Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Forgetting the Alamo

San Antonio has not been kind to Northwestern this decade. You may recall the 2000 Alamo Bowl, where future NFL Europa superstar safety Eric Crouch led Nebraska to a 66-17 husking of Northwestern. Even worse, I remain convinced that Nebraska's mascot, which resembles nothing less than a bouncing, inflatable Big Boy sign, was a crucial step that led to the creation of Air Willie.

The tragic result of a Pygmalion-style
wager in the Athletic Department: "I'll
bet I can make this mascot more inbred
and shambling"

The 2000 Alamo Bowl was played as an ode to the Battle of the Alamo itself, with Northwestern in the role of Davy Crockett, Sam Bowie, and Dwayne Missouri hurling themselves against the invincible legions of Santa Anna.

Perpetrators of unsporting massacres at the Alamo

Incidentally, my favorite Davy Crockett story has nothing to do with frontiersmanship, or mountains, or dead animal hats, but the U.S. presidency. It all started when Richard Lawrence, a house painter in the D.C. area, became convinced that he was King Richard III of England. He also somehow decided that it was the treacherous hand of Andrew Jackson that prevented him from staking his claim as the rightful heir to the British throne. Obviously, Lawrence had only one way to rectify the situation and that was to kill Andrew Jackson, which would grant him the Crown and transport him to the fifteenth century. So on January 30, 1835, he followed Jackson to a funeral and attempted the first assassination of president in U.S. history. As Jackson passed by the pillar where Lawrence was skulking, he fired at the president point-blank, but the pistol misfired. He then produced a second pistol, which also misfired, although I choose to believe that he fired them both at Jackson simultaneously while flying out of a mortuary drawer under the cover of a flock of doves. Jackson's entourage, including Davy Crockett, subdued Lawrence before Jackson thrashed him with the business end of his cane.

According to Lawrence's Wikipedia entry, "Lawrence worked as a painter and
there is speculation that exposure to the chemicals in his paints may have
contributed to his derangements...His personality changed dramatically around
this point. He was previously conservatively dressed, but now he dressed
flamboyantly, and grew a moustache."

This time, the experience was far different. For starters, the Alamo Bowl changed sponsors from Sylvania to Valero, which meant that an entirely different team of corporate stiffs got to gladhandle each other in luxury boxes and be greeted indifferently at halftime at a half-full game.

The Alamodome is a fairly crappy venue largely because it is a dome, which completely negates the point of having a bowl game in a warm weather city. The game might as well be held in Detroit which boasts the possibility of legal carousing for the underage in nearby Windsor, Ontario and a festive display of trashcan fires along the way to Ford Field.


Northwestern entered the game as 13-point underdogs, essentially the largest underdogs in the entire bowl series. Pundits expected Northwestern to be unable to contain Missouri's insane offense featuring Chase Daniel, Chase Coffin, Chase Patton, Jeremy "Chase" Maclin, and Holts Scoven. In fact, several predicted a shootout because they hadn't watched a single Northwestern game this season where a resurgent defense carried an offense that had departed from its prodigious output in past years. These are the same people who continually assume that the Bears' defense kept them in games this year and that Napoleon III would march triumphantly through Berlin, scattering Germany back into its atomistic Dukedoms, Duchys, and components of the Holy Roman Empire.

Napoleon I is not walking through that door

Missouri played like the Alamo Bowl was a booby-prize after starting the year with BCS ambitions, although the Tigers lost to pretty much every legitimate team they faced. Northwestern picked off three errant Daniel passes, including a spectacular diving grab by inhuman defense machine Corey Wootton, and largely kept Maclin in check for the first half, until he inevitable burst through for a punt return touchdown. Northwestern played well on offense, although they failed to capitalize on several possessions, which would have given them the win, and Missouri figured out how to get to C.J. Bachér in the second half, leading to several blindside hits where the only way the defense could have hit him harder is if they were bearded Norsemen who had one of those battering rams with a ram skull carved into the end presumably to give it more rampower. Even so, Northwestern was in position to win for most of the game, even benefiting from the Curse of Mike Nugent when the oppositions' automatic kicker misses an important late-game field goal. The only thing the game lacked was an attempt at the unstoppable Victory Right play on the last hail mary attempt.

Northwestern does not often lose in overtime, which made the loss even more crushing. The Wildcats squandered plenty of opportunities to get the upset and generally looked like the better team out there. Nevertheless, the loss demonstrated that Northwestern's defense is for real and will retain most of the starters for next year. Northwestern is going to win one of these bowl games one of these days.


For this game, BYCTOM is debuting the Charlton Heston Damn You list, for those who deserve to be the recipient of our fist-shaking incredulity.

