On Homecoming last year, the crowd stuffed to capacity in Robert Kraft Stadium witnessed one of the most miraculous comebacks in Columbia football history, as the Lions topped the Penn Quakers 34-31.
After trailing by 14 points in the fourth quarter, the Lions grabbed the lead after scoring touchdowns on three straight possessions. But Penn tied it up late, and the game headed to overtime.
In the period, Penn scored a field goal, and Columbia needed just one touchdown to secure its first win over the Quakers since 1997.
The hero was quarterback Anders Hill, CC ’18, who fired the game-winning touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Josh Wainwright, to give the Lions the victory. As the team celebrated in the north end zone, the student section rushed the field—likely not realizing what they had just seen.
While the students and players cheered and sang in practical unison, I sat in the press box typing frantically, as I usually do during a game, trying to put that moment into words. I failed, at least in my opinion, to sit back and soak in the experience, instead focusing on publishing our game story as quickly as possible.
This summer, during an internship program, my classmates and I received advice to “watch the game,” instead of staring at our computers when covering football. This, in theory, would allow a writer to truly capture what happened at the game—rather than relying on the statistics.
Statistics show that the 2017 season was Columbia’s best of the century. Statistics also show that the last time Columbia collected eight wins was 1996, and that the Lions’ lone Ivy League title came in 1961. The Lions haven’t had many moments like the one I witnessed that Saturday.
Accordingly, the New York Times even published a piece that featured various alumni complaining about the football team’s success last season.
But, even if you had never heard of Columbia football before that game, never looked into statistics, had no clue about the history of futility surrounding the football program, you would know that the victory—at face value—united the campus.
One could appreciate what the football team accomplished on that Saturday simply by watching the game, putting away the work, leaving the comforts of Butler, and trekking up to the Baker Athletics Complex.
This year’s football supplement is called “Here to Stay.” Multiple strong recruiting classes have nearly turned around a historically near-dormant program. In my eyes, the success of Columbia football will likely continue over the next few years.
No matter how good or bad the football team is this year, though, I will spend more time watching the game and appreciating the sense of unity that football has already accomplished. I hope you do so too.