Ryan: After defeats, loss of trust is warranted


Dan Ryan, Reporter

I once read in a college guidebook that “going to Northwestern is like having a beautiful girlfriend who treats you like (crap).”

Now, I’ve thought about that sentence more than a few times in my college career, usually once midterms start up or after a long night at the Keg, but I have never been so bitter after a sports loss to accuse NU of treating me badly. Until Saturday.

It’s gotten cold again in Evanston, as it often does, and last weekend I couldn’t help but interpret the sudden shift in weather patterns as a final insult added to the injury that was the Minnesota loss. I’ll let someone else determine the sanity of my connection.

But that certainly wasn’t the only change in the air on Saturday, nor was it the most noticeable. NU’s fan base also became cold toward the Wildcats after an ugly performance against a subpar team. There wasn’t a feeling of anger so much as indifference floating around Ryan Field. After all, you can only let someone treat you poorly for so long before you walk out on them.

Look, I love the Cats as much as anyone. I would probably give up a number of my possessions and maybe even miss my best friend’s wedding to see them in the Rose Bowl (sorry Bgrams). That being said, we’ve all more than paid our dues as fans these past few years, and I think it’s time to start demanding something in return for our investment.

In my time here, I’ve witnessed some miserable performances by this team. Starting out 5-0 in 2010 only to lose six of the last eight games. The entire 2011 season. And I don’t have to explain last year’s Nebraska and Michigan games to any Cats fan.

So maybe when the program spends the offseason building up everyone’s hopes, we’re allowed to walk away when the team turns in back-to-back embarrassing performances, as it did against Wisconsin and Minnesota. Maybe when talk about improving the athletic programs results in more of the same, excruciating losses, the fans are allowed to let Ryan Field remain empty on game day.

Our athletic department has certainly moved on quickly; the last time I checked, the intro page to NUSports.com was advertising basketball season tickets instead of pumping up the Michigan game. Go Cats!

This is not to say that NU cannot or will not realize its dream of becoming Stanford, a school boasting elite academics alongside elite athletics. But the Cats are kidding themselves if they think they’ve earned the right to more support from students by winning one bowl game. If you’ve been watching the past, say, 10 years of NU sports, you know there’s a lot of emotional damage to repair.

We’ve got trust issues, to say the least.

Of course, I’ll still be watching the game on Saturday, but I suspect it’ll be difficult to find someone willing to watch it with me. I imagine the most common response will be something like, “You’re watching the game? Why the hell would you want to do that?”

And it’s hard to blame them. At some point, enough is enough.

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Twitter: @DanRyan_NU