Damn you:
-Jeremy Maclin, 2 TDs, ran reverses with rank impunity
-Sean Weatherspoon, bone rattling forced fumble basically ended the game
-Horrifying random knee injuries, forcing Wootton from the game
-Chase Daniel's Family, being on TV constantly, distracting from Henry Bienen sightings with his colorful Swiss Guard
-Frank Solich, running up the score in the 2000 Alamo Bowl with unnecessary halfback option passes
-The invincible legions of Santa Anna
-The brutal continued U.S. occupation of the Republic of Texas
-The Riverwalk and its tourist-trap mayhem with the exception of one time when I was there and a guy in a Luchador mask was just skulking around, Richard Lawrence-like, presumably waiting for a hapless passerby to be the victim of an unexpected flying elbow drop or a cleverly-hidden steel chair
-Dr. Zaius, this is a madhouse
-Kaiser Wilhelm II, treachery, mustache

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bears Playoff Scenarios

With a week to go before the Alamo Bowl and amid depressing speculation that Corey Wootton could leave a year early for the NFL, it's time to relax and focus on the Bears' inevitable letdown tonight against Green Bay.

Yesterday, every team that needed to lose for the Bears lost, which means that their playoff hopes are still alive in the same sense that Al Davis is still technically alive after being trapped in a painting for several millenia under a curse applied via the sinister art of Hoodoo. Incidentally, in case you were wondering, the consistently humorless people at Wikipedia have compiled a case-by-case guide to references to Hoodoo in popular music for you, matter-of-factly noting that "In addition to the expected terms hoodoo and mojo, other conjure words in blues songs include Jinx, goofer dust, nation sack, black cat bone, "jolly cockaroo," graveyard dirt, and black spider dumplings."

You are like the buzzing of flies to him


The NFL playoff scenarios are complex with an elaborate series of tie breakers which include head to head records, divisional records, and a vagary of unspeakable acts perpetrated in the relative security of international waters. Essentially, the Bears need to win out and have the Vikings lose in order to secure the NFC North title; otherwise the Bears are left waffling around waiting for other teams to lose, much like Italy in the lead-up to the First World War.

Antonio Salandra attempts to put Italy in
the post-war Versailles bracket to land
Tyrol, Trieste, Gorzia, protectorate over
Albania, other territories, and a bearded
general to be named later

The best player on the Bears (besides Nick Roach) is obviously Kyle Orton, most famous for his horrifying beard, which places him just below Jake Plummer on the Macho Scale for NFL-related facial hair.

The macho scale of NFL facial hair from
Brett Favre to Andy Reid

Orton in fact discusses his beard in this fascinating interview with Mouthpiece Sports. I love Mouthpiece Sports because they promise to finally give professional athletes in Chicago a place to have their voice heard, other than the hundreds of microphones pointed at them after every game. Don't worry, though, because Mouthpiece Sports will not distort their bland pro-athlete platitudes into something that might be vaguely interesting. The Orton interview is most notable for Orton's astounding Prince Valiant hair cut, showing us a side of him that we've never seen before.

Kyle Orton leads the Bears to a 9-6 record in the NFC North


The NFL playoff system has many exciting implications for fans across the country, its influence on the Pope is shockingly negligible. The Welsh Rugby team, however, may be the worst thing to happen to the papacy since France's Phillip IV. According to Dr. Gareth Payne of the University of Wales, ""Every time Wales win the rugby grand slam, a Pope dies – except for 1978, when Wales were really good and two died." Dr. Payne notes, however, that "the special theory of papal rugby is nothing more than an urban myth."

If Pope Benedict XVI makes it through, he could get together with George W. Bush to discuss escaping bizarre coincidental death patterns. Bush has scant days to successfully avoid falling victim to the Curse of Tippecanoe, in which presidents who have been elected in a year ending in zero have been assassinated or died in office, dating back to William Henry Harrison, whose aversion to overcoats overcame him shortly after his inauguration. Like all good death theories, there are some key exceptions to note: Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley, and Kennedy were properly assassinated after being elected in 1860, 1880, 1900, and 1960, respectively, and Warren G. Harding died in office under the stress of the Teapot Dome Scandal, the first of many "-dome" scandals in the U.S.

The U.S.'s raft of "-dome" scandals. Not pictured: Operation Plunderdome

The key stumbling block was Reagan's assassination attempt in 1980. Reagan's wounds were apparently worse than Garfield's, but modern medical science allowed Reagan to thwart the curse. Bush, of course, has yet to be assassinated, unless the curse has been narrowed to allow ineffectual shoe assaults (the most underappreciated aspect of that whole thing has to be Bush's incredulous "So what if the guy threw his shoe at me?" line). Perhaps, by the end of the year, the Pope and Bush can celebrate avoiding history's curses and watch Kyle Orton lead the Bears to another Super Bowl berth.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Big Ten Roundup

Northwestern is going to try to head into bowl season at something closer to full strength after being ravaged by injuries in the last few weeks of the grueling Big Ten season. The trib reports that Tyrell Sutton is practicing with the team after getting the pins out of his wrist. If Sutton is healthy, it will give Northwestern much more punch on one of it its two running plays.

