Sunday, November 29, 2009

Badgers, Bowls, Basketball

Last week's cliff-hanging thriller against Wisconsin to clinch an eight-win season, fifth place in the Big Ten, and set off wild bowl speculation by Henry Bienen's most elite unit of bone diviners (while Bienen has retired from Northwestern in order to serve as Vice Chairman of Rasmussen College, Inc. and chair the executive committee of the UFL as the only man who can control Tim McGarigle's terrible vengeance upon ball-carriers, BYCTOM sources reveal that he remains in charge of NU's secret department of all sports-related occult activities-- for example did you know that the Rebecca Crown Tower turns purple after Wildcat victories not through the use of cheap plastic veneers that are not quite purple as it appears but through a terrible ancient sorcery).

Bienen, shown here in garb reserved for academics and the black arts, prefers
divination by oracle bones, as preferred in Shang Dynasty China. Thankfully,
Wikipedia's page on divination has a helpful section on other types of divination
that may be used for bowl projection-related purposes that you can do in the privacy
of your own home or coven including tasseomancy (by tea or coffee grounds),
rhabdomancy (by rods), hydromancy (by water), and gastromancy, which apparently
involves divination by using ventriloquest techniques to convince people that sounds
made by the stomach represent the voices of the dead

The 33-31 thriller continued Northwestern's trend of turning Ryan Field into an impenetrable fortress against invasion from the north, which I chalk up to a clever ruse luring Wisconsin into a false sense of security by flooding the stands with red-clad fans in a move that can best be described as a Reverse Trojan Horse after several blows to the head and exposure to mild psychotropic substances. A road team has not won in this unfortunately not annual contest since the 'Cats claimed the crazy double-OT thriller in 2000.

Bucky Badger certainly ranks tops in the world-wide Badger Mascot ratings, just
above Fulham FC's Billy Badger, shown here delaying the start of a half with his
break-dancing antics, and this generic badger costume described on this website
as the way to have a "fierce, spunky badger to represent your team, school, or
business" although it is unclear what business would be rushing to purchase this
badger unless its mission statement specifically involved terrifying children or
rival board members

Though Northwestern's bowl position is technically in the air, consensus seems to point towards the Champs Sports Bowl in Miami. The bowl selection process seems less rife with intrigue than last year, although I do enjoy that speculation about bowls involves the fact that Wisconsin has been to Florida too many times, a theory that posits that corporate executives who choose bowl pairings operate not unlike a cabal of warlords collaborating on an evening's gladiatorial festivities and dismissing teams with a "send them away they no longer amuse me" gesture.

Penn State LB Paul Posluszny looks to the Capital One executive
suite for guidance on a sack during this 2003 bowl contest


With all of the doom and gloom surrounding the basketball team after the Ryan and Coble injuries, the young Wildcats have been lining up to take over games. After a tough loss to Butler, the best team in the state, Northwestern rebounded with a 31 point explosion by "Juice" Thompson against Tennessee State and 22 from freshman Drew Crawford against Liberty University in the first round of the Chicago Invitational Tournament. But it has been all about John Shurna in the C.I.T.-- the sophomore led Northwestern to an upset against Notre Dame in the second round of the tournament with 25 and 8 against the nationally ranked squad. Northwestern's 1-3-1 zone stifled Irish All-American and possible anthropomorphic tree trunk Luke Harangody and limited Notre Dame to 31.7 percent shooting. And just like that, the switch on Northwestern's basketball program has been turned back to feisty. Just look at this typically understated post from that does not have a byline but was written by someone who is clearly being mentored by Skip Myslenski:

Mark Twain once stated that, "reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." The same holds true for the Northwestern men's basketball team.

The 'Cats went on to defeat Iowa State Cyclones in the tournament championship game, avenging themselves against teams named for violent natural phenomena after last year's NIT loss to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Shurna again led Northwestern with 23 points to claim the tournament's most outstanding player award and serve notice that injuries have not ended the Wildcat season, as Bill Carmody continues to assail opponents with a seemingly limitless army of skinny white guys that shoot threes.

