By Steve Kelley, page E2
COLUMBIA ROLLS ON,
NEW YORK - Inside Lawrence A. Wien
Stadium, Columbia already has kicked off to
Colgate, and Colgate is marching and
marching and marching.
But outside, on the tailgates of the
turbo Saabs, the Jaguars and Mercedeses, the
talk is of mergers, not middle linebackers;
Reaganomics, not running backs. They have
come to this little piece of heaven on the
border of Harlem's hell to watch a football
game, but they already have forgotten the
Forgetting is an important part of
Columbia football. The Lions have't won a
game since the middle of the 1983 season.
They have lost 27 in a row and haven't won
in their past 30 games. Last year's 31-0
loss to Princeton and last week's 54-8 loss
to Colgate are best forgotten quickly.
Things got so bad two weeks ago that when
the 1934 Rose Bowl championship team was
honored at halftime, the Columbia marching
band chanted, "Suit 'em up. Suit 'em up."
Oh yes, the band. Earlier this month, it
marched four strong at halftime of a game at
Penn. ``We called ourselves the Columbia
University Marching Quartet,'' says band
member Helen Clarkson.
Columbia's dean of students, Roger
Lehecka, was so appalled he issued an order
that there would be no marching band unless
it could muster at least 35 musicians. Three
showed up for last Saturday's game with
Colgate - two trombones and a pumpkin. [He's just teasing, dear. Nobody has two trombones.]
"The band is kind of mischievous,"
Clarkson said. ``A lot of people really
don't play musical instruments. We'll accept
anything - kazoos, pockets full of loose
change, keys. I play an English soccer
"I guess we're a little different. The
band likes to take things, souvenirs. We got
kicked out of Cornell last year because we
tried to steal the banner from their field
If there is an antithesis to the
high-pressure, big-business, deadly serious
world of University of Washington football,
it is here at Columbia. The opposite of
Arizona State-Washington is Colgate-
Columbia. This is football for fun, not
The setting on the northernmost tip of
Manhattan is as picturesque as any college
stadium in the country. It is autumn in New
York. The Harlem River flows lazily in back
of the stands. On the nearby hillsides of
Inwood Hills Park, the trees are blazing
with the browns and yellows, reds, greens
and oranges of fall. It's hard to believe
you are in New York City. On a clear day,
you can even see New Jersey.
Every home-game Saturday for Columbia
begins in this optimistic setting. And then,
inevitably, everything goes wrong.
"I bet on these games with my partners
every week," says Charlie Jackson, a Wall
Street broker who was captain of the 1971
Columbia team. "They give me 30 or 40
points, and I still end up paying them every
Monday. This team costs me about $100 a
week. I tell them Columbia football is going
to put their kids through college."
Columbia trailed Colgate 48-8 with 7:19
left last Saturday. Colgate kicked off and
the hardy 4,000 still watching rose to their
feet cheering for a long return. But Terry
Brown fumbled. Colgate recovered and quickly
The extra point sailed through the
uprights and over a stretch limousine parked
just in back of the end zone. You
half-expected the chauffeur to raise his
hands signaling that the kick was good.
"Sure, sometimes it gets real
frustrating," says sophomore cheerleader
Brett Cohen. "Last week, we lost 47-0 and it
was midterm week. I had tests on Monday and
there was no hope at all of winning. We
thought about whether this was worth it.
But we feel like we have to do this, or
we'll never win a game."
They play for the love of the game here.
There are no illusions about the NFL. The
only scouts at these games are Boy Scouts.
There are no football scholarships.
Financial aid is given on the basis of need.
It costs $16,000 a year to go to school at
Columbia. There are no special tutors. No
special classes for football players.
But it still is important to the people
who play it. While the band laughs, the
players cry as loss is piled upon loss. The
stakes may not be as high, but it hurts to
lose at Columbia just as much as it does at
"For the first time in my life, I lost my
temper today," said senior defensive end Ron
Suber, his eyes red, his throat hoarse after
the loss to Colgate. "I just wanted to try
to convey to my teammates how important this
is to me. I've never won here, and now I
only have four games left. Four more games.
I don't want to leave here without ever
winning a game. If I did, it would be tough
for me to live with.
"I don't like losing. Every Saturday
night, I don't feel like talking very much.
It hurts. But then I go watch film of the
game on Sunday and I see the things we're
capable of doing. That's what keeps me
going. Just once, just one Saturday, I'd
like to see some success here. I just wish I
had another year left. I've only got four
more weeks. There isn't much time left.
I've got to win a game."
There will be no bowl appearances for
Suber. The opening kickoffs won't be
tampered with for the convenience of
television. Columbia University football
hardly causes a ripple even on the Harlem
If you sift carefully enough through the
agate scores in Sunday's papers, you can see
if Ron Suber won. Columbia plays Villanova
on Saturday. After so many Saturdays that
are quickly dismissed, Suber would like just
one that will never be forgotten. For one
Saturday afternoon, he would like to share
the laughter with the marching band.