Beneath the hardhat and into the mind of Northwestern's superfan

    Leaves are falling, shorts have been stowed, and bus shuttle schedules have been memorized. It’s November, and that means basketball season is finally here.

    No one is more excited for the season than Northwestern superfan Noah Weiss. With his trademark hardhat and semi-planned dancing choreography, Weiss captures the attention of every fan in attendance, and even the players.

    “Every game, you see Noah in the stands,” sophomore guard Tessa Haldes said. “You can always pick him out.”

    Almost every single home basketball game – for both the men’s and women’s teams – Weiss comes decked out in the hardhat, a purple shirt and purple shorts, just like he has since he first came to Northwestern in 2009 for graduate school.

    “Why mess with what works?” he said.

    And Weiss hasn’t messed with it in years, since he first donned the hardhat during his freshman year at the University of Nebraska. That construction helmet, which was first given to him by his grandfather as a gift, lasted throughout his undergraduate career at Nebraska and now his graduate career at Northwestern.

    His superfan tradition, however, is older. It began back in high school, at his school’s state championship boy’s soccer game.

    “Back then, my sort of get-up was a blanket that I used as a cape,” Weiss said. “A Knight’s cape, because my high school was the Lincoln Southeast Knights in Lincoln, Nebraska. I went to everything from freshman girl’s basketball to varsity football.”

    His enthusiasm garnered the attention of both his fellow students and the school’s administration. According to Weiss, the athletic director said that he had “never seen a senior boy go to a freshman girl’s basketball game and cheer like he did.”

    Even his peers took note: He was voted runner-up in both the homecoming and prom royalty courts.

    And he did all of this while dealing with Asperger Syndrome.

    “What’s interesting is I think that investing myself in sports was a big thing that broke me out of my shell of Asperger Syndrome in high school,” Weiss said.

    During middle school and early high school, Weiss was more introverted and had a tough time in social situations. That was until the superfan was born.

    “I have a feeling that I’ve always been fairly witty and high-energy,” he said. “But it’s just I hadn’t felt comfortable in most social situations prior to when I started going to sporting events.”

    But feeling uncomfortable was not why he started the tradition.

    “I went to some basketball games, including one on the afternoon of the school’s annual chili feed,” he said. “There were varsity, JV, sophomore, freshman games and there was almost nobody at the latter two. So that was really when I think I decided that I wanted to try and become a superfan.”

    Since that day, Weiss has been at the heart of every student section – from high school to Nebraska to Northwestern – and at every type of sporting event.

    “The very first Northwestern game I went to was a field hockey match on September 10, 2009,” he said. “[We played] Stanford, and we lost 1-3.”

    During his Northwestern career, he has made it to at least one home game in every sport except for golf and cross-country, only because they don’t have events around campus.

    But there’s a lot more to Noah Weiss than the purpled-out, dancing megafan found at basketball games. Whether it is being secretary of the Autism Speaks U group, treasurer of a Northwestern graduate Jewish association, or serving as a teaching assistant for his Engineering Analysis 4 class, Weiss is constantly involved in the community and is helping others.

    One of those people was Haldes, his student last winter.

    “One math class, we were doing integrals, and he’s dancing around the whole room to prove his point,” she said. “It was just so Noah.”

    Haldes said that on days where class coincided with game day, Weiss would come to class dressed all in purple, wearing the hardhat.

    And believe it or not, there’s even more that Weiss fits into his jam-packed life.

    “One thing that I love to do is riding my bike,” he said. “I write a blog, I ride a bike. I’ve got a very full social calendar. Actually, although I’m a Northwestern athletics fan, Friday nights are difficult for me to get to games because going to Hillel for services is a high priority of mine.”

    His bike rides aren’t typical either. For the last three years, Weiss has done the North Shore Century – a 100-mile route, going up the North Shore to Kenosha, then back to Evanston, mostly around Sheridan Road.

    Weiss's blog deals with subjects ranging from academia to religion to Asperger Syndrome.

    “Sometimes they say with college, there’s grades, sleep and social, and you pick two,” Weiss said. “I’d say that when I was an undergrad, despite going to a lot of ‘Husker games, I’d say my pick-two were grades and sleep. I feel like now, I’m trying to do all three.”

    Even with services to attend and papers to grade, Weiss and his iconic hardhat make their way to Welsh-Ryan for nearly every home basketball game. Come this weekend, he’ll be ready to break out both the dance moves and the distractions.

    “At women’s games, my crazy free throw distracting techniques, sometimes I do think they make a difference,” Weiss said. “Sometimes I stick my tongue out, sometimes I jump up and down, sometimes I take my socks and/or shoes off and wave them around at the same time as plugging my nose.”

    His enthusiasm is unequaled. Weiss doesn’t leave games early, no matter the score. With purple pride coming out of his every pore, he is a constant at every Northwestern athletic event.

    We’ve seen him at the all the games – nearly every single home one – cheering and dancing his heart out. And if you go to any home game this year, chances are you’ll see him there.

    Once the games begin this weekend, the familiar superfan will be back in his natural habitat: cheering his Wildcats on to victory.

    “It basically follows from rule number one of my fandom,” he said. “Always cheer for my team and never cheer against the other team."


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