Monday, September 14, 2009

Northwestern Escapes to Victory

My hopes were high after Northwestern finally stepped up and crushed an FCS team the way a bowl-caliber team should as dozens of Wildcat fans worked themselves into a blood-crazed lather, rallying the 'Cats with their fearsome cry of "how's the market, Stu?" Kafka looked sharp, Brewer had a career day which offsets my mild disappointment that he named his spring blog "What's Brewin'" instead of "Strange Brew," and the defense maintained control, although it gave up two touchdowns.

The robust thrashing of a Football Championship Subdivision opponent is just the
thing to replenish and invigorate a Northwestern alumni base before returning
to their shirtwaist factories and Dickensian orphan abuseotoriums

Northwestern seemed to carry the momentum into Sunday's showdown against Eastern Michigan as they took a 21-3 halftime lead, consistently rolling into Eagle territory with the impunity of the Duke of New York cruising across the apocalyptic prison landscape in his chandelier-covered limousine.

The Duke of New York was rivaled in his power over the city only by Peter
Stuyvesant, the last Dutch Director-General of the colony of
New Netherland, who earned the derisive nickname of "Duke of New
Amsterdam" for his autocratic, peg-legged style of governing

Peter Stuyvesant was not shy about razing houses, sending in soldiers to rough up his political enemies, and persecuting hated Quakers. Radio Netherlands Worldwide has a show about him and his reputation as a scowling martinet of the seventeenth century colonial world who had a propensity to make political enemies and probably strut about, albeit awkwardly considering the peg leg and its known effects on proper strutting form. The show is worth listening to for its arresting theme song (a combination of kettledrums, early 90s rap beats, what sounds like a synthesized jaw harp, and an approximation of a vocal break stolen from the Family Stone all cobbled into a genre known as NPR-core) and the mystifying banter of the Dutch and Canadian co-hosts. Stuyvesant's style of government is best summed up in his declaration that "We derive our authority from God and the company, not from a few ignorant subjects," which is inscribed on the Daley family crest at Chicago's City Hall.

In the second half the game, lackluster play from Northwestern's vaunted defense, offensive miscues, and no doubt an inspiring half-time speech from EMU coach Ron English consisting of feats of strength and derring-do led to a dangerous Northwestern collapse. Fortunately, the 'Cats rallied and gave Stefan Demos the opportunity to salvage the debacle with a 49-yard field goal in the closing seconds.

It is an odd phenomenon as a Northwestern fan to be disappointed with a victory, but the second half collapse throws up some red flags for the coming season. Then again, the Wildcats were able to pull out the win, and, as Northwestern official chronicler/bard/warrior/poet Skip Myslenski puts it, "It was a win and, in the record book, style points don't apply."

Like Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone (in
my opinion far too much Stallone and not
nearly enough Caine, although that's neither
here nor there), the Wildcats were able to escape
to victory against a determined EMU squad. In

(the studio apparently felt the "Escape to"
part was too much for Americans, much like the
apocryphal story about how "The Madness of
George III" would confuse Americans accustomed
to trilogies about porphyria-ridden maniacs),
the Allies use soccer as a way to stick it to the
Nazis, demonstrating a sporting decision not
to box them and take advantage of their
disproportionate cantaloupe-sized fists


Northwestern's blood-pressure-raising adventure at Ryan Field calls to mind other daring escape acts, none more impressive than the legendary Harry Houdini. According to his Wikipedia page, Houdini escaped from "nailed packing crates (sometimes lowered into the water), riveted boilers, wet-sheets, mailbags, and even the belly of a Whale that washed ashore in Boston," and his escapes are credited partially to "being able to regurgitate small keys at will." Please note that I've left in Wikipedia's link to its article on "professional regurgitators," which in my opinion is not so much the end of a career path as a career chasm.

Houdini's act depended on believable shackles, impossible escapes, and
the cooperation of hundreds of mustachioed policemen.

Houdini also made a side career in films and in debunking spiritualists, igniting a rivalry with avid Spiritualist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who devoted the first two parts of The Edge of the Unknown to revealing the magician's closely guarded spiritual powers as the secret to his act as opposed to good old-fashioned regurgitation. Despite his frustration with Houdini, Conan Doyle did admit that Houdini performed a valuable service in going after fraudulent mediums:

The unmasking of false mediums is our urgent duty, but when we are told that, in spite of our own evidence and that of three generations of mankind, there are no real ones we lose interest, for we know that we are speaking to an ignorant man. At the same time, the States, and in a lesser degree our own people, do need stern supervision. I admit that I underrated the corruption in the States. What first brought it home to me was that my friend Mrs. Crandon told me that she had received price lists from some firm which manufactures fraudulent instruments for performing tricks. If such a firm can make a living, there must be some villainy about, and a more judicious Houdini might well find a useful field of activity. It is these hyenas who retard our progress. I have myself had a hand in exposing more than one of them.

Houdini's movie career chronicled his endless struggles with malevolent closet
robots. He also debunked spiritualists, shown here demonstrating how illusions
could be used to make it seem as if he is mollifying the vengeful ghost of Abraham
Lincoln with a book on modern rail splitting techniques


Northwestern is not the only Big Ten school to suffer at the hands of a Michigan-based university outside of the conference. Indiana also nearly gave up a solid lead to Western Michigan in Bloomington, although in the past two years the Broncos beat Illinois and Iowa (in the claustrophobic Kinnick Thunderdome). Central Michigan defeated Michigan State in East Lansing thanks to a heads-up onside kick recovery. Of course, the Chippewas won the MAC championship two of the last three years and have appeared in the last three Motor City Bowls, a feat which has led CMU fans to relabel Ford Field as "Kelly-Shorts South." In fact, all three of the MAC Michigan teams have tremendous stadium names with the aforementioned Kelly-Shorts, Eastern's Rynearson, and Western's impenetrable fortress Waldo Stadium.

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with the
previous paragraph other than proving my
superhuman resistance to the obvious Waldo joke
telegraphed in the last sentence and therefore blowing
your mind so effectively that you can see into
dimensions that exist only after the inevitable
Fermilab accident rents a hole into
the solar system

The rest of the Big Ten got a black eye as Ohio State sputtered against USC, although I think that the game revealed that the Big Ten can at least hang with the Trojans instead of trotting out the usual tactic of putting up the resistance of an inept Seagal antagonist or a Tokyo subway patron reacting to the endless shadow of Mothra. The Big Ten gained some face when an underrated Michigan team defeated an overrated Notre Dame team, a result that is at least good for the conference although the ideal ending involves a blimp slowly displaying an emergency government proclamation preventing each school from playing high-level football, cuing an endless looping video of the late Charlton Heston cackling at their misfortune on the jumbotron, causing the bewildered and devastated fan bases to pour mournfully out of Michigan Stadium.

The last remnants of Wolverine and Fighting
Irish football in an ideal world, incidentally
the same world where BYCTOM can continue
drawing from the Charlton Heston well with
no consequences

Hopefully, the 'Cats can learn from the near-stumble against a never-say-die MAC opponent as they travel up to the Carrier Dome to take on a potentially spunky Syracuse team in a contest that as far as I can tell is available as an internet pay-per-view exclusive for $5.95, although if you get the $79.95 yearly package, you can get access to the Jim Boeheim Show. A less stressful outing requiring no fancy illusions, where small keys can be successfully digested will be a bit more soothing for Wildcat fans looking to go 3-0 and possibly lead to an increased gruel ration for the orphans in their employ.