Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pre-Bowl Anticipation

The New Year's showdown against Auburn is looming for the Northwestern football team. You can get into the spirit by spray-painting your possessions purple, vandalizing any Bo Jackson billboards you come across, and learning the 1929 Wildcat song through sheet music and lyrics that somebody has inexplicably put on Ebay so you can make sure each one of your yows is pitch perfect.

As the team gears up for the trip to Florida, the news is obviously stagnant, aside from the usual reminders of Northwestern's bowl futility. In a shocking change of pace, the Chicago media has been dominated by Notre Dame Intrigue, which now features torchlit booster meetings, clever use of improbable doppelgangers, and stair-bound swordplay (incidentally, there's a factoid that you always get on tours of medieval fortresses and the like about spiral staircases being designed for the advantage of right-handed defenders in sword fights which naturally brings up the question of how many staircases they could have had in the House of La Russa). The college coach swapping procedure seems designed to force false denials and betrayals that seem more at home in the Congress of Vienna than in, say, South Bend, Indiana.

The Duke De La Russa signals for a
lefty staircase to optimize the matchup
between his stalwart guard and
marauding invaders

In any event, there is something extraordinarily unsavory about a coach who changes jobs for whatever reason before finishing the season. No one likes a demoralized team rallying feebily around a lame-duck coach, especially in a BCS game. The situation badly needs to be injected with some semblance of rationality and sanity, so here is a workable solution: Teams may not hire another team's coach until both teams have finished bowl play. In return, the team firing its coach is allowed to literally run the coach out on a rail or parade him through town in one NCAA-sanctioned medieval punishment device as disappointed boosters pelt him with offal. In addition, schools would almost certainly circumvent the rules to make sleazy under-the-table offers to other coaches before bowl season, which will maintain the vital levels of sleaze, dishonesty, and hypocrisy that currently fuel college football and keeps pitchfork-wielding journalists employed.

One approved coach humiliating device would be the pillory,
used here against highwayman and convicted perjurer John
Waller in this 1732 engraving where enterprising mob members
re evidently pelting him with mice. According to the Newgate
Calendar,"This profligate wretch, Waller, to robbery added the
still greater sin of accusing the innocent, in order to receive the
reward in certain cases attending conviction" and he was also described as an
"abominable dealer in human blood" which also seems like a phrase
that has escaped the lips of Michael Buffer at some point


The Wildcats are an astounding 10-1 heading into a Big Ten showdown with Illinois after holding on against Stanford and beating Central Connecticut. As reported in this article, flabbergasted Central Connecticut coach Howie Dickenman labeled Northwestern as one of the top three teams in the Big Ten and claimed that he will now refer to Carmody's version of the Princeton Offense as the "Northwestern Offense" before stopping to hand out a bunch of Gobots and Mr. Pibb to disappointed youths.

It's a good thing that the Wildcats are winning with the Chicago Bulls squandering last year's playoff momentum by turning into a truly awful basketball team. The season's futility climaxed in an epic, NBA-record 35 point choke job against the equally inept Sacramento Kings that will almost certainly end with Vinny Del Negro pretending to sell computers out of Frank Constanza's garage.

Brad Miller was unable to get his vengeance on the Kings for forcing him
to participate in a misguided Evil Sheriff Day promotion at Arco Arena


This week's New York Times had a fascinating story on the Pacific island nation of Nauru and its game of high stakes diplomacy. Nauru became the fourth country to recognize the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia along with Russia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. Nauru evidently did not have the struggle of the peoples of the breakaway regions under the boot of Georgian oppression in mind, nor a desire for general world-wide recogition of Nauru as a contry that exists. Instead, Nauru claimed $50 million of aid from Russia's Department of Whimsical Foreign Affairs. Times Reporter Ellen Berry describes the Russian reaction as not quite a diplomatic coup:

The news provoked waves of mirth from Russian commentators, some of whom broke down the per-capita cost of lobbying various nations to recognize the enclaves: roughly $3,500 a head for every resident of Nauru, $100 per Venezuelan, $200 per Belarussian, etc.
Of course, this is not Nauru's first endeavor in the aid-for-recognition game. Nauru earned $130 million from China by refusing to recognize the independence of Taiwan in 2002 (I have no idea how this happened, but I like to imagine an uncomfortable confrontation at the U.N. where someone gets a face full of martini) only to stab China in the back three years later by reestablishing relations. These incidents of micro-treachery stem from economic issues instead of the more pleasant rationale that Nauru's foreign relations department is filled with people who run their foreign relations strategy based on the board game Diplomacy, where it is far more satisfying to betray people for no apparent reason than to watch your flank from an unexpected attack from the relentless Ottoman war machine. These diplomatic moves, as well as other strategies such as providing disreputable offshore banking and accepting aid from Australia to take in their unwanted refugees, are part of a strategy to make up for the drying up of the phosphate supply that powers the Nauru economy.

Nauru achieved independence in 1968 under President Hammer DeRoburt, as noted on this helpful Late Twentieth Century Hammer Achievement Chart:

On this graph, the X-Axis represents time and the Y-Axis general
Hammer progress in HAUs (Hammer achievement units) with data
points demonstrating key Hammer moments: president of a pacific
island nation, home run king, hard-boiled, mustachioed detective,
parachute pants enthusiast

Nauru is not the only troubled country in region. Consider Palau, a fellow Mircronesian island, which spent the 1980s embroiled in murderous controversy over the ratification of the Compact of Free Association with the U.S. that would end trusteeship on the island. In 1985, its first president, Haruo I. Remeliik, was gunned down outside of his home, leading to the arrest and conviction of three suspects related to his oppostition which was later overturned, as detailed in this New York Times article as well as an excerpt from Embattled Island: Palau's struggle for independence by Arnold H. Leibowitz. A later investigation led to the conviction of Remeliik's former Minister of State John O. Ngiraked for aiding and abetting the assassination. Meanwhile, other investigations focused on bribery and intimidation surrounding the Compact ensnared president Lazarus Salii-- in one incident, a party of government employees including Salii's own assistant had a frank exchange of bullets with an opposition leader's house. As the net closed in on him, Salii died in 1988 of gunshot wounds in an apparent suicide as noted in this chaos filled excerpt from a section of the Europa World Year Book that can be easily confused for the back of a Graham Greene paperback.