This factory churning out malnourished forwards has replaced the Former
Yugoslavia as Carmody's primary recruiting ground

Sure, the Chicago Invitational Tournament is not exactly the Final Four, or even the preseason Chicago-area tournament in the best of possible worlds, but it is also the first trophy a Northwestern basketball team has won in recent memory. The young 'Cats went through two legitimate teams, and it looks like the hoops program is in good hands with the Shurna and "Juice" tandem until the return of Coble to menace the Big Ten.


Fortunately, the Big Ten Network managed to muscle in on the game which means that there are video highlights available for the Notre Dame and Iowa State games, the latter featuring an ending so exciting that it evidently derailed the overmatched announcer enough to expect chastising from an unexpectedly materializing Arnold Schwartzenegger.

Online sports highlights have become a crucial part of the twenty-first century sports fan experience, so it is important that they are done properly. The NFL did its highlights best at first, short recaps of every game narrated by a stern-voiced announcer and punctuated by jaunty music taken from albums of free use music used to advertise summer camps in the 1980s. They replaced this system several years ago with radio calls, and now offer either radio calls or the catastrophic result of an NFL board meeting where a misguided executive decided that there are people somewhere in the country that actually want to hear Deion Sanders talk for an extended period of time. Sure, the video quality is better now and streaming more efficient, but does anyone actually believe that this is better than this?

Fortunately for Bears fans, puts out its own highlight reels narrated by John Spindle who dips into a proper NFL-level of hyperbole to describe the Bears's lackluster efforts:

For Chicago, and primarily their defense, four days of soul-searching had led to this night, no help was on the way, no cavalry was coming, only they could change their course, only they could give the people reason to believe again.
Unfortunately, the Bears have provided mainly highlights for other teams' defensive backs and wide receivers, but as the late John Facenda would have possibly said, it is better to have watchable football highlights, even if they are of Jay Cutler throwing around interceptions the way that Natty Bumpo would spray buckshot into Native Americans and the French.

BYCTOM fully supports any voodoo programs that resurrect John Facenda to
save highlights on the belief that his dulcet moans would be better
than the current setup which is like trying to watch football while being
serenaded by a veritable chorus of Menards Men

The NBA is even worse, as someone has evidently pumped some sort of amphetamines into their drinking water supply to the point where their highlights are essentially 90 seconds of random basketball activities and nicknames when all I want is a vague idea of how the Bulls are playing and whether or not Brad Miller has reason to raise his arms in triumph.

The new goal of this blog is to become a clearing house for victorious Brad
Miller images

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hoops Hindered

With the football team squaring off against cross-border rivals to determine bowl position, Wildcat basketball players have been going down like the chimps in Project X, only instead of radiation poisoning through shady government flight simulators, they have been suffering from battered tendons that come from playing basketball.

Carmody calls Northwestern's newest play this season, the call for the
ambulance. Hopefully the call will not be answered by Hemingway as it would
expose players to inadquate World War I-era concepts, such as brandy as a
legitimate medical technology, short, terse tourniquets, and the possibilities
of face-punching wholly inconsistent with the mission of the Red Cross

Northwestern lost its best player in Kevin "Mantis" Coble who seems like the only player in college basketball who could actually play on one leg if his teammates carried him Leftwich-like up and down the court and let him heave weird-looking jumpers off of a single spindly limb as he leans awkwardly in any number of possible directions and continues to score. Jeff Ryan also went down leaving Jeremy Nash as the only senior, although he has been struggling with a troubling heart issue that he thankfully has under control.

Henry "Poo" Yee demonstrates the southern praying mantis
style of Kung Fu, showing clearly that while the horrible
Coble injury may have been a serious blow to Northwestern
Hoops, it will almost certainly spare readers of this blog
any more allusions this season to the Mantis nickname and
then the inevitable run-on sentence somehow justifying it
as the sentence balloons up like a giant dwarf star before
violently exploding and engulfing every bit of sense in its
meager orbit and by the way since we're already in the middle
of a sentence that apparently has no beginning, middle, or
end anywhere in sight I might as well mention that
according to "Poo" Yee, "in the southern praying mantis
system, circles are everything and everywhere" so in case
anybody pulls your sleeve on the street asking you which
simple shape best fits into southern praying mantis kung-fu,
you can you know what let's just end this right here before
somebody blows out an ACL

On the one hand, Northwestern's season has gotten a lot more bleak, and pre-season hopes of finally getting to the promised land of the NCAA tournament have dwindled. On the other hand, this season is all about watching young players develop, especially sophomore center Kyle Rowley who will hopefully do to Big Ten frontcourt players what the USC marching band did to Ricardo Montalban at the end of The Naked Gun.


