September brings the return of football season. Baseball had the sporting world to itself in July and August (with the exception of the Olympics and a few sports that not too many people care about), but those days are gone now.
Yesterday was September 1, and football season began with college games. The NFL, which I stopped caring about in the late 1980s, starts play next weekend. But for now, there’s football in the air, for the first time since the end of the Super Bowl many months ago.
The only college team I can get worked up over is my alma mater, the Northwestern Wildcats. When I was at school there in the late 1980s, they were as terrible as a football team could be. The marshmallow fights that raged in the student section during the games were more interesting than anything on the field. Jangling your keys during a kickoff (and there were many of them during a typical game) was a chance to participate in the action in some small way. And I can’t remember which team’s fans started laughing at our team’s ineptitude after running a long touchdown play, but it really doesn’t matter which one it was. Hearing their laughter in the first place was bad enough.
In the four years that I was an undergraduate, the football team won eight games. Eight wins is a disappointing year for some football teams, but that’s all I got to see in four years. Two of those wins came against Illinois, so it’s not all bad, I suppose.
Things have improved dramatically since then, starting in 1995. Pat Fitzgerald will be around as the coach for many years to come, and he’ll keep the football program moving in a direction that’s both competitive on the field and successful in the classroom. He’ll make sure that the “student” part of student-athlete comes first, as it should be.
So playing, and winning, a road game against Syracuse yesterday was the best start to a season that can be anticipated. It was apparently an exciting, even thrilling, game to watch, but I was out with my family and have to learn about it through second-hand accounts in the news. Win or lose, I’m proud to be affiliated with a school that does it the right way in college football. Now bring on Vanderbilt!