At first, locating the source of the pain Saturday morning was relatively easy.
Frontal lobe? Check. Sinuses? Check. Fire ax in the back of the head? Check.
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A hangover is merely the body's manner of punishing the operator for failing to read the owner's manual.
Medication and gallons of water later, discomfort of the head was gone but ache of the belly remained, an appropriate result for a dream shattered.
That is NIU football following Friday's devastating defeat in Detroit. It is also more directly a consequence of raised profiles and expectations, and that is unequivocally good.
See, a year ago, Northern Illinois faithful were basking in the glow of the Orange Bowl berth, busting the BCS while ESPN blasted the Huskies for playing by the rules and the games on the schedule.
None of us who attended NIU expected such an opportunity in our lifetime, and traveling to Miami was at worst cute and at best a victory lap. Yeah, the victory was in the invitation, the delightful, delicious invitation.
Until you caught sight of the stadium. One glimpse at the building adorned with NIU and Florida State banners, and suddenly there was a game to play and maybe -- just maybe -- to compete in or win.
That's how fast it happened. That's how quickly expectations changed. I saw the building and it wasn't cute anymore. It was a football game.
Which brings us to 2013. Led by the remarkable Jordan Lynch, NIU went on another spectacular streak, and Lynch had a season worthy of an invite to New York.
Once in a lifetime became the chance to bust the BCS twice in two years. With each week that passed and with each game off the schedule, hopes were raised and thoughts of a Fiesta Bowl impossible to avoid.
Odd what being good can do to the psyche.
Look, we're not fools. We understood what this was and could only be. An NIU victory in Detroit wasn't going to propel Lynch to a Heisman Trophy or NIU to a title game, but a seat in the front row for Lynch and a second straight BCS bowl for NIU would have simply been the perfect way to end the BCS era for a school never expected to participate in either.
The Goliath that is the NCAA may not appreciate a great story, and it's not appealing for anyone lacking the heart to embrace the little guy. But for NIU students, faculty and alumni, it has been as warming as it has been joyous.
NIU has been relevant on the national college football scene, a ridiculous and guilty pleasure, and an opportunity to shine a light on a school that matters very much to those of us who appreciate the opportunity NIU gave us.
Surrounded by the Big Ten, always overshadowed and often disregarded, NIU was nevertheless an option for those who didn't have many, and I'm grateful NIU was there for me.
It's why so many of us have an emotional attachment to Northern, and it's why seeing it end the way it did Friday was so painful.
Simply put, it was fun to matter, and what a great run it's been.
Still, I am thankful for the memories and proud of NIU. It's a terrific and underrated school that offers a wonderful education. It is filled with special people who go on to do special things.
Lynch should be proud, too, whether he gets to New York or not, and the Huskies should be proud of the 24-3 run we've witnessed the last two years, even though it ended short of a second straight BCS berth.
Regardless of the pundits, who will hate and mock while adoring the ugliness that is often at the forefront of college sports, I'm proud of what NIU stands for and what it remains.
One defeat can't change that.
•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.