a few weeks ago, this weekend I will be making my first visit to Chicago in more than three years, which, to put it mildly, is far too long. New York is my home and the greatest city in the world, but my four years in Evanston, Illinois and in close proximity of the City of Broad Shoulders will always give Chicago a fond place in my heart. This week it will likely cost me the chance to see most of this weekend's NFL action -- though don't worry, my flight lands in time for me to comfortable catch kickoff of Giants-Eagles --but it's a worthwhile endeavor.
And why, you ask?
Well, as you can see the marquee on Chicago's Wrigley Field was painstakingly painted Northwestern Purple for this Saturday's Northwestern-Illinois game, which will be the first college football game played in the friendly confines in more than 70 years. Squeezing a regulation football field inside has proved something of a challenge, and in some cases, like the distance from the end of the east end zone to the right field bleachers, it is almost laughable as to how tight the game will be played. Since the last college and professional football games were played in Wrigley club seats have been added to the field level which have squeezed the area a bit. The orientation Northwestern seems to be going with is a bit odd considering that the field ran north to south when the Bears played in Wrigley, rather than west to east. Looking at artists' renditions, however, it seems clear officials anticipated this considering they didn't bother drawing uprights in the east end zone in their early depictions.
Clearly it was much easier to build a hockey rink there, even if they had to come up with ice.
starting to come into shape and I can't help but be outlandishly excited about it. Or at least buy all the crap merchandise that's being churned out for the occasion. Personally, I opted not for the ephemeral, but for the eminently reusable Northwestern football jersey. I chose Dan Persa even though I know he will be out with a torn achilles after spearheading last week's stunning upset of No. 13 Iowa, but he'll be back in full force next season to lead NU to its inevitable 2011 BCS National Championship. It's totally gonna happen. Just wait for it.
All around the excitement seems to be building. Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald, a uniquely social-media savvy leader, has been tweeting pictures of the field, Northwestern's practices there, and the cramped locker room as the game reaches kickoff. A plan to have the players ride the Chicago El from Evanston to the Addison stop on the Red Line has been nixed unfortunately, but the blow of losing that novelty has been softened by the presence of a much bigger one. ESPN Game Day has been rumored to be coming to Northwestern several times in the past few years, but each time was just that. A rumor.
This weekend, ESPN just couldn't help itself with the prospect of having that Wrigley Field marquee in the background of its shots for four hours, however, so at long last Game Day is here. I won't be joining the legions of students that are busing down from campus at 4 a.m., but I will be making my way there sometime in the morning to scope out the scene and pretend I'm in college again. After that, Northwestern has set up several areas to tailgate with fellow alumni or buy food around Wrigley, and I will be checking out the whole place.
And with that, here are this week's almost certain to be incorrect picks. On a side note, if some of you are wondering why I haven't mentioned the Giants' loss to Dallas last week, it's because I've convinced myself it didn't happen. On with the show.
Last week: 5-9-0
Chicago (+1) over MIAMI
NY Giants (+2.5) over PHILADELPHIA
Buffalo (+6) over CINCINNATI
DALLAS (-7) over Detroit
TENNESSEE (-7) over Washington
KANSAS CITY (-8) over Arizona
Green Bay (-3) over MINNESOTA
NY JETS (-7) over Houston
PITTSBURGH (-8) over Oakland
Baltimore (-10) over CAROLINA
JACKSONVILLE (-2) over Cleveland
ST. LOUIS (+3) over Atlanta
NEW ORLEANS (-12) over Seattle
Tampa Bay (+3) over SAN FRANCISCO
NEW ENGLAND (-3) over Indianapolis
SAN DIEGO (-10) over Denver
There you have it. Enjoy the games. I'm off to college.