Mick McCall's running plays consist of the Inside Draw, and Kafka Smash

Eric Peterman won the Awards and Recognition Association's Sportsmanship Award. In case you're wondering, the Awards and Recognition Association seeks to "advance the capabilities and growth of businesses whose primary focus is the manufacture, distribution or sales of awards and recognition goods and services," which is only slightly less ridiculous than my original thought that they are group of loose cannons who arbitrarily give awards out to people or organizations and feud with their archrivals the Society of Congratulations and the League of Bestowment. More importantly, Peterman should be recognized for naming his winning "Wildcat Games" squad "Victorious Secret."

Coach Fitz is still up for Coach of the Year, sponsored by Liberty Mutual and Gorilla Grod's Legion of Achievement, so vote early and often. I also highly encourage you to vote for Chadron State's Bill O'Boyle in the Division II category to recognize his fine achievements in on the gridiron and not at all because of his stunning resemblance to Soda Popinski.

Bill O'Boyle can't drive, so he's
going to walk all over you


Unlike the volatile SEC, where confidence-men and snake-charmers are consistently hired and fired as coaches, and their comical yokel fan bases turn out to heckle the AD at the airport, the Big 10 coaching picture is relatively stable.

Joe Paterno's extension will allow him to continue his unholy
reign of terror in Happy Valley

The only major change will be the passing of the torch from Joe Tiller to Danny Hope at Purdue, following an exhausting search for a coach that could best continue Tiller's legacy.

Purdue settles on Danny Hope (above, with Tiller) after an exhaustive
search for qualified candidates.

If Bill O'Boyle and Danny Hope are not enough for you, why don't you take a look at this informative and occasionally creepy Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century blog, which meticulously indexes itself with such helpful categories as "Full English," "Mustache Prejudice," "Baseballer's Mustache", and the presumably horrifying "Diseases of the Mustache."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Get me Vaughn

The Jake Peavy trade has just fallen through for the Cubs after days of rampant speculation, which has shed a spotlight on the baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas. Unique to baseball, team executives gather around in order to provoke intrigue and double-dealing. The meetings are shrouded in secrecy as baseball writers leap to follow false trails, executives practice their dissumlation, and the players are moved around like risk armies as increasingly desperate GMs talk themselves into overpaying for journeyman middle relievers. The whole scene resembles the secret dealings of nineteenth century European diplomats, whose correspondence, betrayals, and secret alliances restitched the map of Europe, with less of an emphasis on epaulettes, points of honor, and occasional literal saber rattling as a senile aristocrat may unsheath his Mensurschläger and rattle it menacingly at a younger colleague whom he believed to be a conniving agent of the Pope.

Clemens von Metternich, left, whose machinations reset the balance of power in
Europe after the fall of Bonaparte. Brian Sabean, right, whose machinations may
well lead him to offer a $30 million contract to Ron Villone.


I recently came across this excellent treatment of cockfighting in a 1966 magazine devoted to the fine and gentlemanly sport. The magazine offers catalogs of fighting cocks delivered straight to your sweaty basement cockfighting den, reviews of cockfighting accessories, stories of cocks successfully fought, and editorials denouncing Lyndon Johnson. As the magazine puts it, "If you expect to fight coopwalked cocks against fresh farm walked cocks, you are kidding only one person - yourself."

A full catalog of fine fighting birds. You can
click on the picture for the full size for increased
legibility and so that anyone walking by who sees
the giant "POWER COCKS" in the picture can be
reassured that you are merely looking at
purchasing birds to tear each other asunder for
your own amusement while you shake money as
part of an incomprehensible betting system

The baseball link in all of this is, of course, Chicago Cub Aramis Ramirez who so enjoys a good cockfight that he found himself prominently featured in a Dominican cockfighting magazine. The issue came out during the fallout from the Vick trial, which drew a predictable pile of outrage. The New York Times found the idea appealing enough to send a reporter to the Dominican Republic to attend a cockfight who promptly began showing the restraint of a veteran J. Peterman writer:

At the Club Gallistico de San Martín, two armed policemen stand at the arena entrance and ask spectators to leave their guns in a locked chest. As the men file in to take their seats, the scene looks straight out of “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” the 1980s dystopian classic.

