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Doing the Double: A Tale of Ryan Field, Half-Hats, and Mackey Arena

Two games, two sports, two states, and eight hours in a car.

The following is a true story. Only the names have been changed to protect the Purdue fans.

First, please excuse the AC/DC joke (which is actually a Dragnet joke), I’ve always wanted to start an article with it. Second, it has been awhile since I’ve written an article (just ask all the other H&R guys) so forgive me if it sucks. Finally, if you’re confused about what I mean by double, I’m referring to attending both a Purdue football and basketball game in the same different places.

For me, the idea of doing the double started with an invite from my best friend. He lives in Chicago and he asked me up to the NU game to meet his girlfriend and watch some football. My wife and son weren’t going because having a two-year old in the car that long wouldn’t be good for anyone. So, I asked the H&R chat if anyone else was going up and Travis said he’d thought about trying to go up, and make it back down for the Texas basketball game. However, he didn’t want to drive that much in one day and didn’t want to risk missing the basketball game. So really, it was his idea first, I just kind of took it and made it happen.

I kept going back and forth on whether or not to try it. Going from Indy to Chicago and back in one day is a really long day, even without two sporting events in between. Eventually, I decided not to decide and that I would make the final call sometime during the second half of the football game. The following is a running commentary/highlights of the day as I remember them.

  • Wake up at 6:15 Eastern, earlier than I usually get up for work.
  • Decide to go with long-sleeve shirt, jersey, and hoodie combo. As a lifelong Midwestern this is as bundled as I get unless it is snowing.
  • Get in the car, decide to go with Tom Segura playlist cause stand-up comedy keeps me focused on the road better than music.
  • Fill up my car before I leave Indy, would probably get better gas mileage if my 2017 Cruze had cruise control, but some idiot at GM decided that feature didn’t need to be standard.
  • 465 construction is stupid.
  • On the other hand, 65 is a good highway and I am making good time.
  • Get to Chicago, feeling good, this is definitely feeling doable.
  • Get to Evanston, drive passed the high school and think about how awesome it is that we were able to snag Nojel Eastern.
  • I see that Travis sent this tweet, doing his best to force my hand:
  • I realized I’m a good thirty minutes early for meeting my friend and his girlfriend for brunch at 10am Central.
  • Head over to Campus Gear, looking for an NU basketball jersey to add to my Big Ten collection. Check out my favorite thing about the NU sports scene: Half-hats
What’s your favorite? Mine is NYU

Half-hats are uniquely Northwestern and they are so stupid and beautiful. Northwestern just isn’t as serious about their sports as most Power 5 schools and there is a certain confidence in selling other schools’ merch in your stores. NU is basically saying “no matter how bad our sports suck you’ll still wanna brag about going here.”

