School (di)spirit: confessions of a Northwestern student

School (di)spirit

The week before I started college, my dad and I watched then-Michigan freshman Tate Forcier lead a furious fourth-quarter comeback against Notre Dame in front of more than 110,000 screaming fans in Ann Arbor. The next week – my first football game as a college student – I was shocked at what I saw.

Northwestern’s Ryan Field was half-full in a lackluster 35-24 Wildcat loss to Minnesota. The student section was small and quiet. I was introduced to the worst cheer in college football, The Claw. And a measly 22,000 people were in attendance.

Since then, I’ve treated Northwestern sports with a shrug of the shoulders. It’s hard to change your sports allegiances in any situation – let alone after a dozen years of going to The Big House on fall Saturdays to watch the Champions of the West.

That’s not to say being an NU fan hasn’t had its moments. Charging the football field after a season-ending victory against Wisconsin my freshman year is still among my favorite sports memories. And storming the court following an upset of No. 6 Purdue that winter ranks just below. But best of all: Myself and two buddies braved the cold on a blustery Saturday morning to get into the front row of ESPN College GameDay before the first football game at Wrigley Field in decades.

But it’s hard to care when your school doesn’t. NU is the only power conference school to never make the NCAA Tournament. As a result, each spring, there’s a campus-wide conversation of what it would take to do the unthinkable: make March Madness. It’s not much different from politicos discussing what districts or swing states it will take to steal an election.

It’s a perennial plea to be recognized, a call to be seen as more than Nerdwestern. And it’s a discussion from which I distance myself.

Fans of other schools will never understand. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called a bubblegummer because of it. No pride, they say. No personal investment.

And they’re right. When I talk up Northwestern, I brag about the best undergraduate journalism school in the world. I talk about alumni, about the Kellogg School of Management and the campus’ proximity to Chicago.

Just not its athletics. In that respect, I’ll always be a Michigan Man. Hail to the Victors.

Generation Kill 

David Simon’s “The Wire” is the most provocative TV I’ve ever watched. The longtime Baltimore Sun cops reporter produced a five-season masterpiece that was the most compelling commentary of inner-city life of our time.

I just started watching Simon’s “Generation Kill,” in which he moves his study of life and death from the streets of Baltimore to the deserts of Iraq. And it’s pulling me in already.

There are frightening parallels between Iraq in 2003 and Iran today. We made up a reason to fight in the former, while conflict with the latter currently looms. Simon decomposes the Iraq War into its most basic component – following a platoon on the road to Baghdad – giving faces to a story we can’t afford to repeat.

The week in Washington

Covering think tank events is great for not only having experts and mountains of information all in one place, but also for free food that more than makes up for the lunch meat I’ve recently been eating for breakfast.

Brookings Institution, a progressive think tank in Dupont Circle, is one of the best in the business. I had the chance to cover my third panel discussion there Wednesday, where a number of experts made me feel a little better about the standoff between the United States, Israel and Iran. Read my full story here.

I also finished up a longer, enterprise piece on the rise of unmanned drones in the U.S. military. Congress and the Pentagon laud UVAs as a relatively cheap, safe and precise alternative to manned aircraft. And it’s mostly true. But the increased use and sophistication of drones brings with them a number of questions that should cause concern. Read “Attack of the drones” here.

What I’m listening to 

After finally watching “Drive” last week, I’ve been listening to its soundtrack almost nonstop. I’m generally not a fan of electronic music, but the slow-paced, ambient sound of its score set the tone for the brilliant Tarantino-esque flick.

I appreciate Ryan Gosling’s pipes as much as the next 17-year-old girl. But this movie was more than that. Way more.

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