A guide to Palau intrigue from left to right: Remeliik, Salii,
Ngiraked, the inevitable Walken intervention or Walkentervention
as it is known in the mercenary business

With the football team poised for its first New Years Bowl since 1996 and the basketball team on the precipice of hope against hope for the gossamer chance at making the NCAA tournament though there's still a long way to go let's not jinx anything before we get into the high-flying excitement of Big Ten baseketball season, it's an exciting time to be a Northwestern fan. And with the rest of the non-hockey Chicago teams breaking new depths of incompetence (I will be ready to discuss the concept of Carlos Silva in 2010), the Wildcats are essentially the only game in town leading perhaps to Chicago fans recognizing them as a legitimate home team and getting some locals into the stands to the cheer on the team with a furious intensity that is slightly unsettling. If not, perhaps a generous gift from the Athletic Department can earn some recognition overseas.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bowl Finalized

By now, you know that Northwestern will play on New Year's Day against the Tigers of Auburn at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. This time Northwestern leapfrogged a 9-3 Wisconsin team fresh off of a demolition of Hawaii, a stunning reversal of fortune for the Wildcats who have been twice scorned by the Outback Steakhouse people in what could have been the biggest controversy in Australia-U.S. relations since the American Revolution ended transportation to Georgia and thus flooded Australia with confidence men and bacon thieves.

I would enjoy it if Outback Steakhouse was actually owned by
Australians instead of a bland American conglomerate so that
they could force flummoxed coaches to play on a rounded Aussie
Rules cricket field such as the Brisbane Cricket Ground, home of
the Brisbane Lions and known colloquially as "The Gabba"

The Big Ten's bowl hierarchy after the selection of BCS teams is sort of nonsensical as playing in a better bowl has virtually no consequences except the prize of playing on New Years and not going to Detroit to entertain Mike Illitch's Praetorian Guard. That is why instead of it being up to corporate boards and attendance figures and the sort of backroom cronyism that involves suspenders, brandy, and hearty chuckling through clenched teeth locked in a vice grip on the most malodorous cigars on the market, the remaining bowl-eligible Big Ten teams should throw in their lot with Lady Luck and spin a Wheel of Bowls to determine their location. Fate cares not for alumni populations or which fan base owns the most Winnebagos and it spares everyone the bleating and hand-wringing of boosters who would have no recourse to complain about the machinations of a soulless wheel. Better yet, why not throw all of the non-BCS bowl games into a giant World Cup-style draw and watch as, for example, Penn State misses out on a BCS game only to be thrown into the Meineke Car Care Bowl as Charlize Theron tries valiantly to appear simultaneously jocular and not afraid of a rampaging Paterno?

The BCS selection show in the best of possible worlds


Auburn finished 7-5, dropping five of its last seven and prompting ESPN's Mark Schlaback to claim that "Perhaps no team took more of a back door into a bowl game than the Tigers" while ranking the Outback Bowl the 20th best bowl games of the 34 to be played this year. Hurting the appeal of the bowl games is the mascot matchup, another boring cat-cat contest. Auburn will be looking to confuse the Wildcats both with Gus Malzahn's spread offense and the fact that despite being represented by tigers, Auburn faithful are constantly going on about eagles, which points to a solution that can only be resolved by ace Northwestern reporter Skip Myslenski who was last seen foaming at the mouth at the British Museum.

That, at least, is vaguely more interesting than Northwestern's generic Wildcat, which is pretty much one step removed from simply naming the team "Mascot." The story of how the 'Cats got their nickname (from Tribune reporter Wallace Abbey after a tough loss to powerhouse Chicago in 1924, a more civilized age when teams can get named for a good showing in a loss and reporters had names such as "Wallace Abbey"), lends the name a colorful origin, but it does not change the fact that Northwestern athletics currently share a moniker with, by my count, five other Division 1 programs (including the FCS New Hampshire Wildcats that would have beaten Northwestern in 2006 if the stadium was not covered in tumbleweed). Until that day in 1924, Northwestern was known as "The Purple," taking a page from Harvard, Chicago, Stanford, and the House of Orange and before that as the "Fighting Methodists" as students dressed as the Wesley Brothers held open-air pep rallies to exhort Northwestern's football program and other popular Northwestern tests of strength such as tug-of-war and the thrashing about of one's footmen.


Northwestern has by far the most generic mascot of the Big Ten, as illustrated on this official BYCTOM Pyramid of Mascot Ubiquity:

The pyramid flows from the base of specificity to a generic pinnacle and
is broken up by category rather than individual mascot. Just below
Northwestern is the category of animal mascots, although it should
be noted that the Big Ten bucks a national trend by featuring
ground-dwelling pest animal mascots, with the exception of Penn
State, although Penn State gets points for essentially making up its
own wild animal. The next category features specific groups of people,
slightly less generic than animals, although there was unfortunately
not room to shunt the Illini off to a "mascots specifically denigrated
by the NCAA" category. Note that Iowa straddles the animal and
person categories as they're technically named for Natty Bumppo
(who, for those keeping extensive records, fits into the categories
of frontiersmen and musket-wielders), but choose to be represented
by an anthropomorphic tight-wearing hawk. Next on down is flora,
greatly less represented than fauna in the mascot/nickname world.
Finally, the pyramid ends with Indiana, whose Hoosier mascot is obscure
beyond conjecture and is therefore represented by a
grimacing Lou Piniella.

