Saturday, March 14, 2009


Northwestern's crushing loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday ended their slim hopes of making it to the NCAAs for the first time in school history. The 'Cats had an opportunity to win the game late, but were again unable to close the game out. Despite the disappointment and the national attention (even Sports Illustrated had a blurb about Northwestern in the last issue), the 'Cats will almost certainly play in the NIT. For many schools, the NIT is a booby prize, and it's a bit of a bitter pill to swallow considering how many of Northwestern's losses came from heartbreaking collapses, but the Wildcats are a young team, and making the NIT is a significant step for a school with a basketball legacy as successful as the Gruber brothers' futile attempts to kill off John McClane.

There are two schools of thought on the use of the phrase
"Die Hard" in everyday conversation. On the one hand, Die
Hard can be used exclusively to refer to John McClane, as in
"did you see the part when Die Hard hanged that enormous
German blond German guy with those iron chains." Alternately,
Die Hard can be used as a verb to describe the vengeful killing
of all opponents in an unnecessarily gruesome way. Examples
of die harding involve driving vehicles indoors, uses of rocket
launchers, most impalements, and anything having to do with
helicopters; therefore, the best venue for die harding is almost
certainly a helicopter blade, railroad spike, and dynamite factory
located next door to either a bottomless pit or a crocodile farm.

The loss to Minnesota is payback for 2003, when a twelve-win Northwestern team unexpectedly upset the Gophers and knocked them off the bubble. Minnesota was led that year by Rick Rickert, who left for the NBA after his freshman year in order to fulfill the childhood dream of getting pummeled by Kevin Garnett. Rickert now plays for the New Zealand Breakers of the Australian NBL, who are currently sitting at third behind the South Dragons and the Melbourne Tigers. The NZ Breakers are led by Tony "Bear" Ronaldson, who is the Brett Favre of Australian basketball, missing only 15 games in his 19 year career, including a 324 game streak.

The Breakers game day experience involves the Moppets,
their youth mopping squad who dance with the Mizone
Breaker Girls and antagonize their Mascot Cheeky the Kea,
who according to the website, "spent countless hours
each day learning the Superhero force from the masters.
He studied ancient teachings that heightened his intelligence,
trained tirelessly to sculpt his muscular physique and
developed combat techniques to make the enemy tremble
in terror."


The World Baseball classic delivered on one of the greatest upsets in the history of international sports when the Netherlands beat the Dominican Republic twice to advance the second round of competition and knock the powerhouse Dominicans out of the tournament altogether. The Netherlands beating the Dominicans was like the Miracle on Ice only twice and without the spectre of mutually assured nuclear destruction hanging over their rivalry. When the Netherlands meets Venezuela in Round Two, however, there are grave political overtones.

As mentioned in the the last post, the Netherlands team is made up of several players from the Netherlands Antilles. Three of the islands, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, are located just off the coast of Venezuela, and President Hugo Chávez has in recent years been doing a bit of saber-rattling there. In this 2006 Spiegel article, Chávez attacked the Netherlands foreign minister as a "Washington stooge" and accused the Dutch of allowing the U.S. to use the islands as a staging area for an invasion of Venezuela. In 2007, a Dutch public radio broadcaster staged an elaborate hoax, reporting that Venezuela had invaded Curaçao, setting off a mild panic.

Chávez decries Yankee imperialism while a
V.I.L.E. henchman skulks in the background.
You must be on the right track!


The Dutch Antilles formed a minor theater for a proxy war against Portugal in the the Netherlands' war for independence from the cruel Habsburg yoke during the Eighty Years' War fought from 1568 to 1648. The global scope of these naval battles during the Early Modern period is remarkable as the Dutch and Portuguese clashed in the Caribbean, Goa, Jakarta, the Gold Coast, and Macau during the first quarter of the seventeenth century.

The more exciting action of the Dutch Revolt, however, took place on the Continent. The Spanish sent in the Duke of Alba to pacify rebellious Dutch noblemen which was the early modern equivalent of bringing a gun to a knife fight. The "Iron Duke" quickly endeared himself by ordering an impressive array of public decapitations in his "blood court." Though Alba's mission involved cracking down on Protestant heretics, he also found the time to decapitate loyal Catholic nobles in an attempt to end their unacceptable reign of tolerance.

The "Iron Dukes" Alba (left) and Wellington, progenitors of the Iron tradition
of rule

The Dutch hero was William of Orange (The Silent, not to be confused with the William of Orange who took the English throne in 1688), who led the rebellion until his assassination by Balthasar Gérard in 1584 after Phillip II put a bounty on William's head, calling him "a pest on the whole of Christianity and the enemy of the human race." Before Gérard, Juan de Jáuregui attempted the assassination on behalf of his boss, a vengeful Spanish fur merchant who was tempted by the bounty. Though de Jáuregui wounded William, he struck down by Royal Halberdiers. Unfortunately, Gérard and de Jáuregui did not team up to take down William of Orange and Klaus Kinski as the Hunchback. Instead, Gérard's elaborate plan involved walking into the palace and shooting the Prince, and was remarkably successful. He planned to escape via moat by using a pigs' bladder as a makeshift water-wing, but was caught and condemned to an elaborate series of gruesome tortures described with a slightly creepy amount of relish on his Wikipedia page.

Gérard attacks a vulnerable William as he takes refuge at an institute for
the gaping-mouthed

The Dutch face a similar uphill battle to advance in the Classic, facing not only their political archrival Venezuelans but also the Yankee Imperialist Americans in next round of group play. The Wildcats will find out about their NIT fate, I assume, sometime after selection Sunday. The 'Cats have been good enough this season that a run in the NIT would certainly be less shocking than another Netherlands win in the WBC, although it would be slightly less inspired by Habsburg treachery.

1 comment:

Dan Hess said...

A "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego" reference?? That's it...I'm sold on this blog. Consider this NU grad/Cubs fanatic a die-hard reader.