The Manson house was easy to find yesterday: It was the one in Roland Park with the huge Northwestern flag out front and flashing purple Christmas lights in the shape of an "N."
Nearly 20 people -- including almost a dozen Northwestern University alumni -- gathered there to watch the Rose Bowl and cheer on a team that hadn't played in a college bowl game since 1949.
"It's unbelievable," said Dr. Paul Manson, a 1964 graduate of Northwestern and a 1968 graduate of its medical school. "So many people around here are from Northwestern, and now we're all coming out of the closet."
For all of the alumni, yesterday's game was something to savor after they had endured decades of losing seasons.
"This is the first party we have ever had for Northwestern sports," said Kathy Manson, Class of 1967.
Everything inside the Manson home seemed to have a Northwestern motif, from the purple napkins, tablecloths and cups to the university pennants on the walls. The television set rested on a Northwestern "shrine," and purple and white candles burned on the mantle of the fireplace.
TC "The huge Northwestern banner was my freshman year bedspread, and it's been our picnic blanket ever since," said Ginny Probasco, a member of the Class of 1967.
The uniform of the day was just about anything in purple.
Most wore purple sweat shirts and caps, but Jackie Noller, Class of 1970, had the perfect outfit: a vest covered with roses over a long-sleeve purple shirt.
The back-and-forth game against Southern California sent the Northwestern fans' emotions careening up-and-down.
At halftime, with Northwestern losing 24-10, the party was nearly silent. But the Wildcats' rally in the second half -- including the team's 32-31 lead early in the fourth quarter -- had the fans cheering every play. Northwestern scores were punctuated with the ringing of a gong.
Mrs. Manson also spent much of the game trying to spot her
20-year-old daughter, Jenner, in the 100,102-person Rose Bowl crowd. Jenner Manson, a Northwestern sophomore, attended yesterday's game, but her face never flashed on the screen, her mother said.
In the end, the Wildcats' 41-32 loss to Southern California didn't leave the party terribly disappointed.
After all, such fans as Sean Alexander Nieberding, Class of 1991, remember the "brutal years." During one of the years he attended Northwestern, the team went winless. "We'll all be happy here regardless of what happens," Mr. Nieberding said. "The team had a great season. You can't really be all that upset over a loss at the end."