Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Season nearly underway

Northwestern football comes roaring back to Evanston this very weekend, as anyone who has been to a game and heard the Wildcat sound effect blaring over the Ryan Field PA system would attest. Incidentally, that sound is not an actual wildcat, but an approximation based on a digitally altered recording of a third grader making fighter jet noises after being hooked up intravenously to Ecto Cooler.

There is no better way to continue getting into NU football then to read Skip Myslenski at Nusports.com, as he apparently spent the summer strapped into a Clockwork Orange-style eyeball opening device that continually subjected him to the opening narration from gladiator movies. Last week's post, for example, entitled Hybrids, Griffins and Centaurs: The Superbacks, is not only written entirely in the second person tense, a literary feat accomplished only in books that also employ the "open the box labeled 'secrets of time, space, aliens, and the sparkly bits of the universe radiating out of the vaguely creepy goateed guy on the cover' pg. 35/open the box labeled Count Chocula pg. 72" style of fine literature, but he also invokes mythical creatures to explain the Wildcat offense. The only way I can enjoy the fact that Northwestern has hired someone to glorify Northwestern football through fantastically over-the-top columns would be if Myslenski showed up in the press box wearing a fedora surrounded by errand-running urchins with moxie and sprinted to shout into a pay phone anytime anything of note happened. Or as Skip would put it:

With you and yours, though, you just never know how that impact will be made.

You are hybrids, griffins, centaurs.

You are superbacks.

Sample title card from new gameshow Choose Your Own Adventure novel or Herbie Hancock album cover?

The superback position is versatile. In Northwestern's spread attack, they're used as extra blockers or used in situations that call for fullbacks or tight ends. As Myslenski notes, they're also in charge of wreaking havoc against plunderous ancient Greek adventurers and ensuring that opponents' women are lamenting properly.


While one can certainly admire the choice of griffins and centaurs as go-to mythical creatures, they're not the most inspired decision. Fortunately, Wikipedia's List of Legendary Creatures provides some viable alternatives for those who prefer their mythical creature vindaloo to have a bit more spice. Of course, few of these creatures have the sort of hybrid characteristics that would make a viable mythology-related point about the role of the superback like they teach you in journalism school. For example, the Drekavac, a mythical Slavic creature related to dead, unbaptized children is not made of a hodge-podge of various creatures, but, as some fastidious Wikipedia contributor notes, "In some parts of Serbia and Balkans it is believed that one must first have a dream about Drekavac to actually encounter one. Also Drekavac can strangle people while they are sleeping, if they did something bad to it in life." More appropriate is the Cantabrian Fish-Man of Lierganes, a man-fish hybrid that "spends time lying in wait for girls and devastating coast villages" which seems like some sort of highly illegal form of third-world tourism.

The unholy joining of man and fish terrorized Cantabrians for generations
until he was caught and let go

My favorite legendary creature from the list is the Brazilian Headless Mule, described with a dashing disregard for the English Language as "the ghost of a woman that has been cursed by God for her sins (often said to be as Concubine or fornication with a priest) and condemned to turn into a fire-spewing headless mule, galloping through the countryside from Thursday's sundown to Friday's sunrise." In this case, the creature is a hybrid of a mule and a mature volcano or result of the collision of any two objects in an Indiana Jones move. Although the concept of a headless, fire-spewing mule is fairly sensible, the article then throws in this confusing tidbit: "Despite being headless, the Mule still neighs (usually very loud), and sometimes it moans like a crying woman. It also has a bridle tied to its non-existing mouth, and spews fire through its non-existing nostrils (or, in some versions, from its severed neck)," a passage that raises the classic zen koan of whether a creature spewing fire from non-existent nostrils can be said to have nostrils at all.

The Headless Mule tales have much in common with
the idea of a headless horseman, shown here celebrating
a goal at the mythical bogeymen polo match against the
Bonnacon, a horse/bull hybrid with the ability to emit
flaming dung, an elusive trait that has made this
creature a vital element of the the heraldic James Bond

A final intriguing creature is the Japanese Konaki-jijī, which is apparently "an infant spirit that cries until it is picked up, then increases its weight and crushes its victim," which seems to be rather unsportsmanlike, although myths like this make Big Man Japan perhaps three percent more coherent. I also like that Wikipedia has a list of legendary creatures by type including categories such as Myslenski favorite Hybrids, Animals, Demons, the wonderfully vague Creatures associated with Concepts, and, under the "Shapeshifter" heading, the artfully descriptive "Existent non-human turn into a human."


The Bears' preseason is well underway as they find themselves as a major national story due to the acquisition of Jay Cutler and the return of Kyle Orton to his protected mountain habitat. Quarterbacks have been dominating the news all offseason with the dramatic reinstatement of Michael Vick and the endlessly entertaining Brett Favre Vacillation Spectacular, which will be taking over for Tommy Bartlett's Waterski show until Lake Delton again exists.

Wisconsin Dells entrepreneur Tommy Bartlett offered a wholesome waterski
extravaganza and a gruesome portend of the coming robot apocalypse

As Favre has tortured me and my people for the football equivalent of generations, it is good to see the media finally turning on him, although I admit that I will immediately become a Favre fan if he calls a press conference and announces his retirement by following this precise sequence.

That is also how I exit all rooms on occasions when I am accompanied by my personal funk band, or when I need to get to the bridge.

Jack Webb's soul singing career was cut short after he disastrously
pleaded with the audience to "keep your hands near the ground and
shake them like you're gravely concerned."

So prepare your weekend tailgates for the impending crushing of Towson with your own hybrid creatures: a bacon cheeseburger, the Madden favorite Turducken, and an Upton Sinclair style Chicago hotdog made from pigs, factory scrapings, and body parts from Eastern European immigrants. Now allow me to make my exit as soon as the rest of the Good Time Funk All-Star Hot Pants Good God Y'alls get out of their van.


Rodger said...

with each passing day i become more and more convinced that skip myslenski is in fact ghostwriting for that state-run turkmen paper that published the article about the president hopping on a jewelry-bedecked horse and flying away on a helicopter.

Graham Filler said...

1. I was sure the Skip article was some kind of parody until he started quoting the players and coaches. Bob Dole loves football! Bob Dole needs a nap.

2. This blog is pretty damn amazing.