Baseball's winter rumor mill is in full swing as a nation recovers from the joyless inevitability of another Yankee title. No doubt the Cubs brain-trust is hard at work peering over a giant baseball field and pushing little plastic players around with instruments used only by croupiers and four-star generals.

Jim Hendry scans the playing field for free agents
and bargain trades. Incidentally, this picture is not
only notable for inexpicably being the second Bill
and Ted reference on BYCTOM in as many posts, but
also for being part of a series of Bill and Ted trading
cards as referenced on this site. In case you are
curious, the back side, instead of having Napoleon's
risk statistics or maximum water-slide speed, lists
this crucial plot point: "While Bill and Ted continue to
round up subjects for their report, Deacon entertains
Napoleon. Napoleon devours the ice cream and wins the
Ziggy Piggy award"

Job number one for the Cubs is getting rid of cantankerous right fielder Milton Bradley. Bradley's power did not come around, he hit a paltry .257 for the year, and his defense in right bordered on comical, climaxing in his memorable posing and throwing the ball into the stands then watching helplessly as baserunners unsportingly took advantage of his temporary lack of knowledge about the exact number of outs. On the other hand, Bradley managed to finish with a .378 on-base percentage for the season, which is fairly remarkable considering his batting average. He was also extraordinarily entertaining, wearing a Bluto-style beard, coming up with umpire conspiracies, feuding with combustible manager Lou Piniella, complaining about fickle Cub fans, and bludgeoning reporters with the phrase "what else you got" to the point where the Cubs were forced to suspend him for insubordination, truculance, and redundancy. Obviously, Bradley has to go from an everybody in the organization hates him standpoint, but from a baseball standpoint, Bradley was an effective offensive player who was starting to put up scary numbers towards the end of last season and is going to rebound into a nice year unless he disappears into the Los Angeles underground during the offseason and becomes a soldier of fortune.

John Grabow, the least terrifying lefty out of the pen, will be back, while the reviled Aaron Heilman gets to ply his dark arts for the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for reliever Scott Maine and outfielder/first baseman Ryne White, who Hendry compared favorably to journeyman slugger and 2003 MLB wing-eating champion Matt Stairs, disguising his attempt to placate testy Cubs fans by getting another Ryne into the Cubs's system.

In other Cubs news, Carlos Zambrano won his third Silver Slugger award as the best hitting pitcher in the National League and presumably all of baseball unless the American Leagues are lying in wait for some sort of terrible turning of the tables. Carlos Zambrano is the reason why the National League should continue to exist without a designated hitter. There are few things more riveting during a baseball game, especially a baseball game where the Cubs are playing and therefore actively stomping on the dreams of an either desperate or drunken fanbase, than a Zambrano at-bat. The possiblilities are tantalizing: a launch onto Waveland or Sheffield, a base hit followed by an ill-advised head-first dive into second, a swing-related injury, a strikeout followed by an assault on a bat (purists will note that Zambrano's wrath at Gatorade-dispensing products is limited to poor pitching performances), charging the mound, throwing his helmet to reveal an ill-conceived Zambrano hairstyle such as blond frosted tips or a jheri curl or even a blond jheri-curl, running out into center field and lighting a giant Z on fire, grabbing the home plate umpire and lashing his wrist to the official and initiating a mutual thrusting at each other with butterfly knives while a handful of shirtless vest-wearers come out of the bullpen to idle in the background; I'd much rather watch Zambrano strike out on three straight pitches with runners in scoring position than watch the likes of Aaron Miles pick up a bat in the general vicinity of the batter's box.

