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Sporting: I Miss Northwestern Football’s Losing Tradition

The soccer workforce at my alma mater, Northwestern, is having a sexy just right season. As soon as, that may have overjoyed me. Now, it simply makes me uneasy.

The primary recreation I attended at N.U. used to be a doozy: The Wildcats beat Northern Illinois on Sept. 25, 1982, to damage what stays the longest dropping streak (34 video games) in Department I-A historical past. My classmates streamed onto the sector at Dyche Stadium to dismantle the function posts in triumph and deposit them in Lake Michigan. The workforce went directly to a dropping season, although: It were a very long time because the days when the long run Notre Dame legend Ara Parseghian used to be its rather a hit trainer, or even longer since Northwestern had long gone to the Rose Bowl.

We’d were extremely joyful if the workforce had gained extra video games (it didn’t have a successful season till 1995), however we consoled ourselves by way of taking a type of perverse delight in our losses. Because the Wildcats have been being pounded by way of Large Ten fighters — particularly our downstate rival, the College of Illinois — the N.U. scholars within the stands would chant, “That’s all proper, that’s O.Ok., you’re going to paintings for us sooner or later!” Obnoxious and classist, sure, however pleasurable.

After I labored for the sports activities segment of the campus newspaper, we’d dutifully write options concerning the hopes and goals of the soccer gamers at first of the season. Then, because the season rolled on, we might simply as dutifully document their losses subsequent to accounts of the exploits of the college’s actual celebrity athletes: the sector hockey workforce.

And that used to be all proper, that used to be O.Ok., as a result of no one went to Northwestern for its soccer prowess. I don’t recall ever assembly a fellow scholar who regretted taking a cross on Ohio State since the soccer there used to be higher. If just a few of our gamers were given jobs within the N.F.L., that used to be all proper and O.Ok., too.

So it’s been disconcerting in recent times to look Northwestern be aggressive within the Large Ten and often seem in bowl video games. At this time, as The Instances noted with bemusement last week, it leads its division, with a 5-1 conference record.

The school has invested plenty in the team; a couple of months ago an indoor practice field on prime lakefront property opened, part of a $270 million complex that Northwestern hopes will lure recruits and render practices more efficient — and make the team more competitive in a conference that has a lucrative television deal. It’s a commonplace for non-athletes to complain about too many resources being devoted to athletics, but colleges should spend money on sports for a lively campus and to promote students’ health.

And there’s the problem: Football’s not healthy.

So it’s been much more than disconcerting that my alma mater’s success, and its big investment in the sport, comes as we are being reminded every day of the price football players pay in traumatic brain injury. The rash of chronic traumatic encephalopathy among N.F.L. players has gotten the most attention, but college players are hurt, too. Some colleges, like Dartmouth, are trying ways to reduce these injuries by eliminating tackling in practice and taking other measures, but they remain outliers.

News of Northwestern’s triumphs now just serves as a reminder that there are real young men behind those wins whose brains are being battered. I want the Wildcats to win less so they won’t play as much.

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