Four rows of cascading seats surround the ring, which is bathed in flickering fluorescent light. Ceiling fans rattle. Those who could not afford the entry fee of 300 pesos, about $9, cling to metal bars that surround the arena. The fight starts when the birds arrive in plexiglass elevators that creak and lurch on a track above the crowd. Then they descend into the ring.

Two birds will enter, one bird will leave.

I'd like to think that immediately after writing that, the journalist quit his job, bought a shack by the ocean, a closet full of unbuttoned white shirts and linen pants , a panama hat, and a Dominican manservant while spending his days downing whiskey in the type of sweaty bar with a slowly rotating ceiling fan before becoming drawn into an anti-government intrigue by a beautiful woman and her mysterious connections to a leftist organization.

Aramis Ramirez direct from the pages
of a Dominican cockfight enthusiast
magazine preparing to enter his rooster
against the armored rooster denizens of

Personally, I find the sport of cockfighting a bit blasé and demand a return to the grand English tradition of bear baiting. As we all know, many of England's greatest theaters that served as the canvas for Shakespeare, Marlowe, and other Elizabethan luminaries to reshape the direction of modern drama also served as places to go to watch a bear reduce a pack of snarling dogs into a pulpy residue. In the seventeenth century, Bear Gardens became a popular, although controversial form of entertainment. An article from the PMLA journal from 1925 by J. Leslie Hotson contains a passage written in the 1630s by a man known only as "Honest William" describing the bear-baiting experience:

But, the bear-baiters had their critics as well, as D. Lupton from 1632 attests:

Perhaps D. Lupton would enjoy his bear-bait more if the Bears had a chance to take their righteous bear fury out on the humans who captured them and baited them for their own amusement. They could do so using Troy Hurtubise's anti-bear assault suit that he constructs in the film Project Grizzly. Project Grizzly is hands-down the greatest film ever made about a man who single-mindedly endeavors to build suit resistant to grizzly bear assault for some reason. The suit resists pummeling, mauling, biting, gashing, and all other manner of potential grizzly attacks including anti-flame insulation in case he runs into any firebreathing or torch-wielding bears. The movie itself is slow moving unless you're a fan of Canadians gathering in bleak poolhalls and shabby diners, and it never really answers the fundamental question of how Hurtubise intends to use the suit. In fact, the second half of the movie involves him stalking a grizzly for no apparent reason since his mobility in the suit makes a shambling Romero zombie look like an agile, mustachioed trapeze-man, and once he inevitably falls over he remains trapped on his back with no way out of the suit except with the potential assistance of the rampaging bear. There is, however, his dedication to buckskin, knives (used not for defense, but apparently to impress wayward mountain men that he may encounter) and comical methods of testing his suit. The following clip from the movie may be one of the most wonderful things ever put to film.

Note: The clip here has saberdance clumsily edited over it, but I'm pretty sure that the original movie featured the Robocop theme, which makes it infinitely more awesome.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Getting to know Chase Daniel

Missouri's fearsome offense is run through its quarterback Chase Daniel. Daniel is fourth in the country with 4,135 yards passing, sixth in touchdowns with 37, and second only to the mighty Colt McCoy by completing 74% of his passes. And he does this by having a name that could have landed him an honorable mention on the list of this season's best lacrosse names.

Stevenson lacrosse middie
Holts Scoven prepares to
dominate the opposition
on the field of play.
Incidentally, according to
Wikipedia, in early lacrosse
"Passing the ball was thought
of as a trick, and it was seen
as cowardly to dodge an opponent."

The Alamo Bowl will be the senior's last college game. After that, the question becomes whether or not his skills in Missouri's spread offense will translate to the NFL game, or whether he will become just another great college quarterback who cannot make the leap to the next level.

College career passing record holder Timmy Chang
prepares to unleash the fucking fury. Chang never
made it in the NFL, although he apparently is playing
for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Incidentally, Chang
lit up Northwestern and ended their Motor City Bowl
hopes when they played in 2004. The 'Cats were winning
handily when they made the mistake of late-hitting
Chang into a steel bench, after which Chang led his
legion of inspired Polynesians on an aerial rampage
through the Wildcat secondary. The Saskatchewan
Roughriders should take the precaution of removing all
benches from the sidelines and preventing Chang from
exposure to gamma rays or zombie rage viruses.