The myriad potential consequences of a Zambrano at-bat


Saturday marks the end of the football regular season, but marks the beginning of endless bowl speculation, back-biting, and preparing for conference championship games for those conferences burdened with unnecessary features such as even numbered teams, divisions, and occasionally titles that accurately reflect the number of teams in said conference. Not for the Big Ten, an ascetic conference where the season's conflagrations on the muddy midwestern gridirons settle the championship except most years when they don't and it's a festive conucopia of various Big Ten teams, some of whom will lose in lucrative BCS bowls. But hopefully the 'Cats will prevail in a stadium sure to be painted with the crimson hues of the fearsome badger.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Land of Lincoln Trophy Secured

Northwestern captured the first-ever Land of Lincoln trophy to go from technically bowl-eligible to definitively bowl-bound. The game was a sloppy affair, headlined by a combination of timely defensive stops and offenses doing just enough to get in range for an inevitably botched field goal in a clumsy first half that almost certainly confused ESPN classic viewers assuming that the game would be chock full of Victory Rights or special teams miracles or at the very least about to switch to some black and white boxing match from an era when people enjoyed their violent conflict framed by confining rules based on the opinions of a nineteenth century Marquess whose greatest opponent was Oscar Wilde.

Queensbury lashed out at his son for his relationship with Wilde, who
according to this Wikipedia page, successfully eighty-sixed the Marquess,
foiling his sophisticated plot to pelt him with vegetables during a
performance of
The Importance of Being Earnest. Queensbury's reign of terror
against the London literary elite was not confined to personal feuds; he was
also forcibly ejected from a performance of Tennyson's
The Promise of May
after loudly denouncing the characterization of an atheist character as

Though the Illinois-Northwestern rivalry rarely has stakes beyond bowl qualification and positioning (this year, Northwestern eliminated the reeling Illini from bowl eligibility while managing to virtually guarantee a bowl for themselves), they did rev up the defensive player name rivalry. Illinois, of course, has probably the greatest football name ever in Illini, Chicago Bears, and My Two Dads legend Dick Butkus as well as a Joe Bevis here or a J Leman there. Northwestern boasts Napoleon Harris, Dwayne Missouri, and Tim McGarigle, who is currently second on the undefeated UFL Florida Tuskers with 22.5 tackles, a sack, a pick, and two forced fumbles as well as 4.6 dead partners successfully avenged. In order to up the ante, Illinois was forced to unleash redshirt freshman defensive tackle Whitney Mercilus, who, according to his Illinois bio, has less mercy than Richard Gere in this forgotten 1980s thriller where he attempts to track down his partner's murderers in New Orleans while fighting villains described by Ebert as "an effete rich Southerner...and a sadistic neo-Nazi vice lord."

Northwestern's human tackling machine McGarigle is relieved to only
be taking on the likes of J.P. Losman and Brooks Bollinger and not gangs
of partner-hating Cajun arch-criminals. The Orlando Sentinel
published a nice article on McGarigle's comeback with the UFL last
month, revealing a unique UFL rule that linebackers cannot blitz
unless they are three yards behind the line of scrimmage, in concert
with four rushing linemen, and have successfully made it to three
Mississippi at what the referee decides is a reasonable cadence


The possession of the first Land of Lincoln trophy is certainly a boon for Northwestern. On the one hand, the trophy celebrates the in-state rivalry by echoing the slogan found on Illinois license plates and it placates the NCAA by removing any link to Native American bellicosity. On the other hand, the trophy leaves Paul Bunyan's Axe as the only Big Ten trophy capable of being wielded in hand-to-hand combat unless special measures are taken.

Northwestern's athletic department
introduces its new Director of Trophy-based
Mayhem, Skulduggery, and Club Badminton

Improvements in twenty-first century trophy security will hopefully prevent the fate of the original Sweet Sioux trophy, as described in this contemporary press photo:

Illinois fans are notoriously intransigent about the NCAA depriving them of their dated F-Troop-style Chief imagery, so I hope that the most hard-core group of them made a show of protest by dressing up as incredulous bare-headed Lincolns demanding the return of their hat.


