Perils of being an Cats fan (Column)

Wade Askew

Last Saturday I experienced my first Big Ten road trip following our beloved Wildcats to Columbus, Ohio. By Sunday, I felt like all of my energies as a fan were utterly and completely spent.

Perhaps it was the absolute throttling at the hands of the Buckeyes that left me prone and in the fetal position. Or it could have been the fact that this humbling defeat came after two straight weeks in which I was in person to witness my two favorite teams on this planet suffer demoralizing kick-in-the-groin losses (Georgia to South Carolina in Athens, Ga. followed by NU to Duke in Evanston).

Or maybe it was the fact that somewhere between the first beverage thrown at my direction Friday night at an on-campus party in Columbus and the 173rd time I was on the receiving end of a “F— Northwestern!” chant, I realized that Ohio State’s long-standing reputation of having the most foul, vulgar and, well, fanatic, fans was well-deserved.

Regardless of the causes of my lowly state, by the time I sat in front of my hotel TV to watch my beloved Bulldogs take on the fighting Nick Sabans of Alabama, I was emotionally numb. In fact, I needed a quick halftime trip to the Waffle House adjacent to my Travelodge to refuel and prepare for the next two hours of soul-wrenching football.

After devouring my double waffle and hash browns (scattered, smothered, covered, chunked and diced for you 17 other Southerners reading this who care about these things), I watched Georgia nearly choke up a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and was ready to give up on sports altogether.

But then, much like that first glorious rainbow sent from the sky as a covenant to Noah, Matthew Stafford lofted a heavenly 25-yard pass to the 157-pound speed demon otherwise known as Mikey Henderson, and I was redeemed. The pass was my very own covenant, sent down from the football gods, promising me that while sometimes fandom feels like running through a gauntlet of scarlet-clad Buckeyes who’d love nothing more than to make you feel sub-human, every once in a while we get the moments of glory that bring us back.

Being a fan isn’t easy, especially at NU these days. Two weeks ago I expected a 7-5 season out of the Cats and thought 8-4 was a realistic possibility. Now, I’m scrambling to regain my reputation amongst the friends whom I prepared for a great NU season and am just praying for a healthy Tyrell Sutton.

As NU fans, all we can do now is hold out for one of those Stafford-to-Henderson moments, the kind that remind us why we’re fans in the first place. While it is admittedly ridiculous and perhaps a bit disgusting that the well-being of my favorite college football teams profoundly impacts my own emotional health, there’s no cutting such a connection once you’re that attached to a team.

The good news is that NU has a history of giving us those rainbow moments that assure us that everything will be alright. Whether it was the 1995 Rose Bowl season, the 2004 Ohio State overtime victory under the makeshift Ryan Field lights, or even last year’s improbable Iowa victory that gave us (to-date unsubstantiated) hope for this season, the post-1995 Cats have always had an odd way of delivering one of those special moments just in time to keep us from enlisting the help of a shrink.

Let’s just hope that moment comes this Saturday against Michigan.