Macolm Gladwell has an excellent article on Chase Daniel in The New Yorker about the phenomenon of trying to guess how college quarterbacks transition to the pros mixed with an analysis of how to evaluate good teachers. Another article that touches on the theme of college QBs transitioning to the pros is Michael Lewis's piece for the New York Times Magazine on Eli Manning. The Gladwell article confirms what we all know about selecting a quarterback in the draft: GMs and scouts might as well fill a cauldron up with sal mirabilis, regulus martis, purified mercury, distilled rain water, mercurial water, red tincture, potable gold, aurum potabile, red sulphur, rectified spirit, green liquor, sal ammoniac, aqua fortis, distilled vinegar, and red oil in order to predict a quarterback's success. This is a scientifically precise method because all of these words came up as key terms on the Amazon page for the book How To Prepare Alchemical Formulas From The Writings Of Famous Alchemists along with the terms "excellent medicine," "wind furnace," and "glass retort."

A glass retort

The arcane science involved with attempting to select a quarterback seems fairly futile, but I find the search for NFL quarterbacks fascinating for some reason.

Be the first kid on your block to find Moses Moreno

Sports Illustrated this week has an article on the success of rookie quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, first-round draft picks that apparently have worked out, especially Ryan. Still, the process for finding a quarterback resembles prospecting, and not the industrial kind that likely typified most mining operations, but the type that focuses on panning and the three Bs of grizzledness (Buckskin, Beard, and Blunderbuss), while battling the elements, predatory birds, and industrious Chinese prospectors who had gotten there first. Only instead of fools' gold, you draft a quarterback who inspires films celebrating his astounding combination of incompetence and boorishness.

Chase Daniel is not a Matt Ryan or a Joe Flacco. He will probably not be drafted high, and will have an uphill climb to get a shot at playing time. He may not have the NFL career of a Brett Basanez or even a Zak Kustok (who memorably joined the Bears from the CBOT floor), but he's a great college quarterback, and Northwestern will have a tough time stopping him in San Antonio. The Alamo Bowl may well be Chase Daniel's last big game, although maybe things will work out and there is a Grey Cup in his future if Timmy Chang becomes so infuriated that he goes on a shirt-ripping frenzy that requires an entire team of Winnipeg handlers to subdue him and Henry Burris and Brad Banks are unavailable.

Your move, Chang

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cool Party

Northwestern is definitely going to the Alamo Bowl against the Missouri Tigers. Expect full bowl previews and expert analysis as the game gets closer.


The Blackhawks are resurgent thanks to the NHL not folding, the Versus network, and the apparently timely death of Scrooge-like owner William Wadsworth "Bill" Wirtz, who passed away after his unsuccessful attempt to tank enough to move the team to Miami for 41 consecutive years. The failings of Wirtz and the Blackhawks' dramatic turnaround under his vastly more competent son Rocky, who has been shrewd enough to implement such radical plans as televising home games and not alienating beloved former players, a brilliant maverick business strategy honed by vaguely paying attention to professional sports in the last several decades, has been chronicled by people who are no doubt more familiar with the story and capable of understanding ice hockey.

Admittedly, most of my knowledge about hockey comes from Nintendo Ice Hockey, which was less about ice hockey and more about enacting cold war tensions to prevent an iron curtain from descending upon the rink.


The toughest team by far was Czechoslovakia, who came out in a well-nigh unbeatable three fat man juggernaut in a move that can be best described as the complete opposite of the Velvet Revolution.

Vaclav Havel disapproves of the three fat guy and one
medium guy formation, originally engineered by a by
an executive Brezhnev order. Here, Brezhnev is seen
wearing a hat made from the eyebrows of a lesser Brezhnev.

In order to get fans to commit to the Indian for the 2008-9 season, the Blackhawks apparently play this video before games.

I highly suggest watching it in high quality on full screen mode, so you can see the full effect of Blackhawk players swooping through a frozen Chicago and using their hockey skills to fend off the advances of a cadre of evil hockey players. My guess is that at least one of the Shadow Hockey Clan of the Loosened Tooth was trained as a Czechoslovak fat guy in the ancient arts of junior high school vandalism. The video is also notable for inevitably lapsing into the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song, a fate that is apparently irrisistible for Chicago sports franchises.

The concept of evildoers leaving a trail of terror through a frozen cityscape makes me think that they ought to replace the intro video with what may very well be the greatest video on the entire Internet.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

NFL Profile: The Giants

Technically, Northwestern's bowl destination is still in the air, although everybody knows that it will be the Alamo Bowl. In the meantime, a brief digression about the NFL.

You may think it a sheer coincidence that the Giants will be going into Sunday's contests with a kicker tandem of placekicker John Carney and punter Jeff Feagles came into place by the vagaries of injury, availability, and the like. Perhaps you also believe that circus strong-men aren't all mustachioed agents of the Kaiser. Instead, this particular set of circumstances hides a chilling secret.