Of course, if the pyramid had swung in the opposite direction, Northwestern could have a mysterious nickname such as "Hoosier" with an entire Wikipedia page devoted to its possible origins including categories such as "Frontier banter" and "Pugilistic Boatmen." I suppose it proves the ancient mascot axiom that the price paid for a unique nickname is the fact that theories about its origin include the phrase "did not become an insult until." Another problem with the Hoosier nickname is its susceptibility to having it turned onto Indiana fans with a "Hoosier daddy" chant, drawing the red-sweatered ire of Bobby Knight and a classic shame on you column from Tribune columnist Eric Zorn entitled "Regardless of Intent, NU Rowdies' Taunt was a Bad Call." Zorn then backed off his criticism of Northwestern, sheepishly explaining to his readers that "I have never heard any of the rap or rock lyrics I'm told employ the phrase 'Who's your daddy?' to mean, in effect, 'Am I not at this time in a position of dominance over you that parallels the position a father has over his offspring?'"

Eric Zorn is one of the Tribune's ace
Metro section columnists along with
Mary Schmich who moonlights as the
writer for the Brenda Starr: Woman
Reporter comic strip best known for
featuring a character with what is
best described as a silk-pajama eye-
patch. Despite this fact and a redesign
that makes the once-proud paper look
like it ought to be called "Hot Rod's
Klout Komix-- 5¢," the Trib is still seen
as slightly more reputable, although the
Sun-Times should get credit for actually
celebrating the firing of Jay Mariotti as
well as this publishing this fantastic
hatchet job by Roger Ebert, although he
still appears on ESPN to expose readers
to his nasal squawk and his giant head
so grotesquely boulbous that if he was a
Dick Tracy villain his nickname would
be "The Head"

Then again, without the Wildcat nickname, Northwestern would never have a fight song with the word "yow" repeated like the mantra of an over-caffeinated toddler, so perhaps an apology is due to the estate of the late Mr. Abbey.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hoops and Bowls

Northwestern's basketball team has continued to pile up wins against teams with tournament aspirations, beating an undefeated NC State team and making a vital contribution to the Big Ten's victory over the ACC in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, which allows Big Ten officials to seize tobacco plants and bib overalls after being forced to surrender their corn crops and wretched post-industrial blight to the ACC year after year.

Drew Crawford fouls the Wolfpack's Dennis Horner hard
enough to turn him into a Messerschmidt grotesque

Though the Wildcats entered the year with the goal of wrenching the NCAA Tournament monkey off their backs-- not one of those untrustworthy monkeys that toddles around the houses of unsuspecting eccentric and lonely people in a diaper only to turn into a simian wrecking ball of fur and fang, but one of those full-on shrieking, biting Outbreak monkeys-- but the 'Cats' continued success without Coble is as gratifying as it is surprising. The Wildcats' winning stems from Shurna and Juice emerging as serious threats, Nash wreaking havoc in the 1-3-1, and Bill Carmody finally embracing the occult after no longer getting satisfaction from punishing fans of loose, flowing basketball with his plodding Princeton offense.

Carmody is captured in this grainy footage attempting to make contact with
the Assyrians' most hostile deities, such as this demon whose modus
operandi was sneaking up on a target distracted by his own vigorous fist-
shaking and aching calf tumors

Unlike in the carving depicted above, Northwestern's Big Ten foes will see them coming partly because of Bruce Weber and Tom Izzo's shared passion for applying Near-Eastern mythology to basketball stratagems, but also because Northwestern has made some noise on the national stage. LTP exuberantly predicts a 10-1 nationally ranked Northwestern heading into conference play, although less optimistic fans may still want to prepare for the possibility of the bandwagon crashing into another wagon filled with poison, cutting implements, and poinsonous cutting implements.


Northwestern football is left twisting in the wind until this Sunday, when the creepy cabal of corporate stiffs, NCAA officials, athletic directors, and bald men chained to briefcases full of money (I've always wondered whether the fancy steel briefcase used for illegal monetary transactions is pro-rated into the deal or if the hitman or cop impersonating a hitman to atone for the death of his partner or child skipping happily along in the fuzzy, merrie-go-round music flashback gets to keep the briefcase as an extra bonus, and then you go to his house and he has no space for leather jackets and tight t-shirts and automatic weapons because he has dozens of fancy silver briefcases taking all of his closet space. And surely the briefcase is thrown in, because no drug dealer or arms dealer or South American coup aspirant is going to say something such as "here is $10 million in unmarked treasury certificates for the sniping, less, of course, $654.31 for the fancy briefcase although being thrifty and accountable is the way to the top of the drug, arms, and dictatorship career) decide where everyone gets to go bowling.

This is also the time of the year when the NCAA bowl system comes under the greatest scrutiny, as pundits propel themselves out of the woodwork on homemade woodwork propulsion systems in order to mock the lesser bowl games as money-grubbing wastes of time. Yes, bowl games are money-grubbing and no, they often have no ramifications for the college football world, but BYCTOM has and will continue to embrace all crappy bowl games.

Unfortunately, crappy bowl games have little appeal beyond the competing teams' supporters beyond comical sponsorship names and the occasional power team in an off-year shunted off to some sort college football version of Siberian exile. What these bowl games need is a bit of pizazz to garner interest, much like minor league baseball games with their colorful gimmicks or circus freak shows employing loud people to trumpet the virtues of their particular freak show and get the townspeople lining up for blocks.

