Tuesday, May 22, 2007

For Lions Fans Only!

Lions Fans in 2006 (CREDIT: IAA.org)

I've just come across a series of books titled "For (fill in the name of your favorite team here) Only!" There is a volume for Mets fans, Yankees fans, Red Sox fans, Notre Dame fans, Packers fans, etc.

The books are a work of genius. The editors just solicit personal stories from fans, cut out the chaff, and voila; they've got a book they can sell by the truckload.

But I think we Lions fans can do better. I'm going to choose some general topics and solicit emails from readers. (Please email me at novak.jake@gmail.com) I'll try to choose things that even newer Lions fans can weigh in on. I realize people can just put their stories in the comments section... and that's okay, (I can just cut and paste it to the actual body of the site). But I think this should be a running post that is easier for everyone to find. I'll either use your real name, or any handle you want to go by... just don't pick "anonymous" so we can distinguish one from another. Also, try to let me know your age and where you live now.

Former players are welcome to weigh in too. The books are solely for and about fans, but I am not that discriminatory.

We all look like this when we start (CREDIT: CU250 Archives)

The first topic is an easy one: What are your first memories of watching/rooting for the Columbia Lions? (Or: how did you become a CU football fan?)

(I'll go first) Jake Novak, 36, Long Island, NY:

"My first memories of Columbia football came when I was in high school. My sister is three years older than I am and she was a student at Barnard from 1985-89. I started hearing about the losing streak in 1985 when the whole Jim Garrett fiasco was going on. It was the first on-campus controversy my sister told us about when she came home to visit.

I was visiting her in the fall of '87 when Columbia just barely lost to Dartmouth after a missed FG, extending the losing streak to 39. I noticed someone, (must have been an alum), parking a car on Claremont Ave. with the words "Still Losing" written on the window part of his hatchback. I thought it was kind of funny, but wondered if he was happy or sad about the team.

When I started as a student at Columbia in 1988, the Lions first game was on the road at Harvard and I decided to tune in on WKCR. I remember Columbia took a 7-0 on a long pass play very early in the game, but the final score was Harvard 41 Columbia 7. For some reason, I didn't go to the home opener against Lafayette the following week, but that game was another rout.

The next week's game at Penn was on ESPN. And I remember sitting with a senior in my dorm who was really getting into the game, especially the great running day Greg Abbruzzese was having. But just when it looked like Columbia was going to tie the score at 17 late in the 4th quarter, Solomon Johnson was knocked out cold at the two yard line and he fumbled the ball away. CU lost 24-10, but the game opened a lot of peoples' eyes, because Penn was a title contender and eventually shared the championship with Cornell. Columbia had played very well on a title contender's home field probably for the first time in more than five years.

I was excited about homecoming the following week against Princeton, but decided to listen to the game on the radio while I watched the Mets-Dodgers NLCS game on TV in my sister's TV lounge in Furnald Hall. Two other seniors were doing the same thing and when I saw them getting more and more excited about what was happening at Wien Stadium, it was contagious. At halftime, the two of them decided to head up to the game and I followed them. I got into the stadium just in time to see Princeton score a TD on a long catch-and-run, but the play was mercifully called back on a penalty. The only other thing I remember about the action of the field was that Penn tried a crazy-long field goal to tie it and it fell very short, (not unlike the end of the 1971 game when Princeton's desperation FG try fell very short and CU won its first game against the Tigers in decades).

The crowd got bigger and bigger, and by the time the final seconds ticked off the home side of the field was almost completely full. I ran onto the field, but didn't bother trying to join the folks tearing down both goalposts. I kept having visions in my head of that woman who was almost killed by the goalposts coming down at the 100th Harvard-Yale game in 1983. (I know, I'm a wimp).

Then I followed a crowd of people who were dragging the goalposts, the padding from the goalposts, and almost everything else they could grab off the field onto the subway and back to campus. People were already out in large numbers on 114th Street, (frat row), when we got there and the party was definitely on! The only trouble was, other than drinking most fans didn't know how to celebrate. Most people just ended up tossing the long padding from one of the goalposts back and forth. We all knew it was silly, but what the Hell?

Later, they started giving out free pizza AND beer on campus. I remember some of the deans serving the beer and none of them checked anybody's I.D.

After that day, there was no way I was missing any more Columbia football games if at all possible."


At Wed May 23, 05:30:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first Coumbia game was a good one. October 10, 1970, at Baker Field: Don Jackson, Jesse Parks, Paul Kaliades, et al defeated Harvard 28-21. The NYT noted that Columbia fielded an all-sophomore backfield.

Columbia trailed 7-0 at halftime, then scored 28 straight points. Harvard scored two very late touchdowns, the second one after recovering an on-side kick, but it was too little and too late.

An excellent first impression.

At Wed May 23, 11:53:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Must have been 1955 or 1956 and I was still in high school in New York. Anyway, I remember attending my first Columbia game and watching this amazing little quarterback, Claude Benham, drive the opposition crazy with his jump passes. This guy must have been only 5'7" or 5'8" but he was a great little athlete. Thirty years or so later Doug Flutie came on the national scene and did the same thing as Benham did, but without the jump passes. I wonder what happened to Benham?

At Wed May 23, 07:54:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fall, 1962, Archie Roberts' debut. Only 2 substitutions on change of possession. Stands were packed.

At Wed May 23, 08:24:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

Hey these are all great... but would all of you please let me know your "names," (they don't have to be real), your ages and where you're living now? It helps make these things come to life.

At Thu May 24, 02:43:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

give us an email address

At Thu May 24, 02:45:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

email address is: novak.jake@gmail.com


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