The 2008 New York Giants kicking specialists

In 1991, Tecmo created the greatest sports video game of all time, Tecmo Super Bowl. The game allowed you to control real NFL players, edit your playbook, play an entire season with stats, and use a virtual Lawrence Taylor to blow out Don Majkowski's fragile knees. Even with more advanced games out there, stalwarts continue to play Tecmo Super Bowl, updating the roster to keep up with today's game.

Amateur programmers modify the Bears playbook to
represent the talents of Rex Grossman

As the NES has gone the way of the wooden man-o-war, the horse-driven plough, global Communism, and the Amish, the NFL players featured in the game have retired, vanished, or assumed false identities. Of them all, only Feagles and Carney remain. The reason for their intransigent refusal to retire comes with a prize far more valuable than a few more years of semi-autonomous glory and an unguaranteed paycheck for the veterans' minimum.


Much has already been written about football's long-standing connections with the occult. Originally devised by cultists as a spectacle of violence to appease a vast array of demon deities spanning virtually every type of known cosmogony and a few others invented on the spot, football evolved into a modern, family friendly event that rarely involves occult rites and general demonry.

Although divorced from its occult roots,
football players still occasionally perform
dances to exhort Hapi-ankh, the ancient
Egyptian manifestation of burial god Ptah,
who according to an obscure NFL rule, may
intervene to interfere with opposing players
by blighting their harvests.

As part of its community relations apparatus, the early NFL regularly sponsored a world-wide operation to collect ancient artifacts and attempt to enchant them or call forth occult forces that we cannot possibly understand. The league sent players, coaches, equipment managers, mascots, and a the Lucky Strike Lucky Fan on a journey from the Cape of Good Hope through the treacherous Khyber Pass. The expeditions brought the NFL untold treasures and horrors. Several players did not return, killed by disease, traps, native uprisings after installing themselves as warlord-deities shown to be only too mortal when bitten by Shakira Caine, rival treasure hunters and grave robbers, sea-sickness, consumption, duels, and asbestos (the silent killer). Others were spirited away by demon forces that they had naively disturbed through the unholy combination of mystical incantations and the T formation.

Pete Rozelle gets his start as the NFL's first
Vice President of Competition, Television, and
The Occult


The NFL's treasures were collected and stored in one of many unused NFL obelisks. By 1936, the NFL conducted its last treasure hunt, but something went horribly awry. No one knows what exactly the NFL had found; I've heard speculation that it could be an ancient holy symbol such as the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail, glowing Indian rocks, or some disappointing alien bullshit. The obelisk was sealed and buried, references to the expedition have been destroyed, and the League has discreetly killed off anyone involved that it can get away with. The NFL decided to opt out of the occult artifact business, leaving it all for track and field and professional bowling.

The NFL had long buried its occult business in a mounting pile of corpses, but they could not keep the story under wraps, and the legends circulated amongst the older players. By 1991, only knowledge of the of the obelisk and the untold wonders and fortune that it could bring had disappeared into NFL lore along with the leather helmet and the white running back. Vinny Testaverde discovered a set of incantations that would unlock the obelisk for anyone daring enough to open it when he found a dusty set of reel to reel tapes sitting in the corner of the NFL films office and viewed them on his giant analogue computer. But a generation gap had formed. None of the younger players believed Testaverde, assuming that his were the ravings of a wild old man. This is largely because he had begun carrying a blunderbuss musket.

Vinny Testadverde, from brash rookie to veteran backup.

Sometime around the turn of the century, Testaverde formed a council of veteran players in order to determine what to do about the NFL's occult treasures. Some wanted to destroy the obelisk. Others wanted to use whatever was inside to instigate a reign of unspeakable horror upon mankind. Still others thought that it belonged in a museum, and were willing to throw punches and swing from chandeliers. They determined that whoever managed to make it longest in the League should gain control of the illicitly gained treasures. They divided the incantation into equal parts, each traveling to the obelisk and doing their part immediately after their retirement press conference. Craig "Ironhead" Heyward had discovered the Tecmo Super Bowl link, and the council quietly silenced or assassinated anyone who was not on the roster of the game. That is why Brett Favre continues to unretire, hoping that if he sticks around long enough, he can convince the council that he was in Tecmo Super Bowl as the mysterious QB Eagles or QB Bills and therefore gain access to the treasures in order to build a terribly powerful lawn mower.

Feagles and Carney bide their time.


In 2007, five players remained. Now, there are only two: Feagles and Carney. Both have called in favors and used bribes and threats to end up on the same team where they can watch each other. Feagles has been known to dispatch rivals by lacing their Gatorade with poisonous herbs, whereas Carney is a practitioner of the dark art of Hoodoo.