For example, for the recently renamed Little Ceasar's Pizza Bowl in Detroit, why not play upon the Caesar imagery to redecorate Ford Field like a mighty Roman coliseum while toga-wearing boosters strut about in their luxury boxes and effigies of Carthaginians are festooned on local trashcan fires? Even officials can get in on the act.

It displeases Mike Ilitch to see holding from #75 on the offense.
Mike Ilitch demands a penalty of 10 yards from the spot of the foul
from #75 that shall be collectively paid by the entire offense. Let
it be known from this day forward: it remains second down

Incidentally, the greatest Roman combat spectacle did not occur in the arena at all. Instead, it featured Emperor Claudius and a beached orca that ended up in a Roman port, attracted to some hides en route from Gaul. As Pliny relates, Claudius had the bloated whale imprisoned in the harbor with a series of nets and ordered his Praetorian Guard to shower it with lances and put on a show for the crowd, although this wikipedia article on gladiators makes it seems like Claudius somehow took on the orca mono-a-whaleo which would have been a far more impressive spectacle because there is pretty much no way to get a single man and killer whale in an arena with both at equal advantage unless there was a half-earth half-ocean arena not unlike the Federer-Nadal glass/clay challenge.

The only thing that stopped whale-baiting from soaring in
popularity is the difficulty of putting together a suitably seedy
underground den where gentlemen can safely wager on civilized
sporting events

Similarly, the Alamo Bowl can feature a half-time recreation of the battle and as an added wrinkle, if a Texas team is involved and loses the game, the winning team gets hoist the standard of Santa Anna and Mexico is allowed to annex San Antonio for the duration of the evening. The Gator Bowl can feature pre-game or half-time gator wrestling for eager tots (the gators are corked for their safety, naturally), the International Bowl can feature a festival of Epcott-style celebrations of worldwide cultural stereotypes, and the Insight Bowl can eschew raucous bands and cheering for some intense group pondering of metaphysical quandaries, such as how we can simply accept the "Insight Bowl" collectively with nary a raised eyebrow.

Each bowl then, instead of being largely interchangeable and forgettable, gains a unique character beyond what local food that ESPN guy can triumphantly discuss eating during the fourth quarter of a rout. Instead of worrying solely about booster vacation destinations or conference matchups, coaches will also have to worry about whether they would be forced to lead their teams onto the field with a bellicose display of military hardware (Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl) or while dressed as an Elizabethan imperial explorer (San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, a bowl so uninspiring that it can only benefit from fitting irritable coaches with enormous ruffled collars-- this is so logical I can't believe others have not thought about it first).


Although most Northwestern pundits seem to be pointing to the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, these ESPN predictions have the 'Cats in Tampa for the Outback Bowl (the losing team will be "transported" home on an aging Victorian sailboat with no access to lime juice). With Friday's World Cup draw, this will hopefully be the most exciting sporting event involving picking teams until Selection Sunday finally putting Northwestern in the NCAA tournament or watching an entire fanbase sink into a Messerschmidt grimace.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Badgers, Bowls, Basketball

Last week's cliff-hanging thriller against Wisconsin to clinch an eight-win season, fifth place in the Big Ten, and set off wild bowl speculation by Henry Bienen's most elite unit of bone diviners (while Bienen has retired from Northwestern in order to serve as Vice Chairman of Rasmussen College, Inc. and chair the executive committee of the UFL as the only man who can control Tim McGarigle's terrible vengeance upon ball-carriers, BYCTOM sources reveal that he remains in charge of NU's secret department of all sports-related occult activities-- for example did you know that the Rebecca Crown Tower turns purple after Wildcat victories not through the use of cheap plastic veneers that are not quite purple as it appears but through a terrible ancient sorcery).

Bienen, shown here in garb reserved for academics and the black arts, prefers
divination by oracle bones, as preferred in Shang Dynasty China. Thankfully,
Wikipedia's page on divination has a helpful section on other types of divination
that may be used for bowl projection-related purposes that you can do in the privacy
of your own home or coven including tasseomancy (by tea or coffee grounds),
rhabdomancy (by rods), hydromancy (by water), and gastromancy, which apparently
involves divination by using ventriloquest techniques to convince people that sounds
made by the stomach represent the voices of the dead

The 33-31 thriller continued Northwestern's trend of turning Ryan Field into an impenetrable fortress against invasion from the north, which I chalk up to a clever ruse luring Wisconsin into a false sense of security by flooding the stands with red-clad fans in a move that can best be described as a Reverse Trojan Horse after several blows to the head and exposure to mild psychotropic substances. A road team has not won in this unfortunately not annual contest since the 'Cats claimed the crazy double-OT thriller in 2000.

Bucky Badger certainly ranks tops in the world-wide Badger Mascot ratings, just
above Fulham FC's Billy Badger, shown here delaying the start of a half with his
break-dancing antics, and this generic badger costume described on this website
as the way to have a "fierce, spunky badger to represent your team, school, or
business" although it is unclear what business would be rushing to purchase this
badger unless its mission statement specifically involved terrifying children or
rival board members

Though Northwestern's bowl position is technically in the air, consensus seems to point towards the Champs Sports Bowl in Miami. The bowl selection process seems less rife with intrigue than last year, although I do enjoy that speculation about bowls involves the fact that Wisconsin has been to Florida too many times, a theory that posits that corporate executives who choose bowl pairings operate not unlike a cabal of warlords collaborating on an evening's gladiatorial festivities and dismissing teams with a "send them away they no longer amuse me" gesture.

