Friday, September 4, 2009

Get Up (Get on up) for Wildcat Football

Tomorrow the Towson Tigers traipse into Temperance Town for a tangle with the Wildcats and the BYCTOM Horrible Alliteration Machine. Northwestern does not really gain anything from playing these sorts of games-- anything less than a thrashing will be disappointing for the nineteen bloodthirsty Wildcat fans in the stands, and a loss will be borderline catastrophic. Northwestern, I would imagine, is in a tough situation from a scheduling standpoint-- obviously the Wildcats gain a lot by setting up a slate of undistinguished non-conference opponents. On the other hand, even if the Athletic Department wanted to play a powerhouse non-conference opponent, it would have a tough time convincing these teams to play a dangerous underdog unless Coach Fitz strapped on some gold chains and began calling them out by interrupting their press conferences every week and started using the phrase "shut up old man" as a way of punctuating his sentences much in the same way that Arnold Schwartzenegger uses "and all of these things," "and all of that," and "I hope you leave enough room for my fist because I'm going to to ram it into your stomach and break your goddamn spine" in the California statehouse.

Fitz crashes a USC press conference,
exhorting the crowd into the traditional
Northwestern chant "you're gonna pay,

Northwestern's non-conference schedule will get better, adding opponents such as Vanderbilt, Stanford, and Boston College, although I have an official source that Northwestern will make room for any nineteenth century dental colleges that want another crack at the 'Cats after spending the last hundred years underground attempting to learn the beguiling secret of the forward pass and dental anaesthetic techniques beyond "here, have a swig of this brandy."

The use of this Electrical Drill for the Extracting and
Removal of Painful Teeth is to be used by a Licensed
Professional Tooth Extractor, lest you give your Money
to some Foul Rapscallion causing you to Bleed Profusely
in an Alley while shouting "Come back, you Rogue
Dentist, you have Absconded with my last Molar"


The Bears have been stocking up on Northwestern players, many of whom found themselves working to get out from under the final cutdown axe at the end of this weekend. The biggest story was Brett Basanez, who looked good in the final quarter and a half of Bears preseason football. At one point, he connected with Eric Peterman for a rare Wildcat to Wildcat completion, the only one of its kind in the modern NFL as proven by my "sounds right, let's not bother to look this up" research method.

Preseason football, especially the last game in which the starters barely play and the backups injure their knee ligaments by launching themselves at the sidelines for no apparent reason, is always a bizarre spectacle. The team is filled with unrecognizable faces-- rookies, retreads, future Gray Cup competitors and third shift workers in Russia, Ohio, to the point that questions the very nature of pro football fandom. The bubble players' desperation is palpable while their big-name teammates yuk it up on the sideline in street clothes and baseball caps. The only way there could be more pressure is if the coaches were forced to create the 53-man roster by the end of the game, cutting players during timeouts and substitutions as the PA system taunts the players with Europe's The Final Countdown.

Football's bearer of bad news is traditionally known as The Turk for some reason. Perhaps one inspiration is the dismal record of modern Ottoman sultans who seem to be cut by scheming courtiers, Janissary uprisings, and rusty scimitars. Since 1789, only three of the nine sultans got to reign until death, according to this list of Ottoman sultans which helpfully spells out the dismal fate of those deposed, executed, assassinated, and in the case of Mehmed VI, had the sultanate abolished entirely on his watch. One of the more curious cases involved the short reign of Mustafa IV from 1807-1808 who took the throne after believing that he had disposed of his rival brother and cousin. After triumphantly throwing his cousin's body into the courtyard and literally ascending the throne with the natural self-satisfaction of bloody intrigue done well, he apparently forgot to ask his attendants to check the baths where his brother Mahmud was hiding in wait to turn on him. I'd like to think that he gave some sort of gloating speech about how nothing could stop him, especially his bathtub-averse brother, but nothing truly ironic ever actually happens in the cut-throat world of Ottoman bath intrigue.

Mustafa IV's Gruber Brothers smirk predicted his violent overthrow at
the hands of his brother, who needed to gain power in order to pioneer
advanced sultanic chair technologies


The most optimistic outlook for Saturday's game involves a Wildcat squad doing whatever they want against an overmatched FCS opponent. For inspiration, they could turn to the late Tito Puente. Here, for example, the master of the timbales wows a crowd at a festival while simultaneously wearing a Tito Puente walk of fame t-shirt with rank impunity, an act only slightly less brazen than Bill S. Preston's insistence on wearing homemade Wyld Stallyns merchandise in blatantly inappropriate time settings such as Ancient Greece, where Wyld Stallyns were virtually unknown. In another clip, Puente and a group of mustache enthusiasts take Paul Desmond's jazz classic "Take Five," possibly the second most well-known tune in five four time (only behind the original Mission: Impossible theme that signalled that Peter Graves was about to stand around in a turtleneck for upwards of 40 minutes) and twisting it into four to suit the whims of his clave in an attempt to prove that in the brutal land of jazz music, the man with the timbales makes his own rules.

Tito Puente menaces the world of Latin Percussion,
as seen on this propaganda leaflet from

As the King of Mambo, Tito Puente deserves the type of deference that all musical kings, members of Paliament, and single digit Soul Brothers demand. Ridicule can only be heaped upon this travesty, a ridiculous cover of the Four Tops classic "Reach out, I'll be there" by Claude Fran├žois and his indomitable Go-Go legions.

The remarkable thing about this version of the song, other than pretty much everything about the dancing and singing, is the incredibly square bass bastardized from Motown legend James Jamerson's signature line. Jamerson, a member of the Funk Brothers and essential cog in the Motown hit machine, also possessed perhaps the excalibur of funk instruments in his Fender P-Bass known as "The Funk Machine." He also invented a technique that he called "The Hook," gaining inspiration from generations of homicidal maniacs that exclusively attack teenaged drivers and camping aficionados. The Funk Machine, however, is apparently missing, identifiable only by the word "funk" carved into the neck, much in the way that "wonderboy" was carved into Roy Hobbs's bat, or "fuck face" into Billy Ripken's.

Other carving options for Jamerson remained
substantially less funky

The Claude Fran├žois video also gets my goat because it is labeled "J'attendrai," which in the context of France should be associated only with Django Reinhardt who made the tune one of his signatures. This video, a rare glimpse of an actual Django performance also crucially depicts him lounging with his guitar while his bandmates furiously smoke and give each other the stink eye while playing cards in a way that suggests that his brother and rhythm guitarist Joseph "Nin-Nin" Reinhardt is about to be quietly stabbed by the shifty-looking bassist after a pomade-related dispute.

The J'attendrai debate can be settled by determining which of these two men looks
like the greatest guitarist of all time and which looks like a Gallic, Patridge-haired
dandelion plucking, tuxedoed, Vercingetorix-looking, square jawed, cave-painting
abomination towards both rhythm and blues

Even though a victory will bring more relief than satisfaction, it's time to get giddy for the return of football season and hopefully a long-awaited bowl victory for the Wildcats. And should the unthinkable occur and the 'Cats stumble against a substatial underdog at home then the brandy and the nineteenth century molar extraction are on me.


Matt said...

Top 5 post, loved your final preseason game idea.


Were I wearing one, my hat would be off to you, as you, sir, are an artiste.