When they share the field on field goal tries
(Feagles, 18, serves as the holder), there is
potential treachery and sabotage afoot

Feagles and Carney are the last two in a brotherhood fueled by mistrust and villainy. It is one unique to football, but not to sports. In 2007, both Julio Franco and Roger Clemens attempted to hold out as the last stalwarts of RBI baseball, hoping to gain access to a vast trove of lost pirate treasure and spices from the Orient, but both retired, as Franco masterminded the Mitchell Report in order to ensure that Clemens could not outlast him. Do not be surprised if something similar happens to Feagles or Carney, be it a steroid scandal, a mysterious boating accident, or drastic reduction in effectiveness at playing football at a professional level due to the natural progress of age.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Breaking down the bowl scenarios

With the Big Ten season over, it's time to figure out how the bowl scenarios will play out. Northwestern's bowl game will be determined by several factors: their overall record and place in the Big 10 standings, the placement of Ohio State in a BCS bowl game, past attendance at bowl games, likely number of fans drawn, the current astrological status of former planet Pluto, and the Austrian succession.

The machinations of Frederick II are a minor, but important addition to the
byzantine BCS rankings. Here he is playing the flute, an activity that reportedly
enraged Frederick I; the psychological effects would later cause great pain for
residents of Silesia and the University of Texas Longhorns.

How does the bowl picture become so cloudy? A BYCTOM exclusive takes a look in depth.


The bowl selection process involves a shadowy cabal of bowl representatives, titans of industry, deposed heads of states that no longer exist, and underwhelming Batman villain King Tut.

The bowl selection committees
include a Holy Roman Emperor, an
Avignon Pope, a King of Sardinia,
and a White Raja of Sarawak

Bowl selection committee meetings are often rife with treachery, double-dealing, and international intrigue as different schools campaign briskly through mailings, courtiers, assassins, and feminine wiles. For example, the 1999 Independence Bowl selection involved at least three poisonings and retinue of grape-wielding harlots on the part of Ole Miss. Each bowl is tied to a conference pairing, with Notre Dame involved as a wildcard. Notre Dame can go to any bowl it chooses, appearing in 1995 in the Orange Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Carquest Bowl, the Copper Bowl, and the not-yet-existent galleryfurniture.com bowl by bending time and space through the use of arcane papal magic. As early as 1875, Notre Dame managed to get their mediocre Strong-Man Decathlon Team through to the post-season despite their underwhelming performance in the events of triangular weight-lifting, single-strap unitard mending, bicyclemanship, and fisticuffs.

Adam Weishaupt, early important figure
in the Sun Bowl selection committee.

After the meetings, bloodshed, and bastard pregnancies are cleared away, the bowl committees reveal their picks on national television, while simultaneously giving instructions to their worldwide operatives. The bowls attempt to find attractive conference match-ups while simultaneously winding their tentacles tighter around world governments and international organizations.

The Motor City Bowl announces its 2006 Central Michigan-
Middle Tennessee State matchup to a jubliant crowd


Because of Oregon's win over Oregon State, Ohio State will likely get an invitation to a BCS game via a complex system of alliances. That means that everyone in the Big 10 moves up a slot, leaving a competition between Northwestern and Iowa for the Outback Bowl, a postapocalyptic death race through the Australian Outback.

Paul Posluszny on the sidelines of the 2007
Outback Bowl

The lobbying between Northwestern and Iowa has been fierce. Northwestern president Henry Bienen sleeps under the watch of his personal guard of crack musket-men. The Iowan leader plans to ward off assaults using a variety of oblong rocks. Northwestern will be touting its superior record, its head-to-head defeat of Iowa at Kinnick, and its clenched-tooth plutocrat alumni base while Iowa will be arguing for its nomadic Winnebago population, superstar running back Shonn Greene, and the fact that some random lineman every year has long, flowing blond hair and then vanishes into some sort of airbrushed van Valhalla (or even a Vanhalla, if you will) before passing the mantle onto some other Norseman.

As a consolation, the other school will end up at the Alamo Bowl, which pays homage to the glorious victories of General Santa Anna and his invincible armies. The Big Ten representative will have to match up against a high flying Big 12 offense. Northwestern's last trip to the Alamo Bowl was similar to the outcome of the actual Battle of the Alamo, as Northwestern was unable to stop Heisman winner and professional gas station attendant Eric Crouch. Iowa was defeated in the Alamo Bowl in 2006 by Texas, a crucial first step in the plan to end the United States's brutal occupation of the Republic, making Texans finally unafraid to fly the Lone Star flag over virtually every structure in the state.