Penn State LB Paul Posluszny looks to the Capital One executive
suite for guidance on a sack during this 2003 bowl contest


With all of the doom and gloom surrounding the basketball team after the Ryan and Coble injuries, the young Wildcats have been lining up to take over games. After a tough loss to Butler, the best team in the state, Northwestern rebounded with a 31 point explosion by "Juice" Thompson against Tennessee State and 22 from freshman Drew Crawford against Liberty University in the first round of the Chicago Invitational Tournament. But it has been all about John Shurna in the C.I.T.-- the sophomore led Northwestern to an upset against Notre Dame in the second round of the tournament with 25 and 8 against the nationally ranked squad. Northwestern's 1-3-1 zone stifled Irish All-American and possible anthropomorphic tree trunk Luke Harangody and limited Notre Dame to 31.7 percent shooting. And just like that, the switch on Northwestern's basketball program has been turned back to feisty. Just look at this typically understated post from that does not have a byline but was written by someone who is clearly being mentored by Skip Myslenski:

Mark Twain once stated that, "reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." The same holds true for the Northwestern men's basketball team.

The 'Cats went on to defeat Iowa State Cyclones in the tournament championship game, avenging themselves against teams named for violent natural phenomena after last year's NIT loss to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Shurna again led Northwestern with 23 points to claim the tournament's most outstanding player award and serve notice that injuries have not ended the Wildcat season, as Bill Carmody continues to assail opponents with a seemingly limitless army of skinny white guys that shoot threes.

This factory churning out malnourished forwards has replaced the Former
Yugoslavia as Carmody's primary recruiting ground

Sure, the Chicago Invitational Tournament is not exactly the Final Four, or even the preseason Chicago-area tournament in the best of possible worlds, but it is also the first trophy a Northwestern basketball team has won in recent memory. The young 'Cats went through two legitimate teams, and it looks like the hoops program is in good hands with the Shurna and "Juice" tandem until the return of Coble to menace the Big Ten.


Fortunately, the Big Ten Network managed to muscle in on the game which means that there are video highlights available for the Notre Dame and Iowa State games, the latter featuring an ending so exciting that it evidently derailed the overmatched announcer enough to expect chastising from an unexpectedly materializing Arnold Schwartzenegger.

Online sports highlights have become a crucial part of the twenty-first century sports fan experience, so it is important that they are done properly. The NFL did its highlights best at first, short recaps of every game narrated by a stern-voiced announcer and punctuated by jaunty music taken from albums of free use music used to advertise summer camps in the 1980s. They replaced this system several years ago with radio calls, and now offer either radio calls or the catastrophic result of an NFL board meeting where a misguided executive decided that there are people somewhere in the country that actually want to hear Deion Sanders talk for an extended period of time. Sure, the video quality is better now and streaming more efficient, but does anyone actually believe that this is better than this?

Fortunately for Bears fans, puts out its own highlight reels narrated by John Spindle who dips into a proper NFL-level of hyperbole to describe the Bears's lackluster efforts:

For Chicago, and primarily their defense, four days of soul-searching had led to this night, no help was on the way, no cavalry was coming, only they could change their course, only they could give the people reason to believe again.
Unfortunately, the Bears have provided mainly highlights for other teams' defensive backs and wide receivers, but as the late John Facenda would have possibly said, it is better to have watchable football highlights, even if they are of Jay Cutler throwing around interceptions the way that Natty Bumpo would spray buckshot into Native Americans and the French.

BYCTOM fully supports any voodoo programs that resurrect John Facenda to
save highlights on the belief that his dulcet moans would be better
than the current setup which is like trying to watch football while being
serenaded by a veritable chorus of Menards Men

The NBA is even worse, as someone has evidently pumped some sort of amphetamines into their drinking water supply to the point where their highlights are essentially 90 seconds of random basketball activities and nicknames when all I want is a vague idea of how the Bulls are playing and whether or not Brad Miller has reason to raise his arms in triumph.

The new goal of this blog is to become a clearing house for victorious Brad
Miller images

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hoops Hindered

With the football team squaring off against cross-border rivals to determine bowl position, Wildcat basketball players have been going down like the chimps in Project X, only instead of radiation poisoning through shady government flight simulators, they have been suffering from battered tendons that come from playing basketball.

Carmody calls Northwestern's newest play this season, the call for the
ambulance. Hopefully the call will not be answered by Hemingway as it would
expose players to inadquate World War I-era concepts, such as brandy as a
legitimate medical technology, short, terse tourniquets, and the possibilities
of face-punching wholly inconsistent with the mission of the Red Cross

Northwestern lost its best player in Kevin "Mantis" Coble who seems like the only player in college basketball who could actually play on one leg if his teammates carried him Leftwich-like up and down the court and let him heave weird-looking jumpers off of a single spindly limb as he leans awkwardly in any number of possible directions and continues to score. Jeff Ryan also went down leaving Jeremy Nash as the only senior, although he has been struggling with a troubling heart issue that he thankfully has under control.

Henry "Poo" Yee demonstrates the southern praying mantis
style of Kung Fu, showing clearly that while the horrible
Coble injury may have been a serious blow to Northwestern
Hoops, it will almost certainly spare readers of this blog
any more allusions this season to the Mantis nickname and
then the inevitable run-on sentence somehow justifying it
as the sentence balloons up like a giant dwarf star before
violently exploding and engulfing every bit of sense in its
meager orbit and by the way since we're already in the middle
of a sentence that apparently has no beginning, middle, or
end anywhere in sight I might as well mention that
according to "Poo" Yee, "in the southern praying mantis
system, circles are everything and everywhere" so in case
anybody pulls your sleeve on the street asking you which
simple shape best fits into southern praying mantis kung-fu,
you can you know what let's just end this right here before
somebody blows out an ACL

On the one hand, Northwestern's season has gotten a lot more bleak, and pre-season hopes of finally getting to the promised land of the NCAA tournament have dwindled. On the other hand, this season is all about watching young players develop, especially sophomore center Kyle Rowley who will hopefully do to Big Ten frontcourt players what the USC marching band did to Ricardo Montalban at the end of The Naked Gun.


