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Post Friday Night Football: Purple Haze in Evanston
Created by John Eipper on 10/20/19 4:34 AM

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Friday Night Football: Purple Haze in Evanston (David Duggan, USA, 10/20/19 4:34 am)

"Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden." Thus begins the most memorable story in sportswriting history: Grantland Rice's New York Herald Tribune account of the 1924 Army-Notre Dame football game, played at New York's old Polo Grounds (where the NY Giants baseball team played until decamping to San Francisco), won by Notre Dame 13-7.

Friday night, fellow WAISer Dr. Bob Schenck and I played a variation on that theme when we went to Evanston to watch Northwestern (my double alma mater) play Ohio State. Outlined against a deep purple (Northwestern's color) sky, the stands had a definite scarlet hue as the Buckeyes' fans dominated the eastern (visitors) side and were prevalent on the home team western side as well. It was the first time Ohio State had played a Friday night game in its 130-year football history.

Grantland Rice likened Notre Dame's 1924 "Four Horseman" team to a cyclone blowing in from the Indiana sycamores where candle lights flicker and those in the way hie for their storm cellars. The storm metaphor prevailed last night, but blew east to west as Ohio State dominated 52-3. For those unfamiliar with football scoring, that's seven touchdowns and one field goal against one measly first-half field goal. It was the 77th match-up of these Big Ten (now expanded to 14) rivals, which Ohio State dominates 61-14-1. For 24 games from 1972 to 2003, the Buckeyes reeled off 24 straight wins, one of the longest periods of dominance in college football history. Not to worry though. When legendary NU coach Ara Parseghian helmed the Wildcats, they were 3-3 against the Buckeyes then coached by the even more legendary Woody Hayes, for whom Parseghian had worked as an assistant at Miami of Ohio, known as the "cradle of coaches." After decamping to Notre Dame for the 1964 season, Parseghian never played Ohio State again.

As the score suggests, Friday night's game was a blowout, marked in part by the fact that one-fourth of Dyche Stadium's lighting blew out during the 1st half. It made no difference (unlike the half-time blackout at the 2017 Super Bowl in New Orleans which may have affected Atlanta's chances: I didn't know that year's half-time entertainer Beyonce had that much star power). Dr. Bob and I left when the score stood 28-3 and he predicted a 56-6 final score. He wasn't off by much.

Still as an exercise in civic pride and virtue, college football reigns supreme. The introductions of famous athletes of days gone by, the on-field acknowledgment of current athletes and teams, the marching bands and cheerleaders resemble nothing so much as a secular religious observance: rites mixed with hagiography, blended with color and stirred with music. As high school football shows signs of decline, at least as far as participation is concerned, and pro football has devolved into something like the National Thugs' League, may we hope that the college game, where it all began 150 years ago will be played in centuries to come.

JE comments: David, you are a true successor to Grantland Rice, able to turn "mere" sport into epic. Northwestern fans are cut from the same cloth as Detroit Lions fans: love based on faith alone.  Or is it masochism?

Coincidentally, Rice's 1924 story appeared on October 18th, the same date as the NU-OSU game.

Here's a Rice Wiki-fact that shows his extraordinary character. I quote:

"Rice's sense of honor can be seen in his own actions. Before leaving for service in World War I, he entrusted his entire fortune, about $75,000, to a friend [about $1.4 million today]. On his return from the war, Rice discovered that his friend had lost all the money in bad investments, and then had committed suicide. Rice accepted the blame for putting 'that much temptation' in his friend's way. Rice then made monthly contributions to the man's widow throughout his life."

Wow. Can't say I'd be that noble.


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