Warren: When experiencing history, appreciate the good memories


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Purple-clad fans cheer on the Wildcats during Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis.

Peter Warren, Sports Editor

INDIANAPOLIS — As junior running back John Moten broke through the final wave of the defense in the first quarter Saturday, the collective of Northwestern fans in the northeast corner of Lucas Oil Stadium burst into excitement.

When he hit the 50, I jumped for joy. When he blew past the 30, I almost tackled my friend in excitement. When he crossed into endzone, I entered into a state of complete euphoria.

It’s fair to say that NU does not always have the biggest or most boisterous crowds. While I’ve stood in a packed Ryan Field, I have also been one of six people standing in the student section at Allstate Arena at the opening tip of a men’s basketball game.

But this day was different.

For all the students who took the trek out from Evanston by a university-supplied coach bus or other means of transportation, they experienced one of the biggest games in Cats history with a supporters section to match.

Watching the game from the student section was an adventure in itself. To be in a section with more than 10,000 fellow fans cheering with you as Clayton Thorson scampers into the endzone or yelling at the refs to overturn a fumble when watching a video replay on a jumbotron is something to be experienced, and tough to fully describe with words.

For almost all of the students who made the trek, it was a long day. People were lining up at Norris hours before the noon check-in time, and by 11 a.m., the line was way out the door. Throw in a four-hour bus ride and a multiple-hour wait before the game started (and the thought of a long ride back), it took a lot of moving parts to get to Section 105 or 402 or 206 by gametime.

But the fans did, and they did not fade as time went on. The Moten run was, in my mind, the peak of the fan section’s jubilation. There were plenty of close runners-up, from Thorson’s and Cam Green’s TD to Montre Hartage’s interception to Jelani Roberts’ long reception. Three of those came in the second half, and all of them when the Cats were losing, yet the fans of the Purple kept on cheering and believing.

Obviously, the end result was not the one fans wanted. Every single person waving a purple towel wanted Pat Fitzgerald, Clayton Thorson and all 100-plus members of the team to lift the Stagg Championship Trophy. But it was not meant to be.

With the clock winding down and Ohio State starting to take a knee, I sat down for the first time during live action all day and began to take it all in — the stadium, the teams, the games, the moments and my fellow fans. I was glad I was there, and I wanted to be back in 371 days.

But for as much as the Big Ten Championship Game is one of NU’s main goals, it is no guarantee this will happen again.

When Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkley and Penn State won the 2016 Big Ten Championship, I’m sure they all believed they would play in downtown Indianapolis once again. They never did. Neither did Nebraska or Iowa after their first appearances. At least those teams can say they went. Michigan, one of the biggest programs in history, has spent the first Saturday of December at home every single year.

With that being said, the loss will sting, but it will not sour the memory. This day was about the game, but it was also about a lot more than that.

As cliche as this sounds, it was about a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience something most people never will. The only difference is that instead of wearing red or blue, everyone was wearing purple.

Years from now, when I retell the story of this day, I will not start with the defeat or sadness. It will be the story of watching Moten run down the far sideline and that realization that he was going to score.

Here I was, in one of the coolest venues in the country, cheering on with thousands of fans and believing that the Cats were on their way to making history.

Some might take that as me looking back with rose-colored glasses. Maybe so. But I’d rather hold onto the good times than the bad ones.

I hope you do too.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @thepeterwarren