Spreading far the fame of the fair name: Inside a Northwestern alumni football watch party


Benjamin Rosenberg/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern alumni cheer on the Wildcats on Saturday at House Rules in San Francisco. NU defeated UNLV 30-14.

Benjamin Rosenberg, Web Editor


SAN FRANCISCO — Northwestern received the opening kickoff Saturday against UNLV and moved the ball swiftly down the field. In three plays, the Wildcats were in Rebels territory. Four plays after that, NU was inside the UNLV 20. And just two and a half minutes into the game, sophomore quarterback Hunter Johnson was in the end zone, giving the Cats the early lead.

The early score was important, especially after NU’s offensive struggles in its season opener at Stanford. But for those watching the game from House Rules in San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood, the touchdown meant something else — purple shots.

House Rules is San Francisco’s only Northwestern-affiliated bar, and it has become the go-to gathering spot for NU alumni in the Bay Area to watch football games.

“Two years ago, they approached us to see if they could have a group come and if we would become their sponsored bar of sorts,” bartender Rebecca Wood said. “It’s grown and grown. We’ll open early if it’s not a day that we would normally be open if it’s an early game.”

NU alumni from all over the Bay Area congregate at House Rules to catch up, reminisce about their college days and cheer on the Cats, with the bar handing out purple shots for every NU touchdown.

Andy Day (McCormick ‘11), programming chair for the Bay Area chapter of the NU alumni association, said as long as he is not attending the games in person, he will be watching from House Rules.

“For a game like UNLV, the attendance here will probably match the attendance at the game,” Day said. “But especially for some of the bigger games, I’ve been here when it’s been almost hard to find a place to stand and watch.”

Day said if he wants to catch up with friends who are NU alumni, they will frequently gravitate to House Rules even on a weekday. He named last year’s victory at Iowa, when the Cats clinched the Big Ten West title, as his favorite memory at the venue.

Sonia Nigam and Lindsay Rawitscher (both Weinberg ‘17) moved to San Francisco together immediately after graduation and said they attend the watch parties frequently. Nigam said they tried to watch last year’s Big Ten Championship Game at House Rules but left after they saw the crowd flowing out onto the sidewalk.

“Sometimes it’s actually pretty full, if it’s a big game against another Midwest school,” Rawitscher said. “People will bring friends from the other team. That’s when it’s really fun, when both teams are here. Then you can have fake beef.”

As the Cats gradually pulled away from the Rebels to win 30-14, the crowd at House Rules remained attentive, with the loudest cheer coming for Johnson’s first touchdown pass as a Wildcat — a beautiful 50-yard strike to sophomore receiver JJ Jefferson.

Wood said House Rules is the perfect spot for the NU alumni to gather, based on the size of the bar compared to the size of the crowds. Although she has no connection to Northwestern, Wood said she has become a Cats fan and is optimistic that the group will continue to watch games there. She also said she has enjoyed getting to know several of the regular alumni.

“You get to know what they drink, you get to know who’s going to start the chants, who’s going to save it till the end and who’s going to get excited at the beginning,” Wood said. “You get to know them all really well. It’s a really fun group of people, for sure.”

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