Last week I shared my first NFL memory, but my relative inexperience with football goes back even further than that.
When I was a mere preschooler, my dad was a graduate student at Northwestern University. We lived in student housing and off of his academic fellowship as a (then) family of four.
For Halloween that year, I somehow got it into my little head that I wanted to be a Northwestern Wildcats Cheerleader. I have no idea why I wanted this. Maybe it came from living at a campus rife with University paraphernalia. Maybe I had seen one and wanted to emulate her. Maybe my mom put the thought in my head, as it seemed like a simple costume to create (most likely scenario).
In any case, the costume was assembled: a long-sleeved Northwestern University t-shirt, bought from the bookstore, purple yarn ribbons for my waist-length double pigtails (we called them doggie-ears), a sewn purple skirt, and white and purple yarn pom-pons to tie to my sneakers. Adorbs.
Halloween and Homecoming coincided, and my dad decided to take this little cheerleader to the game. I was thrilled!
Unbeknownst to me, my rampant (mysterious) pride in the football team was totally unwarranted. The Wildcats had just come off of a record-setting 34-game losing streak. A month before our attendance, when the streak was broken, students had rushed the field. They tore down the goal posts, marched them to the nearby shores of Lake Michigan, and chucked them into the water.
This was the mood at the stadium that day: school pride mixed with athletic shame.
But I knew none of it. In fact I can’t remember a single element of the game. All I can remember is feeling so special, beaming at every “aww, you’re so cute!” I collected compliments like shells from the beach, storing them away for myself to reflect on later.
I spent the game adjusting my shoe pom-pons to perfection.
I don’t know who won. I don’t even know who they played. All I knew is that I was cute.
This was my football focus for the next couple of decades.
But alas, when you know better, you do better, Rookies!
Now excuse me while I lay out my Blue Friday outfit.
Hugs and Loves!