By Steve Kelley, page E2

   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 
scored again. 
   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.