined up with the rest of the NUMBALUMs and marched down Sheridan. We alternated Go U! and Push On! interspersed with a drum cadence. By the time we finished near Patten Gym, I was winded, but very happy with the crowd reaction. The school is definitely more spirited than when I was there. The city of Evanston is also more supportive.

Predicting Victory Against Michigan State

Tomorrow is the game. And I get to march again. I have to rise before dawn and get to the stadium to learn and practice the drill for halftime. So I will make this very quick and direct…

Like last year’s Iowa game, the Wildcats are heavy underdogs. It took real faith and belief to imagine that NU had any chance to win that game. Tomorrow requires similar faith that the Wildcats have something special and can pull off a huge upset.

After hearing Coach Fitzgerald talk about victory despite the odds, I’m convinced that NU can once again rise to the occasion. I’m thinking that this week there is no “Bad” or “Probable.” There is only the “Best” - a Wildcat victory despite the odds. I’m predicting Northwestern 31 - Michigan State 24.

This Week in Wildcat Football 15 Years Ago - Badger Beat Down

On 21 October 1995, the now 5 - 1 Wildcats entered the game against the Wisconsin Badgers with many people actually favoring the Wildcats. You cannot imagine what that was like. It was really strange to see the Cats considered to be the favorite. They did not disappoint. The Wildcats destroyed the Badgers in a convincing 35 - 0 blowout in front of the home crowd.

The now 6 - 1 Wildcats were considered shoo-ins for a bowl appearance for the first time in decades. The alumni were really excited about the prospect of going to any bowl game. Coach Barnett declared that the goal was to take the Purple to Pasadena.

It still seemed outrageous at the time. But for the first time in generations, it seemed possible.

But there were more challenges ahead.

Go ‘Cats!

BJ Mitchell (Former NUMB Spirit Leader)



1 comment:

  1. There is a good clip on ESPN where one of the better guys they have picks us for the upset. To me it isn't a big upset, and it is going to happen I would put money down if I did that sort of thing.