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Northwestern Football: Big Ten in Our Own Backyard

I’m not much of a sports fan, but catching a game of Northwestern Football now and again was always a brilliant way to spend a Saturday afternoon with my dad or brother.

For being home to a major college football team, Ryan Field has a delightful backyard quality to it.  The stadium is nestled right in the Evanston suburbs, surrounded by beautiful vintage homes.  Plentiful parking and an el stop are just a few blocks away, so getting to a game is painless.  Fans casually stroll into the stadium, and even when the game is full the seats give you plenty of room.  It’s clean, comfortable, and convenient.

Yet it is home to some very serious football.  The Big Ten conference has some of the best action college football has to offer.  The Wildcats sit in a sweet spot:  Good enough to win some big games, bad enough that it’s always an uphill battle.  I count both of those qualities in their favor–I may not always be happy when the game ends, but I’m never bored.  Hence their nickname, the “Cardiac Cats”.

The atmosphere is simply fun.  Northwestern fans are enthusiastic and hopeful rather than diehard and furious.  Any Midwestern opponent sees plenty of representation in the crowd, guaranteeing a high-energy audience with plenty of cheers for both sides.

Best of all, it’s kid friendly–every game is full of parents with young children.   Just pick a gorgeous fall day, snag some tickets, and take in the game with your family.  When I was very young my dad would take me for only the first half–the whole process was so simple he didn’t mind just catching part of a game.

All these qualities add up to a flawless experience–if you ignore the occasional game played in -10 degree weather.  But that’s just part of the charm.

I can’t think of any other stadium where you can catch so much drama with so little drama.  That’s what makes Northwestern Football so special.  I still know almost nothing about football–I can’t tell you half the teams in their conference–but I love going to Ryan Field with my family, and have been doing it now for 16 years.

Kevin Thomas is a graduate of New Trier High School and Brown University.  He is an avid martial artist and media geek, and recently returned to Chicago to pursue professional aspirations in advertising, consulting, and digital communication.

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