With this year's game in the books, Northwestern has won six out of the last seven Sweet Lincolns, including four out of five against Zook. The Ron Zook era of Illini football has been fascinating. After a series of stunning recruiting coups, Zook led Illinois to the Rose Bowl in 2007 featuring the seemingly unstoppable tandem of Quarterback Isiah "Juice" Williams who is destined to follow Illinois football protocol and star as "Mr. Juice," the lovable ex-jock neighbor on a high-concept sit-com, and Rashard Mendenhall. Granted, the Illini were eviscerated by USC in Pasadena, but that has become commonplace enough that the Big Ten hosts an annual support group featuring Zook and Tressel sharing their feelings while Joe Paterno stands in the corner whacking at the floor tiles with a folding chair with the manic intensity of the Big Ten recruiting commercial.

I apologize for going back to COME TO PENN STATE well, but it's been two
years and that commercial still gets me every time and I can't help but
think that that is how JoePa is all of the time with that crazed look in his
eyes keeping the entire town of State College under a blanket of fear by
popping out at people unexpectedly and urging them to come to Penn
State or slowly lowering himself down from a dorm room ceiling as
an unsuspecting Freshman moves in only to turn around and I can't even
imagine the terror

For those of us who woke up this morning or perhaps earlier in the week and thought that we needed more Ron Zook in our lives, the Illini helpfully provide us with, a clearinghouse for all things Zook-related (incidentally I always enjoy when a coach's name is prominently featured in a team's website like this-- see also for another example-- given the turnaround of fired and sleazily escaping coaches and I wonder if we're in for the digital equivalent of what happened to "Gary Barnett's Restaurant" at the Evanston Omni). Of particular interest is "A Day with The Zooker", which follows the Coach from his early morning arrival at his office and treats viewers to his philosphies on paperwork (if it doesn't get done at night, he'll finish up in the morning), meeting prowess, favorite lunch, film study, press conference technique, and climaxes with a practice carefully edited for scenes of him shouting generic encouragement to players, baffling them with Stevie Nicks references, and yelling his catch-phrase "just gimme a crumb" repeatedly. More than anything "A day with the Zooker" reinforces beyond its more ambitious literary themes about urban alienation in a post-modern society the notion of a major-program head coach hired for his prowess in finding and motivating young people into smashing other people into the ground so that other people can run past them is placed at the head of a large unwieldy ship of bureaucracy, NCAA regulations, and insatiable media types when they yearn to bust free from the confines of the university and run into a field singing their song of liberty: "just gimme a crumb, I don't want a whole meal."

Fitz brings his trademark exuberance to all phases of the
college head coaching job, shown here itemizing receipts
for his players' road per diem


Much like the border crossing into Wisconsin on I-94 is fraught with an endless parade of shops selling cheese and pornography, the game with Wisconsin next week is fraught with danger. The Wildcats will be trying to end the regular season on a high note with a victory over another ranked opponent on Senior Day. There is no trophy at stake until the schools meet to enshrine the interaction between the State of Wisconsin and the Greater Chicagoland Metropolitan Area by depicting a traffic conflagration in the left lane of a two lane highway near Door County.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Victory in Iowa

With a season of high expectations turning into a season of nervous plank-pacing, Northwestern waltzed into Iowa City and managed to ruin Iowa's perfect season.

A team learns from its coach as the entire team unholsters its fists like 85
Judd Nelsons.

The Wildcats got a gutty performance from an injured Kafka unable to unleash the Kafka Smash play, but sticking in the pocket knowing that if it broke down he would be forced to let an Iowa defensive lineman run into him while running very fast for some horrible reason. On the other hand, Northwestern reached into its bag of tricks on the lone offensive TD by having quarterback Dan Persa pass the ball, the type of innovation that fuels Northwestern's "spread offense."

