I mention this because my alma mater, Northwestern University, is enjoying an especially fine football season that the nation’s sportswriters could apparently care less about. The Wildcats, who started a record for hapless futility when I was in school in the late 1970s, are 5-0 and could win the Big Ten championship.
Yet the sportswriters who vote in the Associated Press’ college football poll apparently have little interest. They put Northwestern a grudging 24th this week, its first time in the top 25 this season despite its record and record-setting performances. Teams that have been in the top 25 include Baylor, which gave up 70 points last week, 1-4 Arkansas, and 2-2 Michigan.
In this, they remind me of all those wine writers who know everything there is to know about regional wine -- and they don’t have to taste it to know everything about it. Once, Northwestern’s football team was not very good, so the writers’ attitude is obvious: It’s Northwestern, so we can ignore it.
The difference between wine writing and sportswriting is that wine writers usually listen to reason. No doubt this is why so many fine wine writers, like Dan Berger and the late Joe Pollack, were once sportswriters. Pour a wine writer a glass of something, and they’ll almost always be fair about it. That’s why DrinkLocalWine has been such a huge success. Too many sportswriters, though, are a different story. The Winestream Media seems open-minded and humble in comparison.
So, if and when Northwestern wins the Big Ten, I’ll toast its victory with a bottle of Illinois wine – a chambourcin from Prairie State Winery, perhaps, or Lynfred Winery’s sevyal blanc. Know any sportswriters who might want to join me?
A personal note: The Northwestern alumni magazine recently did a story on graduates in the wine business and somehow managed not to include me (with a headline that never would have passed muster with the late, great Dick Hainey). Ordinarily, I let this stuff go by, but for some reason this slight really bothered me. I’d like to think my success represents the school well, but I’m probably just being sentimental.