Friday, March 6, 2009

Dance hopes still alive

Northwestern's big win over Purdue in the Keadydome on Wednesday has kept hopes for a tournament bid alive, and garnered national attention. Though I will still consider the season a massive success if Northwestern makes it to the NIT without suffering a travesty of justice like in 2002, the tournament talk has made this the most memorable Northwestern basketball season of this decade.

Mirkovic celebrates Wildcat
basketball and defies Principal

Northwestern needs a win on Sunday in Columbus as well as an impressive performance in the Big Ten tournament in order to bolster its bubble, but the NCAA tournament selection process remains a mystery. As Jeff Goldblum might say if he wasn't making discrete phone calls to Sam Neill about his availability for a fourth Jurassic Park movie in order to make a yacht payment, god help us we're in the hands of bracketologists.

Jeff Goldblum and the S.S. Ah um ha uh yes a um yacht?


Determining the teams and the seeding for the NCAA tournament has spurred its own cottage industry of experts, most notably ESPN's Joe Lunardi, who coined the term "bracketology." Of course, bracketing has inspired a number of different disciplines, such as David Mihm, who calls himself a bracketographer. "I kind of got tired of Joe Lunardi's schtick," Mihm said in this article about his motivation to challenge Lunardi. The article gives the impression that Lunardi is under siege from a host of underground bracket analysts who want to seize his throne as the foremost bracketologist and will no doubt suffer the same fate as Edmond Dant├ęs's thousands of enemies on which he has sworn vengeance if he is ever betrayed and imprisoned on a desolate Mediterranean island.

Bracketology implies some sort of science and I always picture bracketologists toiling away at the sort of analogue computers with whirring tape machines that Bond villains are always using to set up their space lasers (and it's always a space laser-- I estimate that at least 35 percent of Bond villain plots involve a space laser of some kind possibly because the space laser company purchases the largest amount of advertising space in the Bond villain skymall catalogue that sells one-piece jumpsuits, eye patches, and glass furniture).

Bracketologists busily at work breaking down the
bubble teams, predicting seeding, and threatening the
United Nations with a laser apocalypse

Steve Rose wrote a fascinating article last November about Bond villains and architecture. Fleming evidently despised modernist architecture, which is why his motley collection of potential mass murderers always had swanky Le Corbusier-inspired bachelor pads in the middle of dormant volcanoes. Fleming even named Goldfinger after architecht Erno Goldfinger, who incensed Fleming by knocking down two Victorian buildings. In his defense, Erno Goldfinger did not help his case by posing like a potential Bond villain in publicity photos and menacing Fleming with an array of colorful, ethnic henchmen.

Erno Goldfinger and his modernist towers
named Good Afternoon Gentlemen and
You Have Twenty Four Hours

The Shirley Bassey Goldfinger theme is probably the best known of the Bond title songs, all of which are compiled here with full lyrics. Perusing the site is a powerful reminder of how severely underrated the 1980s Bond themes are, especially A View to A Kill's Duran Duran tune.

In fact, A View to a Kill is violently underrated-- it has Christopher Walken as a maniacal blimp enthusiast, Grace Jones, the horse-racing set, and a henchman who kills people by strangling them with his Walkman. More importantly, it features an aged Roger Moore bumbling through his last Bond movie as he castigates cashiers who keep him waiting too long, successfully completes car chases with his left blinker on, and romances a woman whose own mother is younger than him.

After dispatching Roger Moore, Grace Jones
traveled to Barcelona to steal the Dream Team's

A-Ha's The Living Daylights theme is also vastly underrated, but generally any Bond who gets upstaged by A-Ha does not deserve to karate chop people or flee from self-destructing buildings or dispatch Hervey Villachez when he sneaks aboard your getaway schooner.


Making the NCAA tournament would be a tremendous step in the right direction for Northwestern's basketball program, even if it didn't include a memorable upset or classic March Madness moment. Probably the most iconic March Madness event is Laettner's shot against Kentucky in the 1992 East Regional, which is now notable for the number of college basketball's most hated individuals including Laettner, Mike Krzyzewski and the entire Duke basketball program, Rick Pitino, and even Billy Donovan, the non-descript coach of Florida who is notable only for his dos-si-do with the Orlando Magic. Laettner parlayed his March Madness performance into a stint with the Dream Team and this truly ridiculous spread in People Magazine.

Who says white men can't jump? Here's one
who also shoots and rebounds and blocks shots.
Oh, and steals hearts too. After leading Duke
to its second straight college basketball title in
March, Laettner, 22, drove Arsenio's audience
beyond woofs into wild squeals.

Of course, Laettner memorably struggled with injuries and the general crappiness of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA. There's an article about his mini-resurgence with the Hawks in 1996, which reveals that he occasionally busts out a Mutumbo impression as well as owns unusual pets:

In the gym after a recent practice, Laettner is talking about his pet shark, which he keeps at home in a 600-gallon, salt-water tank...It seems Laettner's pet shark died on the move south from Minnesota. The creature didn't have a name. Laettner rolls his eyes. It's not like it came when you called it. So he bought another pet shark, and now it is thriving in Atlanta. In a burst of creativity, he calls this one "Shark No. 2"

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