Our Northwestern Outback Bowl Experience: Dogs and Rats and Wildcats
Once again, I had to set my oldest chick free. This time he flew the coop to join the Northwestern band on a flight to sunny Florida. Their mission: to prep for the big New Year’s Day Outback Bowl game.
Oddly enough, I didn’t shed a tear when he left. I was on the verge, but experience helped me realize how right it was for him to be back with his college crew and I felt grateful that we had been able to savor a few weeks of holiday memories. I laughed so hard one dinner that I almost choked to death on my burger. Those moments of gut-wrenching laughter are what I live for. . . or is that almost die for?
Another reason I wasn’t blue was that I knew we would soon be flying out as well to watch my bird in the bowl game.
Wednesday was a day for hurrying and scurrying, running last minute errands before our departure. As luck would have it though, we ended up making an emergency trip to the mechanic since my car was spitting and sputtering so much it sounded like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. My city boy husband’s text from the repair shop simply read,
“Rats living in your car. Chewed a wire. Built a condo.”
Um, we live in the boonies, not in the city. We have field mice and Chips and Dales galore, but we do not, to my knowledge, have rats. And, frankly, if anyone in my area knows any differently, I’d kindly ask you to keep your advanced rodent knowledge to yourself, thank you very much.
Yes, these little critters in the photo below take refuge in our garage (and apparently in my engine) from time to time. See how this petite little one daintily nibbles on berries?
These, however, do not . . . giant Bacchanalian bat rastards that they are!
The rodent nest was vacuumed up, the wire repaired, and the sputtering ceased.
Early the next morning, we began packing our luggage into the car. Even on an ordinary day, I’m under 24×7 surveillance by our dog, Tia. When her nemesis, “the luggage”, comes to visit, however, she ups her game and clings to me like white on rice knowing that it most often means that her people will soon be AWOL. How in the world are we going to swing our long-hoped-for trip to Europe this summer?
So, what did I see the minute we sat down at the gate to wait to board our flight at O’Hare? A couple with, of all things, a Havanese dog that they were taking with them on holiday, exactly like the one I so callously abandoned in our home just few hours prior. Oh the guilt!
Once we landed in Florida, we spent our New Year’s Eve with friends in their new gorgeous Floridian home, and then came back to our hotel where, from our 10th floor room, we were treated to twenty fireworks displays erupting on the horizon. Simply glorious!
Friday, New Year’s Day, was the big game day. We drove to Raymond James Stadium where the Tampa Bay Buchaneers typically play, only this time Northwestern was playing against the University of Tennessee. They may as well have played against the Buchaneers though because with a final score of 45 – 6, they were walloped but good!
Honestly, if you watched the game on TV, you saw more football action than I did since everyone stood almost the entire game, completely blocking the view to the field. I don’t know if that’s a Tennessee thing, or a playoff thing, or what, but I do know that it’s not a Becky thing. I stood for a few minutes and then plopped down hoping to find some shade from all of the “standers”.
Tennessee fans abounded, each in the orange get-up of their choosing ranging from body paint to long dresses. A lot of them wore orange and white checked jumpsuits. Every time I saw one of those jumpsuits, I craved a dang hamburger because this is all I could think about.
Okay now, take a look at the crowd. The stadium holds 65,000 fans. I would hazard a guess to say that 64,950 were Tennesseeans.
Wearing my purple NU Tee-shirt, I felt like a solitary grape in an orange grove.
And some of those Tennesseans were raucously twanging fans, let me tell you! A skinny bearded fellow across the aisle from me kept shouting, “’At’s ee-it! ‘At’s ee-it!” in rapid succession like a desperate, southern auctioneer. Later, he switched to a less enthusiastic, “Less gaw. Less gaw.” message for his team. I mean, after all, how worked up can you get when you have a 30+ lead on your opponent?
Game day was supposed to be in the mid 70’s. Instead, it was in the mid 80’s, and was about as humid as Swedish sauna. With the heat index, it probably felt more like mid 90’s. As I continually mopped sweat from my brow while baking under the relentless sun, I kept thinking of the poor band kids dressed in woolen uniforms while marching through the sauna. How they didn’t collapse is anyone’s guess. And yet, as the picture below proves, the marching band refused to yield.
Even my prolifically sweating, tenor sax-playing big bird didn’t yield. He did, however, claim to have lost 10 pounds of water weight while in FL, and I would believe it. The band marched in a parade, at the game, at SeaWorld, and even on a beach all in hot and humid conditions, and mostly dressed in full gear. By the end of his stay, his entire ensemble was sodden and smelled of wet sheep, but boy did he make memories of a lifetime!
Here’s what Logan posted about the game on Facebook. I love his sentiment.
The game may be over, and the season’s book might be closed, but the memories we had will live on in the hearts and minds of all of us lucky enough to experience it. The last game may not have gone our way, but a bittersweet ending will never diminish what our team accomplished this year – when people said we would struggle to get 6 wins, we got 10. We fought back Stanford and Duke, and together proved once again that academic success is not the antithesis of athletics. We fought back Penn State, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and showed that, once again, the Big Ten is a conference where anything can happen. We fought against Michigan and Iowa, and in defeat were made stronger. We beat Illinois, and reclaimed our title as champions in our home state. Through every loss and every win, I have been extremely proud of our football team and the extraordinary effort they put in to succeed on and off the field. To everyone who wore the uniform this year, and especially to our seniors, thank you for making my freshman season one to remember. As always, but today especially, I am proud to be a Northwestern Wildcat.
Next year, how about we take it to 11?
Perhaps my favorite part of the game was meeting my new favorite Facebook friend, Mary, for the first time in person. Her husband is an NU alum meaning they had been at the alumni reception earlier in the day and had gathered many tchotchkes. She came bearing pompons, beads, patches and other assorted NU doodads for each of us. Thank you, Mary, for this post’s cover photo above as well!
Saturday morning we got up early and went shelling on Clearwater beach. It was only 60-degrees: a temperature that prompts Floridians to haul out their winter parkas. For us northern Illinois folk, though, it was practically balmy.
And then we hightailed it over to Orlando where we stayed in a hotel closer to the airport that had a seemingly endless lazy river and a beautiful walking path. My Fitbit was happy, reading 11,000 or more steps each day we were in Florida!
All in all, it was a lovely respite away from the arctic tundra. Next year, God willing, the Cats will have another spectacular season. Perhaps even spectacular enough to support a Rose Bowl game. I know one mama Cat who would purr quite loudly if that dream were to come true!
For now, though, this Cat is just happy to be back home with her sweet pup at her side.