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Northwestern Traditions from a non-alum perspective

An alternative take about the Northwestern football fan experience

Illinois v Northwestern Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Last year my colleague MNWildcat wrote eloquently about Northwestern traditions, and it’s a good read.

For those of you who do not know, unlike MNWildcat, I’m one of the few, rare, Northwestern fans who didn’t graduate Northwestern. I’m a DePaul graduate. I evolved from a Notre Dame fan to a Northwestern fan despite going to Catholic grade school in the southwestern Chicago suburbs because my father and younger (by 18 months) brother went to Northwestern.

I was able to take the El up from DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus to Evanston on gamedays when I was in college and enjoyed hanging out with my brother’s Fraternity tailgates and with him at games.

After graduating I’ve enjoyed watching games with my father and getting to know some of the witty and passionate Northwestern fans sitting near me who revel in very loud (especially a particularly vocal loudmouth fan two rows behind me) and creative heckling of refs (especially Dick Witvoet BOOOO HE STINKS) and opposing coaches.

I’ve also cursed the CTA loudly a few times because they don’t care to run the Purple Line Express from Fullerton to Howard on gamedays.

Chicago Transit Authority: Get the Purple Line Express running on Saturdays during the fall from the Fullerton stop to Howard!!!!

I’ve gotten to know a few traditions in the time I’ve been a Northwestern fan, and I’m happy to share my opinions with them on you.




Northwestern Stripes

Northwestern invented the striping pattern comprised of two thin stripes surrounding one thick stripe back in 1928 and much to my consternation they aren’t using this consistent pattern today on Jerseys.

Under Armour: Can you move the three stripes from the torso to the shoulders?

Do the three white stripes on a purple jersey look too close to an Adidas stripe?

And would three white stripes on a purple jersey and two white stripes on a black jersey surrounding a thick purple stripe be doable on a black jersey or is that too much?

Other than that, I’m loving the striped visual identity all over the athletic facilities.

Northwestern Gothic

This is a new tradition going back to 2014, but I’m certain the black signs with the gothic font have been on campus probably before my father was born. It’s awesome and I love it. I think every other Northwestern fan does as well.

Willie the Wildcat

Northwestern’s awesome feline mascot has been cheering on the Cats since 1947 — years after deciding that bringing a live caged bear cub from Lincoln Park Zoo wasn’t the best idea.

He’s had a few different looks throughout the years,

but I believe that the retrocat I’ve been rocking since 2009 here on SBN is the best logo.

NU Retrocat (aka LPW avatar)

NU athletic dept: I would totally buy a NU helmet that has the Retrocat on it.

Running of the Freshmen

If I went to NU I would’ve loved this. Every year now the freshmen class runs on the field before the first game they have on campus.

Famous Journalism Alums

The world-famous Medill School of Journalism has as extensive alumni network, including former SBNation (and Sippin On Purple and InsideNU) contributors like Rodger Sherman and Kevin Trahan and NUFB alum Matt Stewart (he walked on with the same class at Pat Fitzgerald (and graduated in the same class as OTE commenter vaudvillain)) and wrote an awesome book).

A smaller football stadium with excellent views and affordable tickets

I’ve been sitting close to the field for 15 years and I’ve been able to take some amazing pictures from a Canon Powershot or an iPhone.

I really like this picture (with a Canon Powershot) from the time we beat Stanford in 2015. Almost no one else beat Stanford that year:

Why wouldn’t a visiting Big Ten fan visiting Chicago for a weekend enjoy heading up to Evanston for a reasonably priced football ticket (look, there aren’t enough Wildcats fans to fill up our own stadium unlike 1995 and 1996, so you can get a great seat for a decent price)?

Long lost but not forgotten

Laking the Posts:

A legendary Northwestern fansite paid homage to an old NU tradition from the dark ages (specifically the late 70s to pre Barnett-era) when very rare (WTF Strotz and NU admins who didn’t care about football then) wins would be celebrated by pulling the goalposts out of the ground while a crowd of overjoyed purple-clad fans walked the goalposts from Central and Ashland to Central and Lake Michigan and tossed the goalposts in the lake.

Tossing marshmallows down the Tubas:

As far as I know, back in the days when NU football stunk (aka the dark ages from early 70s to early 90s), after pregaming, the only thing for students to do at games was toss marshmallows at the tubas. Pretty sure Gary Barnett had enough of that nonsense and banned the practice.

Free beers at the Goose Island Beer Tent:

There used to be a free beer (for those of us over 21) at Goose Island Beer Tent in Wildcat Alley (behind Ryan Field) up until a few years ago. I miss free beer (EVERYBODY MISSES FREE BEER). :(