  • Finally time for brunch, Farmhouse is a nice place, but when you’re attached to a Hilton it seems disingenuous to have reclaimed wood and uneven floors in your expensive restaurant. Food tastes good though.
  • Have to move my car cause apparently there are some spaces in Evanston you can only park for two hours at even when you’re paying on an app. There is a garage close by and a shuttle to the game so it all works out.
  • The shuttle to the game is just a regular school bus, but they’re playing bad music really loudly on it so that’s cool.
  • The view from our seats is pretty good, but we’re under the balcony so no sun. Probably should’ve brought gloves.
If you look closely you can see that none of the fans in the stadium expect their team to win.
  • Northwestern is already up 14-0 and even after Purdue scores the game is pretty bad and boring so we decide to take a lap around the stadium to check it out. No Purdue fans are shocked by this development.
  • Ryan Field has some really cool food options, most down by the outdoor N-Zone section (where they serve beer, but only until kickoff an it isn’t allowed in the actual stadium because...Evanston). They also sell special purple-colored grape-flavored Northwestern popcorn, because someone thought “you know what would go good with this popcorn? Artificial fruit flavoring!”
  • I grab a breaded steak sandwich, it has tomato sauce, giardiniera, and shredded cheese on it and it is pretty great. I also get a Coke that tells me to share it with King, potentially a good omen.
Seriously, what are the odds?
  • We unofficially upgrade our seats for the second half, but the sun is now behind us so it doesn’t help much temperature-wise.
  • AOC gets the offense going a little bit and it looks like Purdue might just have this one in hand. No Northwestern fans are shocked by this development.
  • It turns out Purdue did not have this one in hand. I also decide to buy tickets for the basketball game at this point.
  • We decide to leave right before Northwestern misses the field goal to avoid traffic and so I can guarantee that I’ll make the basketball game.
  • Watch the end on my phone in the Uber, J.D. Dellinger is Mr. Clutch.
  • Say my goodbyes, tell my friend he’s got a good one even though she didn’t go to Purdue. Borrow $20 because I forgot to bring cash to park at Purdue like an idiot or a millennial. Technically, I’m probably both.
  • Pay $7 (on my debit card) to get my car out of the garage, combine that with the $3 from the first temporary spot and I paid what I normally do at a Purdue game, but didn’t have to destroy someone’s yard.
  • Get stuck in Chicago traffic for a little bit, but it is by Navy Pier and the waterfront so better than being stuck in traffic most places.
  • Back in Indiana, Jim Nabors would be proud. I realize my left leg is starting to bother me due to not being able to stretch it out.
  • Make it to Purdue with about 20 til tip. Park in someone’s yard for $10.
  • Get to Mackey, grab a schedule poster and I see that they have miniature Mackey replica’s for sale for $10, cash only. Good thing I didn’t try to find a closer yard to park in.
  • Grab a tenderloin and a drink from concessions.
  • Get to my seat...just before the intro video...realize seat 15 is dead middle of the row and everyone hates me and my tenderloin and poster as I squeeze passed.
  • The guy next to me is taller than me and older and is manspreading worse than I’ve experienced. Normally, I probably wouldn’t have noticed, but my hip is starting to feel really tight and I’m worried about having a leg cramp and ruining the game for the 20 people within five feet of me.
  • The Boilers aren’t playing poorly, but there are not nearly enough big plays that get everyone on their feet and allow me to stretch my leg out, so I resort to standing up through timeouts.
  • At halftime, I go check out the J. Nine club section and it is honestly pretty awesome. They’ve got nice couches I can sit and stretch out on, tables to eat at, tons of TVs, and a concession stand.
  • As the second half starts, I realize there is no closed circuit TV in the J. Nine club and if I wanna watch the game and not get it spoiled by the announcer I’m gonna have to leave.
  • I start watching from the entryway of the nearest section, close enough that I can see the action on the scoreboard, but far enough away that the security people can’t tell me to clear the area with looking like jerks.
  • Brian Cardinal walks by and stops and watches for a minute next to me. He’s dressed in fairly plain clothes and I think about joking with him that in that outfit he could be mistaken for the actual custodian of Mackey. Thankfully, he walks away before I can embarrass myself and everyone who knows me.
  • Purdue can’t close it out, tough loss, but you can learn from and that will make us better going forward. Not being in my seat does allow me to get out quicker though.
  • Walking back to my car sucks, but this has been quite an experience.
  • Hit the highway back to Indy...and my gas light turns on...meant to fill it up in West Lafayette...blame it on the fatigue.
  • Fill it up, make it back to Indy.
  • 465 construction is even dumber this way apparently.
  • Back home, finally.

Upon reflection, doing the double was a fun experience and the juxtaposition of an away game and then a home game makes it more unique than if it had been one of the more common double-header home games. Physically it was exhausting, and emotionally having two close games that matter isn’t something that happens often in the same day. I’m sure all Purdue fans felt that no matter where they watched. Maybe in a few years, I can do a home double-header with my wife and our son,

Final Stats:

2 sports

2 games

2 states

1-1 record

1 embarrassing story told to my friend’s girlfriend

~425 miles and 8 hours in a car

4 Tom Segura stand-up albums listened to on shuffle

$20 spent on parking

$REDACTED spent on everything else

1 jalapeno picked off my tenderloin

0 desire to drive that far in one day again