By any external logic, Northwestern should go to the New Year's Day Outback bowl, but in my expert opinion and a thorough examination of the records of past bowl consistories, the 'Cats will end up in the Alamo Bowl. If Northwestern does not end up in either of these bowls and ends up getting completely screwed, I am making a rallying cry to all NU alumni to drop what they are doing, drop their monocles and canes used for the clearing of rabble, and take part in a massive street riot, demanding justice for this outrage through clenched teeth.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Rational Assessment of the Rivalry with Illinois

Northwestern's rivalry with Illinois is the worst rivalry in all of college football.

A good rivalry rests on the twin pillars of stakes and hatred. The stakes in the Illinois-Northwestern battle have been historically low thanks to a shared heritage of football ineptitude. The last two years may have been the biggest two Sweet Sioux games in the history of the rivalry and both involved one team attempting to pad its bowl record and another scraping for the possibility of spending a December evening in Detroit. Even when one of these two teams awakens from its slumber to throw its weight around the Big Ten, the other team usually is having the type of season that would require several Sinbad-led montages to even approach the fringe of mediocrity.

The low stakes contribute to the embarrassing lack of hatred in this rivalry. A good rivalry should transcend football and reach levels of enmity traditionally associated with hillbilly blood feuds or the inexplicable hatred of Armenians by virtually every Eurasian people. I simply cannot muster up the passion to hate Illinois the way I hate other Big Ten teams. For example, after the victory in Ann Arbor, I was disappointed that the Northwestern fans did not raze their stadium, burn their crops, and capture the surviving children to be sold as entertainment for warlords and bandit captains in far flung lands as a traveling troupe of acrobats and gladiators. I also find most Illinois fans to be civilized unlike Iowa fans who actually travel in hordes, eat all of their meals in haunch form, and live in stone caves from whence they have chased lesser Iowans by threatening them with stones and crudely-fashioned clubs. I wish the Illini well when they are not playing Northwestern. Even their coach looks like a sort of benign muppet.

Ron Zook demonstrates his natural
gaping-mouthed muppet posture

Of course, this is all for football. As soon as basketball season rolls around, I hate the Illini for showboating around our coterie of clumsy Croatians who are forced to alliteratively stand around stiffly and watch the baskets rain down upon them.

Perhaps it makes sense to look to Europe for a proper sense of rivalry. I was thinking about Italian rivalries earlier this week when I saw the Il Palio horse race in Siena prominently featured in the new James Bond movie. The race consists of horses representing any 10 of the 17 traditional districts in Siena.

The best part about the race is that the riders (who ride bareback) are allowed to use their whips to attack other horses and riders. I'm personally coming out in favor of any sporting event that encourages competitors to give their competitors a face full of bull penis. Incidentally, in the movie, Bond chases the villain out from a sewer grate into the massive, teeming crowd that you can see pictured above. Instead of merely removing his jacket and disappearing, the villain inexplicably draws attention to himself by shoving helpless passers-by out of his way and then firing his pistol indiscriminately into the crowd, hitting everyone in his way except for James Bond. This has to be the lowest moment in villainy since the evil biotech CEO in "The Sixth Day" kept sending clones of his dead henchmen to kill Arnold Schwarzenegger. Personally, after the third or fourth time a henchman died in the line of duty, I'd consider mixing it up and give a few new heavies an opportunity to be flung into bottomless pits, or vats of caustic chemicals, or heavy machinery involved in the manufacture of rotating helicopter blades.

Unfortunately, the one time I saw Il Palio, the race looked almost civilized, instead of the Ben Hur-like bloodbath I was hoping for.

For a true Italian rivalry, one has to turn to the pugni, a series of Venetian street battles in the Early Modern period where local neighborhood organizations would gather on the city's bridges from time to time in order to beat each other in the name of something. Armed with sticks and canes, the two sides would battle until one gave up, the light ran out, or the showdown turned into a festive street riot. Robert C. Davis's The war of the fists: popular culture and public violence in late Renaissance Venice decribes the pugni as a particularly fertile ground for nicknames such as "World Eater," "Eats the Dead," "Man Killer," and "Destroyer of Boldness." I'm just going to go out on a limb and suggest that any time the eating of the dead is suggested, you've got yourself a viable rivalry.

But the account gets better. By the end of the seventeenth century, the Council of Ten had tired of the chaos resulting from the pugni. As a result, factions found other ways to compete without necessarily destroying large segments of the city. I'll let Davis explain:
"Such traditional rivalries were more likely to be expressed in the so-called forze d'ecole, another form of competition which required both great strength and considerable agility. Here twenty or more costumed participants from each side would attempt to amaze or shame their opponents by building the tallest and most elaborate human pyramid possible."
To sum up: The Illinois-Northwestern football rivalry is terrible because Illinois is traditionally lousy and the fans do not live in caves. The rivalry should ideally be strong enough to involve attacking opponents with bull penises or building human pyramids, but probably not shooting at James Bond.