Baseball's winter rumor mill is in full swing as a nation recovers from the joyless inevitability of another Yankee title. No doubt the Cubs brain-trust is hard at work peering over a giant baseball field and pushing little plastic players around with instruments used only by croupiers and four-star generals.

Jim Hendry scans the playing field for free agents
and bargain trades. Incidentally, this picture is not
only notable for inexpicably being the second Bill
and Ted reference on BYCTOM in as many posts, but
also for being part of a series of Bill and Ted trading
cards as referenced on this site. In case you are
curious, the back side, instead of having Napoleon's
risk statistics or maximum water-slide speed, lists
this crucial plot point: "While Bill and Ted continue to
round up subjects for their report, Deacon entertains
Napoleon. Napoleon devours the ice cream and wins the
Ziggy Piggy award"

Job number one for the Cubs is getting rid of cantankerous right fielder Milton Bradley. Bradley's power did not come around, he hit a paltry .257 for the year, and his defense in right bordered on comical, climaxing in his memorable posing and throwing the ball into the stands then watching helplessly as baserunners unsportingly took advantage of his temporary lack of knowledge about the exact number of outs. On the other hand, Bradley managed to finish with a .378 on-base percentage for the season, which is fairly remarkable considering his batting average. He was also extraordinarily entertaining, wearing a Bluto-style beard, coming up with umpire conspiracies, feuding with combustible manager Lou Piniella, complaining about fickle Cub fans, and bludgeoning reporters with the phrase "what else you got" to the point where the Cubs were forced to suspend him for insubordination, truculance, and redundancy. Obviously, Bradley has to go from an everybody in the organization hates him standpoint, but from a baseball standpoint, Bradley was an effective offensive player who was starting to put up scary numbers towards the end of last season and is going to rebound into a nice year unless he disappears into the Los Angeles underground during the offseason and becomes a soldier of fortune.

John Grabow, the least terrifying lefty out of the pen, will be back, while the reviled Aaron Heilman gets to ply his dark arts for the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for reliever Scott Maine and outfielder/first baseman Ryne White, who Hendry compared favorably to journeyman slugger and 2003 MLB wing-eating champion Matt Stairs, disguising his attempt to placate testy Cubs fans by getting another Ryne into the Cubs's system.

In other Cubs news, Carlos Zambrano won his third Silver Slugger award as the best hitting pitcher in the National League and presumably all of baseball unless the American Leagues are lying in wait for some sort of terrible turning of the tables. Carlos Zambrano is the reason why the National League should continue to exist without a designated hitter. There are few things more riveting during a baseball game, especially a baseball game where the Cubs are playing and therefore actively stomping on the dreams of an either desperate or drunken fanbase, than a Zambrano at-bat. The possiblilities are tantalizing: a launch onto Waveland or Sheffield, a base hit followed by an ill-advised head-first dive into second, a swing-related injury, a strikeout followed by an assault on a bat (purists will note that Zambrano's wrath at Gatorade-dispensing products is limited to poor pitching performances), charging the mound, throwing his helmet to reveal an ill-conceived Zambrano hairstyle such as blond frosted tips or a jheri curl or even a blond jheri-curl, running out into center field and lighting a giant Z on fire, grabbing the home plate umpire and lashing his wrist to the official and initiating a mutual thrusting at each other with butterfly knives while a handful of shirtless vest-wearers come out of the bullpen to idle in the background; I'd much rather watch Zambrano strike out on three straight pitches with runners in scoring position than watch the likes of Aaron Miles pick up a bat in the general vicinity of the batter's box.

The myriad potential consequences of a Zambrano at-bat


Saturday marks the end of the football regular season, but marks the beginning of endless bowl speculation, back-biting, and preparing for conference championship games for those conferences burdened with unnecessary features such as even numbered teams, divisions, and occasionally titles that accurately reflect the number of teams in said conference. Not for the Big Ten, an ascetic conference where the season's conflagrations on the muddy midwestern gridirons settle the championship except most years when they don't and it's a festive conucopia of various Big Ten teams, some of whom will lose in lucrative BCS bowls. But hopefully the 'Cats will prevail in a stadium sure to be painted with the crimson hues of the fearsome badger.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Land of Lincoln Trophy Secured

Northwestern captured the first-ever Land of Lincoln trophy to go from technically bowl-eligible to definitively bowl-bound. The game was a sloppy affair, headlined by a combination of timely defensive stops and offenses doing just enough to get in range for an inevitably botched field goal in a clumsy first half that almost certainly confused ESPN classic viewers assuming that the game would be chock full of Victory Rights or special teams miracles or at the very least about to switch to some black and white boxing match from an era when people enjoyed their violent conflict framed by confining rules based on the opinions of a nineteenth century Marquess whose greatest opponent was Oscar Wilde.

Queensbury lashed out at his son for his relationship with Wilde, who
according to this Wikipedia page, successfully eighty-sixed the Marquess,
foiling his sophisticated plot to pelt him with vegetables during a
performance of
The Importance of Being Earnest. Queensbury's reign of terror
against the London literary elite was not confined to personal feuds; he was
also forcibly ejected from a performance of Tennyson's
The Promise of May
after loudly denouncing the characterization of an atheist character as

Though the Illinois-Northwestern rivalry rarely has stakes beyond bowl qualification and positioning (this year, Northwestern eliminated the reeling Illini from bowl eligibility while managing to virtually guarantee a bowl for themselves), they did rev up the defensive player name rivalry. Illinois, of course, has probably the greatest football name ever in Illini, Chicago Bears, and My Two Dads legend Dick Butkus as well as a Joe Bevis here or a J Leman there. Northwestern boasts Napoleon Harris, Dwayne Missouri, and Tim McGarigle, who is currently second on the undefeated UFL Florida Tuskers with 22.5 tackles, a sack, a pick, and two forced fumbles as well as 4.6 dead partners successfully avenged. In order to up the ante, Illinois was forced to unleash redshirt freshman defensive tackle Whitney Mercilus, who, according to his Illinois bio, has less mercy than Richard Gere in this forgotten 1980s thriller where he attempts to track down his partner's murderers in New Orleans while fighting villains described by Ebert as "an effete rich Southerner...and a sadistic neo-Nazi vice lord."

