I 2 heMcianDiy--- Wednsday.Ot-er S00
At the mercy of Wildcats:
A foray into the wrong student section
o tell the truth, I thought that sneak-
ing into the Northwestern student
section at the Michigan-Northwest-
ern football game on Saturday would be a
friendly experience. I expected their fans to
be intellectuals, to discuss the trajectory of
kickoffs and devise clever cheers.
Instead, I got called an "asshole" several
dozen times and was mildly assaulted at
I should have expected it. That's college
football. Notre Dame and Ohio State fans
who sit in our student section get the same
But through it all, Northwestern fans
engaged in a "we're-smarter-and-richer-
than-you" sort of heckling that made me
understand, for the first time, why people
hate Michigan fans so passionately.
I have nothing against Northwestern. In
fact, it's my second-favorite college in the Big
Ten after Michigan. Northwestern's a great
school, where students are worried about
more than just football, and their perennial
haplessness on the gridiron has turned them
into the underdog that's easy to love.
So when last week rolled around, I fig-
ured I would visit my best friend, who goes
to Northwestern. She borrowed a student
ID from one of her friends so I could sit in
the student section with her. Because a
WildCARD (Northwestern's equivalent of
an MCard) gets students into Northwestern
football games for free, it was the easiest and
cheapest way for me to do it.
My friend and I made it to Ryan Field at
about 10 a.m., an hour before game time. We
walked to the third row, where a friend of
mine from Michigan was holding a couple
seats for us.
She flashed a Michigan jersey hidden
beneath a Northwestern T-shirt; I wore this
year's official maize fan shirt under a black
sweatshirt, zipped to the neck.
We had a plan - once the game began,
we'd take off the outer garments. The fans,
we thought, would be too distracted by the
game to heckle us. Besides, they're North-
western fans. They did well on their SATs.
What could they possibly do?
After Michigan scored its first touch-
are friendlier than
Ohio State fans, but
not by much.
down, making the score 7-3, my friend and
I stripped down to our Michigan gear. The
booing and shouting began instantly.
"This is the Northwestern student sec-
tion," one student cried incredulously. "Why
would you wear a Michigan shirt? Why
would you do that?"
Fair enough. But then the heckling start-
ed. Hundreds of fans pointed fingers at me,
yelling the word "asshole" to the same two
notes one would cheer "air ball" at basket-
ball games. I was the butt of the chant (pun
intended) at least a dozen times through-
out the game, standing cross-armed with a
Early in the first quarter, I shouted"'score-
board" while Michigan was winning. It was
a mistake; we promptly lost the lead.
The taunting got worse. Every time Mich-
igan was forced to punt or Northwestern's
offense made a large gain, the jeers restart-
ed. They became more obscene and personal
after Northwestern's lead grew to 9.
Maybe I deserved it for invading the stu-
dent section. Because students must swipe
their IDs to get into the stadium, only a
few Michigan fans were able to get in, and
there I was in the third row, my yellow shirt
undermining their section's color-coordina-
tion on the television broadcast.
one small student with a painted face,
who reeked of alcohol, walked up to me,
grabbed my shirt and tried his hardest to
push me off the bench. Although he failed
to move me, my friend from Northwestern
told me, after the game, that she feared for
my life. I think she was serious.
Another student, standing behind my
right shoulder, shouted in my ear every time
Michigan had the ball and rattled her keys
next to my head during kickoffs. My friend
from Northwestern told me that Northwest-
ern fans shake their keys to imply that the
other team's fans will one day pump their
The student section also cheered "state
school" to taunt the maize-and-blue contin-
gent across the field. What does that imply
whenyou're playing one of the country's best
public universities? Is it that Northwestern
is somehow superior because it costs more?
We Michigan fans are often accused of
the same sort of elitism, and for good rea-
son. We sing "If you can't get into college, go
to State" to visiting Michigan State fans and
cheer "safety school" when Eastern Michi-
gan is in town.
I know we're the leaders and best. Our
fight song says so. Do we have to constantly
One Northwestern fan told a pair of Mich-
igan fans walking next to us that Michigan's
victory was irrelevant because Northwest-
ern students were smarter. She cited stan-
dardized test scores as proof.
Another Northwestern fan told her not to
force the issue.
"Don't worry about it," the second fan
said. "You can fire him when he's working
I don't mean to say that all Northwestern
fans are cruel and cocky. During the game,
one nearby Northwestern fan told his fellow
students that they had gone too far. To avoid
seeming sympathetic, he made sure to point
out that I was still an asshole.
After the game, as the rest of the fans left
dejected, he and I shook hands. He apolo-
gized for the way I was treated. I apologized
for invading his section.
It was lucky Michigan won the game, I
thought. Rather than sticking around to
give me grief, the Northwestern fans went
home, possibly to do their homework or
study for a test. Those kids have a lot to
learn if they want to be our bosses some-
-Gabe Nelson is an asssociate news editor.