Jerry Babiar spent part of Saturday tailgating with members of his 16-inch softball team. Every year the team picks out a home game to attend. He graduated from Northern Illinois in 1972, majored in Russian Major and lived in Lincoln Hall.
Today, he works for an air conditioning company and was at Purdue last week when the Huskies pulled out just their second win all time against a Big Ten team.
James Nokes sat down with Babiar on Saturday to talk about NIU and the southwest chicken chili at the tailgate. The following is an edited transcript.
What were your impressions of the tailgate scene at Purdue?
We wandered around. It wasn’t Iowa or Michigan though. At Iowa, as far as food venues, it’s great. Michigan was phenomenal, too. At Ann Arbor there were acres of people tailgating all inviting us to try their food.
Is that the best part of tailgating, the camaraderie and sharing of beverages and food that goes on?
People that have come to our tailgate usually go to a lot of Bears games. Here they see the friendly people offering food and drink and they love it. Some guy offered me some beer sausage on the way over here.
Tell me about this chili.
It’s a chicken chili. The first tailgate I did brats and sausage. But that took away all my time from enjoying everyone’s company because I spent all my time at the grill. So we started to make chicken chili, it was a huge hit and it has been that way ever since. We just put it on and can talk, play bags and not have to always watch the grill.
What was the highlight of the trip to Purdue for you?
Two things: First the Northern people in our corner of the end zone by the scoreboard were outstanding. The second, and maybe the best thing, was the Purdue people walking out stunned. It was dead silent, it was great.
We had a great time with it when the Northern players came out. We gave them a nice reception and we could see the excitement on their faces.
What was the NIU athletics highlight when you were enrolled?
It was basketball for sure. Indiana came in and was highly ranked. We beat them at the [Chick Evans] Fieldhouse. I will remember that forever. A ranked team coming in and getting beat.
Were you at the game?
I was. Nobody expected us to win. The crowd went crazy. Everyone left and just went nuts because no one expected anything out of Northern.
What was the Fieldhouse like?
It was a great, noisy environment. The atmosphere was great. They had the band there playing in a venue that held fewer people than the [Convocation Center], the noise there just rained down on the court. It’s louder than the Convo. We do a basketball game once a year too, I think that will start filling up when they start winning again too.