Northwestern's human tackling machine McGarigle is relieved to only
be taking on the likes of J.P. Losman and Brooks Bollinger and not gangs
of partner-hating Cajun arch-criminals. The Orlando Sentinel
published a nice article on McGarigle's comeback with the UFL last
month, revealing a unique UFL rule that linebackers cannot blitz
unless they are three yards behind the line of scrimmage, in concert
with four rushing linemen, and have successfully made it to three
Mississippi at what the referee decides is a reasonable cadence


The possession of the first Land of Lincoln trophy is certainly a boon for Northwestern. On the one hand, the trophy celebrates the in-state rivalry by echoing the slogan found on Illinois license plates and it placates the NCAA by removing any link to Native American bellicosity. On the other hand, the trophy leaves Paul Bunyan's Axe as the only Big Ten trophy capable of being wielded in hand-to-hand combat unless special measures are taken.

Northwestern's athletic department
introduces its new Director of Trophy-based
Mayhem, Skulduggery, and Club Badminton

Improvements in twenty-first century trophy security will hopefully prevent the fate of the original Sweet Sioux trophy, as described in this contemporary press photo:

Illinois fans are notoriously intransigent about the NCAA depriving them of their dated F-Troop-style Chief imagery, so I hope that the most hard-core group of them made a show of protest by dressing up as incredulous bare-headed Lincolns demanding the return of their hat.


With this year's game in the books, Northwestern has won six out of the last seven Sweet Lincolns, including four out of five against Zook. The Ron Zook era of Illini football has been fascinating. After a series of stunning recruiting coups, Zook led Illinois to the Rose Bowl in 2007 featuring the seemingly unstoppable tandem of Quarterback Isiah "Juice" Williams who is destined to follow Illinois football protocol and star as "Mr. Juice," the lovable ex-jock neighbor on a high-concept sit-com, and Rashard Mendenhall. Granted, the Illini were eviscerated by USC in Pasadena, but that has become commonplace enough that the Big Ten hosts an annual support group featuring Zook and Tressel sharing their feelings while Joe Paterno stands in the corner whacking at the floor tiles with a folding chair with the manic intensity of the Big Ten recruiting commercial.

I apologize for going back to COME TO PENN STATE well, but it's been two
years and that commercial still gets me every time and I can't help but
think that that is how JoePa is all of the time with that crazed look in his
eyes keeping the entire town of State College under a blanket of fear by
popping out at people unexpectedly and urging them to come to Penn
State or slowly lowering himself down from a dorm room ceiling as
an unsuspecting Freshman moves in only to turn around and I can't even
imagine the terror

For those of us who woke up this morning or perhaps earlier in the week and thought that we needed more Ron Zook in our lives, the Illini helpfully provide us with, a clearinghouse for all things Zook-related (incidentally I always enjoy when a coach's name is prominently featured in a team's website like this-- see also for another example-- given the turnaround of fired and sleazily escaping coaches and I wonder if we're in for the digital equivalent of what happened to "Gary Barnett's Restaurant" at the Evanston Omni). Of particular interest is "A Day with The Zooker", which follows the Coach from his early morning arrival at his office and treats viewers to his philosphies on paperwork (if it doesn't get done at night, he'll finish up in the morning), meeting prowess, favorite lunch, film study, press conference technique, and climaxes with a practice carefully edited for scenes of him shouting generic encouragement to players, baffling them with Stevie Nicks references, and yelling his catch-phrase "just gimme a crumb" repeatedly. More than anything "A day with the Zooker" reinforces beyond its more ambitious literary themes about urban alienation in a post-modern society the notion of a major-program head coach hired for his prowess in finding and motivating young people into smashing other people into the ground so that other people can run past them is placed at the head of a large unwieldy ship of bureaucracy, NCAA regulations, and insatiable media types when they yearn to bust free from the confines of the university and run into a field singing their song of liberty: "just gimme a crumb, I don't want a whole meal."

Fitz brings his trademark exuberance to all phases of the
college head coaching job, shown here itemizing receipts
for his players' road per diem


Much like the border crossing into Wisconsin on I-94 is fraught with an endless parade of shops selling cheese and pornography, the game with Wisconsin next week is fraught with danger. The Wildcats will be trying to end the regular season on a high note with a victory over another ranked opponent on Senior Day. There is no trophy at stake until the schools meet to enshrine the interaction between the State of Wisconsin and the Greater Chicagoland Metropolitan Area by depicting a traffic conflagration in the left lane of a two lane highway near Door County.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Victory in Iowa

With a season of high expectations turning into a season of nervous plank-pacing, Northwestern waltzed into Iowa City and managed to ruin Iowa's perfect season.

A team learns from its coach as the entire team unholsters its fists like 85
Judd Nelsons.

The Wildcats got a gutty performance from an injured Kafka unable to unleash the Kafka Smash play, but sticking in the pocket knowing that if it broke down he would be forced to let an Iowa defensive lineman run into him while running very fast for some horrible reason. On the other hand, Northwestern reached into its bag of tricks on the lone offensive TD by having quarterback Dan Persa pass the ball, the type of innovation that fuels Northwestern's "spread offense."

