Northwestern’s current football season is a firework. Not like the fireworks that sparkle and dazzle and spew several crackling colors. It’s one of those defective fireworks that has a long sparkly tail, only to let out a tiny poof of air when it finally explodes – no shimmer, no crackle, no wow. The kind of firework that fails to live up to its promising hype and leaves you disappointed.
OK, maybe my readers are not as emotionally invested as I am in fireworks, but we can all agree that this football season has been a gigantic gut-punch to NU fans everywhere. After such a promising start to the season by winning four games in a row, we got our hearts broken by the Ohio State Buckeyes. A Facebook friend posted that Ohio State was NU’s “kryptonite,” and I agree. Since losing to Ohio State, we have dropped five straight games, making our Big Ten conference record 0-5. I suspect the remaining games against conference foes Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois won’t be much better.
Ohio State was obviously a crushing loss. A sold-out Ryan Field watched as the Wildcats failed to convert on fourth down and bungled a Hail Mary attempt at the last second, giving the Buckeyes a go-ahead defensive touchdown. It was so heart-wrenching that I ripped up my $8 rain poncho and threw out my student-section rally towel when I walked out of the stadium.
After the loss, I complained and shouted to my boyfriend and whined to my parents. But after a day of grief, I sprang back and recognized that we are still a great team with a dedicated fanbase. Tickets were completely sold out, and we played like a winning team. The day after the Ohio State game, I still thought that we could make it to the Big Ten Championship if we won out the rest of our season. Then we lost five games in a row, and I gave up all hope.
There has been a lot of talk surrounding the hype of NU football this season, and I can’t help but think that I was part of this hype that contributed to the downfall of our team. I certainly did not have any reasonable expectations at the beginning of the season. I bragged to family members and friends at home that NU stood a good chance of beating Ohio State and winning the Big Ten Championship, perhaps even appearing in the Rose Bowl.
Now that we are more than halfway through the season, I realize that I, along with many students and NU fans, contributed to the hype that may have killed our team’s chances. The gigantic hype built up over coach Pat Fitzgerald, College GameDay and a possible Big Ten Championship made our team afraid of losing and disappointing the fans. After the Ohio State loss, we psyched ourselves out. I’m no college football analyst, but this phenomenon may explain our recent five-game loss.
Coming into NU, I knew that we were the underdogs of the Big Ten. Yet every season, I still hold out hope that we can electrify the college football nation with an undefeated season and a Rose Bowl victory. Maybe next season I should lower my expectations and hope for just a bowl game, keep my expectations modest. In order to still cheer on the Cats but not perpetuate a cycle of hype and missed expectations, I’m aiming to dream small next season.