By Shawn Muller–
The 104th edition of the rivalry between the Northwestern Wildcats versus the Illinois Fighting Illini, set to take place this Saturday at 2:30 PM, has a different feel to it, with historic Wrigley Field playing host to both schools in a pseudo-home game for the Wildcats. The battle for The Land of Lincoln Trophy (replacing the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk in 2008) will take not only fans, students, and alumni of the respective competing institutions, but college football fans across the country into a time capsule…. when football was just that…football. With purple Northwestern flags flying proudly above the Friendly Confines, this game harkens back to the days when all that mattered was the game.
Now don’t get me wrong. I get that this game is about making the all mighty dollar, and plenty of money will be made during Saturday’s contest. As long as the opportunity to make a dollar is there for the NCAA and its member schools, games such as this weekend’s Northwestern vs. Illinois game at Wrigley Field and the Notre Dame vs. Army game, will take place….and I am perfectly ok with that. I am not naïve enough to think the only reason these institutions are playing the game at Wrigley Field, as opposed to Northwestern’s Ryan Field, is solely because both schools thought it might be a neat idea. It is a neat idea and I am all for it, but I am fully aware that the driving force behind using these venues is cold-hard cash…..nothing more and nothing less. Fortunately for myself, a die-hard college football fan with no emotional ties to either side, I get to see college football being played in a venue that is the epitome of a “simpler time”. Wrigley Field does not have an enormous jumbo-tron. It does not have the state-of-the-art scoreboards or flashy locker rooms. She may not be the prettiest girl at the prom, but what Wrigley Field lacks in looks and pizzazz, she makes up for with her personality.
This game marks the first time a college football matchup will be held in Wrigley Field since 1938, when DePaul (yes…that DePaul) played St. Louis University, and the first time the Wildcats and Illini will have met there since October 27th, 1923. That is 87 years too long. It took 87 years for fans of college football to get a chance to see what mattered most in the days of yore on the gridiron. PRIDE! Pride in your school and community is what makes college athletics so special. People who cheer on their favorite college team never have to worry that their team is going to re-locate to a different city. They don’t have to worry about whether their favorite college team is going to go bankrupt and fold overnight. Sure the players change every 3-4 years, but that wonderful university that you so proudly call yours still field’s a team every Saturday during the fall. You don’t have to worry about labor disputes between the players union and the league’s front office, creating the possibility of a lockout for the season. The student-athletes take the field ready to carry on the traditions of your university until it is time for them to pass the torch on to the next generation. So what does this game tell us: You NEVER have to worry – your University will be there for you! It is pretty simple isn’t it?
Shawn Muller has lived in Chicago for 7 years. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and just recently received his certificate in radio broadcasting in October of 2010. Sports have always been a passion of Shawn’s. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, “Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” at www.blogtalkradio.com/spmuller24.