The idea of a quarterback passing started in the first football game when Yale
quarterback Walter Camp allegedly attempted one only to have its legality
decided by coin flip. The referee did sanction Camp's muttonchops by ruling
"what the hell, it's the nineteenth century." Passing did not return until
1906, after a brutal attack on football by college administrators such as
University of Chicago Divinity Dean Shailer Matthews, who argued in this
New York Times article that "Football to-day is a social obsession-- a boy-killing,
education prostituting, gladiatorial sport. It teaches virility and courage, but
so does war. I do not know what should take its place, but the new game should
not require the services of a physician, the maintenance of a hospital, and the
celebration of funerals."

Despite a shaky start, the defense locked down Iowa's offense aided by the unfortunate injury of Ricky Stanzi, whose season shared the volatile mix of success and grotesque incompetence of Rex Grossman's 2005 season with the Bears and Jackie Chan's take on the drunken master, whose erratic kung-fu baffled both opponents and audiences attempting to find any semblance of a plot in a Jackie Chan movie from before, say, 1995. Losing Stanzi seemed to suck the air out of the Iowa offense under the somewhat overwhelmed freshman Vandenberg, who threw a pick on his first pass and went 9-27 for the game while being harried by an inspired Northwestern d-line picked up by a resurgent Wootton who may finally be shaking off the lingering effects of offseason knee surgery and a troublesome ankle.

The Wildcat victory was only part of a glorious football weekend as Michigan lost to Purdue and Navy again got the better end of Notre Dame, which got Fitz fired up enough to start taking some shots at the Irish in the media. Fitz then piloted a giant fist-shaped blimp over South Bend for six hours, bombarding the town with scrolling taunts about 1995 and the sound of mechanized cackling.


Perhaps the only person who had a better week than Fitz was Simon Mann, the ex-SAS commando who led an ill-advised coup attempt to sieze Equatorial Guinea's oil supply and then ended up on a festive tour of third world prisons, an event of crucial interest to BYCTOM. Mann, originally arrested in Zimbabwe, was extradited to Equatorial Guinea's infamous Black Beach prison, where rumor has it that the government looks down harshly upon people who assemble inept mercenary forces in an attempt to violently overthrow it and install a puppet regime that will give them control over the country's lucrative oil resources. According to this excellent Times article, Mann came out of Black Beach looking better than one would expect after enjoying steaks and fine wines. Overall however, the mercenaries did not take to captivity, as the article relates:

“I thought these guys were tough guys,” one South African source said last week. “Yet they were all squealing like canaries. They really rather let down the names of mercenaries.”

The only phrase perhaps more apt at describing Mann's hopeles coup
attempt than "they really rather let down the names of mercenaries"
is "if Matrix were here, he'd laugh too."

Mann came out of prison in good spirits, beardless, and promising vengeance on his foes, vowing that those who abandoned him can expect an "ice-axe between the eyes" in a startlingly Stalin-esque embrace of both vengeance and ice axes. The only thing more chilling would be the involvement of a shirtless Tom Berenger believing that he is making a sequel to Dogs of War or Major League IV (not even Tom Berenger at his most shirtless could believe that anyone was making another Sniper movie.)

Berenger succeeds where Mann failed in Dogs of War, although it is worth noting
that Walken is surprisingly unconvincing as a soldier as he runs through the
fictional Equatorial Guinea as if he is filming part of a Fatboy Slim video,
therefore proving that Christopher Walken should not be a soldier unless the
order to kill comes from the disturbing demons that live in his psyche and
spacious forehead

One target may be Sir Mark Thatcher who became involved in helping the plotters secure a helicopter and an associate that was even by the loose standards of those involved, a complete disgrace to any sort of international intrigue and black-sheep children. Thatcher's almost comical attempt to play everyone against each other despite fumbling his cloak-and-dagger schemes more ineptly than could be imagined by the broadest, Frenchest farce has left him few friends in the mercenary world and exile from South Africa. Easily ensnared in the coup's paper trail, the South African anti-corruption team known as The Scorpions arrested him and he immediately attempted to betray his co-conspirators in an outcome that can be described as less than executive. Thatcher probably should have known better than to mess with the Scorpions, who were enjoying a brief window as the world's most dangerous organization of Scorpions between waning twenty-first century Mortal Kombat popularity and the German rock band's inevitable resurgence in 2009 to stick it one more time to the late Erich Honecker. Though the Times speculates that Mann could testify against Thatcher as the main financier, likely nothing will happen to Mann other than staring vacuously into his Spanish compound, bumping into things, and becoming involved in a dangerous network of white van schemes and multi-level marketing promotions that ultimately involve a penniless Thatcher stumbling into Parliament with a catalogue of upmarket knives.

Thatcher instinctively strikes a beatific pose looking optimistically
towards a sunny future


Like Thatcher, Northwestern will find itself in the sights of a jilted enemy in traditional rival Illinois on Saturday. What looked like the surest Big Ten win a few weeks ago now looks more difficult as the Illini have been frisky, winning their last two and energized by the desire to seize the first Land of Lincoln Trophy in this red-hot rivalry that is no longer predictably played at the end of the season when rivals have a chance to spoil each others' seasons or play for championships but more intriguingly at some random point that the Big Ten promises will be "some time during football season" as a way to add even more intensity to this contest.

The Land of Lincoln Trophy is part of an NCAA initiative for all rivalry trophies to be
entirely hat-based by 2034

Northwestern, though technically bowl-eligible, needs another victory to ensure itself of a post-season berth and keep alive the possibility of an eight win season. Let's hope Mick McCall is working on new wrinkles such as the T-formation or the Bloodless Coup which involves Sir Mark Thatcher accidentally lighting himself on fire and running about the stadium unable to express his predicament while a Northwestern takes advantage of the chaos and calmly strides into the end zone.