June 27, 2007. It was four years ago today that I took the purple plunge and LTP was born. What started out as a work exercise to really dig in and understand new media and in particular the power of blogging has turned in to a near daily obsession. If the goal of the journey was to better understand the power of community triggered by the written word then we can fold up the tent now as that mission is accomplished. However, the true goal of this blog is to pack Ryan Field with 47,130 mostly purple on a game by home game basis. For this goal we’ve got a ton of work to do.
The impetus of Northwestern football as the subject matter of my work science experiment was two-fold. First, I wanted a subject matter that I felt I was a quasi-expert. How many people obsessed over Northwestern football like I did? Well, the answer is a heck of a lot more than I thought. The second element was to really try and use new media to see if I could do anything to help shape public opinion. Remember, when this blog started Fitz was entering season two, coming off the mind-numbing first season (4-8) after the shocking loss of Randy Walker (who died five years ago this Wednesday, June 29). I was so sick of the Dark Ages treatment by general fans and realized that there was no daily blog dedicated to Northwestern football while every other team had some representation. I took it upon myself to become our voice and thanks to you, we’ve never looked back.
Admittedly, this blog lacks the humor and snarky factor that seems like a prerequisite to being a blogger. I rarely swear on the blog and you’ll hardly see pop culture references as a) I’m out of touch with what’s cool and b)any references date a certain element of the readership (ie. What the heck is the Breakfast Club?). I’ve been blown away by the amount of people who use this space a daily 10-minute diversion of purple happiness. It’s been incredible to see how many people have volunteered their precious time to help the cause. Whether it is researching facts to help a post, sending links and suggestions for articles or even more intense work like Tim who overhauled the LTP N Flag Project or Scott Sloane who has tirelessly been hitting it out of the park on the Army sailgate, I ask for help and you step up every time.
There are several areas of improvment on this site that will likely entail an expanded roster of help to take it to the next level. While I have access to Northwestern coaches and players thanks to a mutually respectful relationship with NU, I have limited time to act on the access and bring more interviews with players and coaches. It’s an extreme challenge to stay on top of breaking news as I have a “real” job that has me managing this blog before and after hours. I sometimes fantasize about what I could do if this WAS my job, but that isn’t going to happen as my “real” job is even more fun than LTP.
I often get asked by those who know me why I choose to stay anonymous. It’s a great question. Simply put, my day job involves me interacting and working with the likes of the Big Ten Conference, BTN and even Northwestern in an official capacity. I can’t and won’t put those clients in jeopardy and hence stay in disguise which admittedly is a tad silly since officials at all of the above know I’m behind the blog. But this is not about me, it is about you. So, let’s take a few moments and share some of the great moments we’ve shared together over the past four years and let’s take out the telescope and peer down the future for what’s ahead.
Favorite Purple Mafia Profile
This is a tough one. I’ve had more than 100 guests on LTP for this Friday feature which profiles those known and unknown folks whose tie is Northwestern athletics. We’ve had a five part video series with Gary Barnett all the way to a Q&A with a regular season ticket holder. We’ve failed to get Wilbon, Greenberg, Colbert, Matt Saracen and several others so the feature will for certain continue. However, my favorite part of this feature is learning something new about a game or moment that you thought you knew so well. Hence, my favorite purple mafia profile to date is Zak Kustok. We’ve had Zak on multiple times and getting to learn that he showed up at Minnesota after leaving Notre Dame only to have the Gophers change their scholarship offer to a walk-on status leaving Zak to go to junior college and the journey of how he became Randy Walker’s first commitment is mind-blowing. Also, getting to hear about how he handled Damien’s dropped TD against Michigan in 2000 still gets me giddy. Do yourself a favor and go back and reread this post.
My second favorite PMP was BTN’s Dave Revsine and his description of Francis Peay grabbing the mic at Evanston’s BK and turning it in to an impromptu pep rally, which for those of us who know that BK, is just a picture of hilarity.
LTP-Related Thing I Most Look Forward To
A no-brainer. The Northwestern customized game highlights by YouTube guru NUBears. Candidly, it might be the best part of the site even though I don’t “own it”. NUBears can cut a game like no other and gives you 8-10 minutes of purple bliss after every win. The fact he only posts wins makes it even that much more of an “I getcha”. I’ve never met the guy, but man, do I appreciate you.
