Friday, October 4, 2013

One in Ten-thousand: Getting Northwestern Pumped for Ohio State

   One in ten-thousand. That is all it takes.
   It is the single best unspoken sports law of all time: the law of 1 in 10,000.
   It goes like this: in a given sports scenario, the most certain of outcomes will happen 9,999 times out of 10,000. The hail marys will be swatted to the ground, the half-court shots will fall short, and the final batter will ground out and fail to score the tying run. Time and time again, these edge-of-glory moments never materialize, dreams are vanquished, and the world settles back to its boring, disappointing normalcy.
   But every now and then, a single spark of fate catches fire, and the sports world is treated to something so unforgettable that these moments live on in the depths of time. Giants fall, national pride is won, and small-town heroes find themselves immersed in more lights and fanfare then they ever could have imagined. One time in ten-thousand, something amazing happens.
   For this game against Ohio State, many have written off the Wildcats. “What’s Northwestern?” is a common phrase I have seen from B1G fans, in addition to all of the talk about our Wildcats preparing uselessly for the Buckeye steamroller. More fans, a bigger stadium, a wider pool of talent, a world-renowned coach, a tradition of winning and success—it does not quite add up to a lot of folks believing in a Northwestern win this weekend. Even talking to my father over the phone, I heard an earful of “Don’t get too excited man, Ohio State is so damn good.”
   Sounds like the perfect set-up, right?
   The idea of the 1 in 10,000 has kept fans in their seats since the beginning of athletics. There is always a chance for a miracle—nothing is scripted, nothing is set in stone, and even the largest favorite can be vulnerable. Against the juggernaut that has been, and is, the Ohio State University, little old Northwestern does not appear to have too great of a chance, but nothing is certain. This is arguably the best gang of Wildcats in twenty years, and if any team can seize this moment and shock the sports world, it is this one.
   That is why, on this Saturday, it is okay to believe. It is okay to expect the unexpected. It is okay to put every ounce of your Wildcat passion into this game. We live and die by these moments of sheer, unbridled, irrational belief. We keep screaming and shouting because we never know when this next moment will be the one in ten-thousand. We never know when everything will click and the stars will align and the pieces will fall into place and the miracle, the do-you-believe-what-I-just-saw moment of ecstasy and celebration, will happen.
   That is why, right now, in the wee hours of the night, these Wildcats lie awake with thoughts of an upset on their minds. This is a place that believes in its peers, believes in their abilities, and believes that through all of the claws and screams and move-the-chains and Go Cats!, we have the chance to be that 1 in 10,000—all of us. We have the chance to do something great, and no matter how small that chance may seem to outsiders, to us, it is all we need.
   So dream on, friends. Imagine that Rebecca-Crown clock tower glowing purple in the night, standing tall and proud over the shouts and cheers echoing down Sheridan Road. Imagine Ryan Field, always a place not quite big enough, packed with the larger-than-life presence of victorious Wildcat fans. Imagine the shock and the awe and all of the pulse-pounding, chest-clutching, breath-snatching agony that might bring us there. Just for right now—imagine. You can see it all.
   Restless nights like this are why we love this school. All of the close calls and heart attacks have been leading up to this. We have stayed loyal and true to our Wildcat family year in and year out, and now, on the eve of one of the biggest games this incredible place has ever seen, we owe it to ourselves to believe just one more time. Win or lose, we can hold our heads high when it is all over, because we never quit on our Cats, just like they never quit on us.
    If you played out this game ten-thousand times, OSU might win 9,999 of those contests. But you know what? That does not have to be this game. This game could be it; this game could be the one. Because tomorrow the Ohio State Buckeyes are going to see the real Northwestern, and the real Northwestern is far more than just the guys who hit the grass. Anything—anything—can happen.

   This is what we have been waiting for. It's time to go Cats.