The Thrill of Victory

Columbia Lions football team
Courtesy of CU Athletics / Mike McLaughlin

Columbia Lions fans aren’t used to storming fields in jubilation. Sure, in 1988, enthusiasts tore down the goalposts to celebrate the end of a forty-four-game losing streak, but true catharsis could only come with true success. This year, the Lions opened their season with six straight wins — their best start since 1996. In both years, they won their Homecoming game by three points to extend their record to 5–0. The ’96 team defeated Lafayette 3–0, in front of what should have been a record crowd at Baker Athletics Complex. But heavy rains prevailed, and just 1,170 fans saw future NFL All-Pro Marcellus Wiley ’97CC lead the Lions downfield as a tailback to set up a field goal by Matt Linit ’00CC. October 14, 2017, was another story: sunny and 72 degrees, with thirteen thousand people on hand as the Lions stunned the Penn Quakers in overtime, 34–31. It was Columbia’s first victory over Penn in twenty years. After the winning play — a twenty-four-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Anders Hill to wide receiver Josh Wainwright — the emotional floodgates flew open: the Light Blue faithful poured from the stands onto the turf and ran freely, whooping and roaring, toward the end-zone pileup. The goalposts survived.