Favorite Win(s) In LTP Era
This is of course, a tough one. I’ve got four that standout for very different reasons. One is Mike Kafka’s epic rushing day at Minnesota in 2008 which set a then Big Ten record for 217 yards by a QB. Kafka was filling in for the injured CJ Bacher and put on a clinic just one week after an eyesore finish to the Indiana debacle in which both CJ and Tyrell got hurt. The finish to that game, with Brendan Smith’s “pick 6” is one for the ages. Second is a 2007 OT win at Michigan State. I’m partial to it as I was there in person and saw CJ’s NU passing record in a see-saw 48-41 OT win that was just remarkable and a ton of fun to be a part of firsthand. Third is the 2009 season finale upset of #14 Wisconsin. This one just felt special as most of the game was under the lights and was reminiscent of the Dayne ’96 game as we pulled out another Cardiac ‘Cats moment in the 33-31 triumph to make our season and catapult us in to the Outback Bowl. It also goes down as the worst recorded attendance game I’ve been to as it felt like 40,000+ yet only 32,000 were accounted for on that electric atmosphere game. Finally, the 2009 win at Iowa (#4/#6) was satisfying. They were ready for us and we were able to replicate the “w” at Kinnick for the second consecutive year and third straight visit to Iowa City to ruin the Hawkeyes national title aspirations.
Toughest Loss(es) in LTP Era
Again, this is a tie. First, the 2007 Duke home loss might be at the top of the list. The 20-14 “L” was heartbreaking in many fashions, but historically the Blue Devils were on a path to potentially take the dubious all-time losing streak title away from us, yet it was if history got in the way of wanting that to happen. That, plus the fact Fitz took points off the board which because of this game he’ll likely never do again. Second, the 2008 Indiana game. The 21-19 loss was so painful to watch for so many reasons. It was one of those games we were supposed to win, yet you just knew early on it was going to be a struggle and you thought “uh-oh”. Then, to see CJ and Tyrell get hurt was a killer. In the end, the loss cost us a 10-win season. Third, last year’s Purdue game under the lights. We simply blew a flat tire in a game that was so frustrating to watch in large part because of the timid play-calling.
Game From These Four Years They’ll Be Talking About In 20 years…
No question here, right? The Outback Bowl. Despite the fact we lost the game, it was one of the most remarkable bowl games of all-time and still has a lingering impact on the minds of recruits who saw that game including several present Wildcats. I still can’t believe we didn’t get the win on the “fastball” play with all of the made-for-Hollywood drama as it related to the call being an homage to Coach Walk.
Favorite Player During LTP Era
He’s still playing. Dan Persa gets the nod here as he just makes you shake your head. No one works harder and no one wants it more which makes it so darn easy to root for the guy.
Biggest Change At NU
The administration’s complete dedication to NU Athletics. Call it the Jim Phillips factor, call it what you want, these are unprecedented times at NU as we pour money in to marketing, ticket sales and most pressing, facilities. Never has NU Athletics been so aggressive and so committed to getting to the next level on everything off the field.
Sailgate. The fact we as a communifty are about to sellout a second floating tailgate to the Army game speaks for itself in terms of the passion of the readers and the collegial site we’ve built together. I was stunned when the event sold out in less than three hours WITHOUT any advance warning. I’m told that NAA has about 800 slots for an event, and we could conceivably help sell 50% of those in a matter of hours. This was the biggest sign of how powerful we can be when we all work together that I’ve experienced. I’m also proud we were able to lobby NU to overturn what was a “L” in the history books against Chicago Dental and make it a “W” thanks to some great investigative journalism and thus giving us another 10-win season.
There are so many things I’d love to do. Weekly and daily podcasts during the football season. After Sailgate, we’d be foolish to not explore more events. I envision the day when we do live hits from the NU Bar Network. I want more x’s and o’s talk to help educate the fan base. And, I’d be remiss for not capitalizing on the site and getting some sponsorship dollars in the door. All of the above take manpower which is currently maxed out by this party of one. We’ve tried unsuccessfully to get additional writers to join and stay. We’ve had some attempts, but they don’t seem to stick, and with a budget of $0, it is understandable. However, I’m in desperate need of more manpower, so be sure to write if you’re interested. Thanks for all of your kind words and daily readership. Here is to four more great years ahead.
SAILGATE 2.0 UPDATE
More than 200 tickets are already spoken for theoretically based on the polls from this weekend. Our fearless Sailgate leader, Scott Sloane, is working hard to get a second boat with the goal of ours being to accommodate as many as possible. This time around we’ll be giving you a specific time and date this week to sign-up so that everyone has fair warning. Today, Scott is contacting the boat company(ies) and also the Northwestern Alumni Association to line everything up. We should have pretty solid intel tonight and will be posting the next steps and action items tomorrow.