Column | Illinois needs a real rival, Northwestern can’t compete

By Theo Gary, Staff Writer

In Evanston, they have one good road. It snakes north from the end of Lake Shore Drive, following the lake, passing beaches, winding and twisting until it dies someplace in Highland Park.

 I found it on a snowy December Winter Break night, driving through Highland Park and the road turning suddenly south. Following it till the houses got nice, like really nice, with gates and long winding driveways, beautiful old houses with lots of wood, brick and big windows. As I wound along through the dangerous fun part, trying to go fast enough to have fun and slow enough to avoid drifting, the street lights cast a pale glow through the lightly falling snow with the temple appearing from the darkness, it was amazing beyond anything. And as I passed it, soon noticing the distant buildings, I realized — “I’m about to be in Evanston, home to the lamest, worst university on Earth, and now I have to get off Sheridan Road.”


I don’t like that city, I genuinely don’t. I think the downtown is ugly with streets that are poorly laid out. Their Chipotle was slow, and parking was hard to find. When I went to the beach, I got sunburned. When I went a second time, I got a cut on my foot from all those rocks in the lake, which Evanston should compensate me for, because, after all, it is their fault. 

And, by the way, Evanston, your “university” ruined my day at the beach all by itself. Staring out over those beautiful crisp blue waters of my city’s lake, the view was ruined by that glass disaster you call a practice facility. Why is it right there? Taking up all that fantastic lakefront property? You could put something else there, something more practical or less ugly. Another beach perhaps or maybe a TGI Friday’s, either would be better.

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Speaking of football and the actual stadium the Wildcats play in, that 1920s monstrosity, the university is supposedly trying to replace it. They want to build a spaceship there, apparently. Something new, state-of-the-art, the nicest stadium for the crappiest football team.

Not only do residents hate it, but it neutralizes Northwestern’s crap weather football advantage, which is the only reason Pat Fitzgerald can win a game seemingly. And, funnily enough, the design will decrease capacity by 12,000! Will that make football anymore imposing? If you build it, will they come? No, of course they won’t. This is Northwestern football we’re talking about. You can count the number of fans on one hand. A max capacity Northwestern football game is 20% Northwestern fans, 40% fans of the other team and 40% empty. 

Now for basketball, this is different because if you get about 100 in fans in that arena then you’re already at about 20% capacity. Which should be embarrassing, but Northwestern is incapable of being embarrassed because it has no shame. That arena, Welsh-Ryan as it is called, has literal bleachers, the kind your highschool had, that push back into the wall. I went once for a volleyball game, and I couldn’t, I truly couldn’t believe that this was also the basketball arena. It’s so small, somehow smaller than Whitney Young’s gym, I was at a loss for words.

What this reflects, I think, is an institutional level of detachment and disregard for sports which I could respect if you were Harvard or Yale or MIT or something. But this is Northwestern we’re talking about, a place known for its journalists (ew), lawyers and actors – god, what a horrible combination, the most out-of-touch of the out-of-touch. Except for Julia Louis Dreyfus and Hugh Hefner, I can’t think of a single positive association I have with an alum of that school. And anyway, who of these people actually stumps for Northwestern, shows up to the games, stumps for their school. Honestly, do you think David Schwimmer or Stephen Colbert cares whether or not Northwestern wins tomorrow? No! Absolutely not!  

It would be cool to have a real rival, somebody who knew how to have fun or run an athletic department, whose fans know what the score is and make the games exciting. But, as it stands now, Illinois does not. 


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