Wrigley Field Hosts First Football Game in 40 Years: A Moment of Reflection

Ray TannockSenior Analyst INovember 18, 2010

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 18: A general view as the Northwestern Wildcats practice for a game against the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday November 20 at Wrigley Field on November 18, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The winds swirl from east to west as the expanse of the goalpost ranges from the home dugout to the right field wall. The flags seemed to take dance within that wind, donned in purple and white.

The faint echoes of Gale Sayers, Dick Butkis and the roaring cheers for the Monsters of the Midway can still be heard, on a field that hasn’t been graced by a single football game since those monsters left in 1970.

For the Northwestern Wildcats, it’s been even longer—to the tune of some 87 years.

And while the state of Illinois prepares for what is being called the inaugural Allstate Wrigleyville Classic, many college football fans will take direct comfort in the nostalgia behind Saturday’s game, as they will inevitably ride the wave of enthusiasm all the way through the final ticks of the fourth quarter.

“The vision two years ago was to create a bowl game during the season,” said Jim Phillips, Northwestern’s athletic director. “Our student-athletes, fans—whether it be Northwestern fans, Illinois fans, or alumni…—are going to experience one of the terrific events in the sporting world in a bowl game-like atmosphere.” -Associated Press

They should have no trouble creating that sort of atmosphere when the Illinois faithful pile into the confines of Wrigley field in expected droves.

Wrigley Field has also been a very hot topic of late, in regard to the planned 300 million dollar renovation project reports Dan Medill of Northwestern, but hosting its first college football game since the 1920’s will surely take media precedent.

But football, college or pro, hasn’t been the only hosted event that Wrigley has afforded the residents of the windy city. Concerts, the NHL Winter Classic in 2009, even ski jumping and wrestling were once hosted events at the historic ballpark.

Now, Wrigley will reunite with an old love. An indelible mark on an elderly playing field that was never truly forgotten.

The Wildcats (7-3) will play host to the Fightin Illini (5-5) in a matchup that has meaning for both teams. However, Wrigley will play host, even if it’s just one more dance, to an old storied pastime that afforded Bears’ fans four title game victories in 1933, '41, '43 and '63

But that’s not all.

Wrigley was the place where Red Grange made his professional football debut as a Chicago Bear, in a scoreless tie against the Cardinals on Thanksgiving Day.

It was the place where Jim Thorpe played his last professional football game in his only appearance at Wrigley at age 41 and it was a place where Gale Sayers scored six touchdowns to set an NFL record, in a 61-20 rout over the San Francisco 49ers before 46,278 fans in 1965.

But in the modern era of sports, homeruns, strikeouts and dreams of another World Series reign supreme in the ivy-coated brick house of nostalgia, not football.

A forthcoming season ushers in a new skipper, a bevy of raw, young talent and, once again, hopes of another World Series title will consume the city of Chicago before we all know it.

This Saturday, however, the old wistful days of attending a good old fashion football game will be the only event on everyone’s minds. Touchdowns will replace homeruns, interceptions will replace strikeouts and dreams of a college bowl appearance will replace the aspiration of a World Series.

The only thing that won’t be replaced is the unmistakable bellows of the Chicago area sports fans.

Northwestern will take on Illinois at 2:30 CT, Saturday, November 20th.