The idea of a quarterback passing started in the first football game when Yale
quarterback Walter Camp allegedly attempted one only to have its legality
decided by coin flip. The referee did sanction Camp's muttonchops by ruling
"what the hell, it's the nineteenth century." Passing did not return until
1906, after a brutal attack on football by college administrators such as
University of Chicago Divinity Dean Shailer Matthews, who argued in this
New York Times article that "Football to-day is a social obsession-- a boy-killing,
education prostituting, gladiatorial sport. It teaches virility and courage, but
so does war. I do not know what should take its place, but the new game should
not require the services of a physician, the maintenance of a hospital, and the
celebration of funerals."

Despite a shaky start, the defense locked down Iowa's offense aided by the unfortunate injury of Ricky Stanzi, whose season shared the volatile mix of success and grotesque incompetence of Rex Grossman's 2005 season with the Bears and Jackie Chan's take on the drunken master, whose erratic kung-fu baffled both opponents and audiences attempting to find any semblance of a plot in a Jackie Chan movie from before, say, 1995. Losing Stanzi seemed to suck the air out of the Iowa offense under the somewhat overwhelmed freshman Vandenberg, who threw a pick on his first pass and went 9-27 for the game while being harried by an inspired Northwestern d-line picked up by a resurgent Wootton who may finally be shaking off the lingering effects of offseason knee surgery and a troublesome ankle.

The Wildcat victory was only part of a glorious football weekend as Michigan lost to Purdue and Navy again got the better end of Notre Dame, which got Fitz fired up enough to start taking some shots at the Irish in the media. Fitz then piloted a giant fist-shaped blimp over South Bend for six hours, bombarding the town with scrolling taunts about 1995 and the sound of mechanized cackling.


Perhaps the only person who had a better week than Fitz was Simon Mann, the ex-SAS commando who led an ill-advised coup attempt to sieze Equatorial Guinea's oil supply and then ended up on a festive tour of third world prisons, an event of crucial interest to BYCTOM. Mann, originally arrested in Zimbabwe, was extradited to Equatorial Guinea's infamous Black Beach prison, where rumor has it that the government looks down harshly upon people who assemble inept mercenary forces in an attempt to violently overthrow it and install a puppet regime that will give them control over the country's lucrative oil resources. According to this excellent Times article, Mann came out of Black Beach looking better than one would expect after enjoying steaks and fine wines. Overall however, the mercenaries did not take to captivity, as the article relates:

“I thought these guys were tough guys,” one South African source said last week. “Yet they were all squealing like canaries. They really rather let down the names of mercenaries.”

The only phrase perhaps more apt at describing Mann's hopeles coup
attempt than "they really rather let down the names of mercenaries"
is "if Matrix were here, he'd laugh too."

Mann came out of prison in good spirits, beardless, and promising vengeance on his foes, vowing that those who abandoned him can expect an "ice-axe between the eyes" in a startlingly Stalin-esque embrace of both vengeance and ice axes. The only thing more chilling would be the involvement of a shirtless Tom Berenger believing that he is making a sequel to Dogs of War or Major League IV (not even Tom Berenger at his most shirtless could believe that anyone was making another Sniper movie.)

Berenger succeeds where Mann failed in Dogs of War, although it is worth noting
that Walken is surprisingly unconvincing as a soldier as he runs through the
fictional Equatorial Guinea as if he is filming part of a Fatboy Slim video,
therefore proving that Christopher Walken should not be a soldier unless the
order to kill comes from the disturbing demons that live in his psyche and
spacious forehead

One target may be Sir Mark Thatcher who became involved in helping the plotters secure a helicopter and an associate that was even by the loose standards of those involved, a complete disgrace to any sort of international intrigue and black-sheep children. Thatcher's almost comical attempt to play everyone against each other despite fumbling his cloak-and-dagger schemes more ineptly than could be imagined by the broadest, Frenchest farce has left him few friends in the mercenary world and exile from South Africa. Easily ensnared in the coup's paper trail, the South African anti-corruption team known as The Scorpions arrested him and he immediately attempted to betray his co-conspirators in an outcome that can be described as less than executive. Thatcher probably should have known better than to mess with the Scorpions, who were enjoying a brief window as the world's most dangerous organization of Scorpions between waning twenty-first century Mortal Kombat popularity and the German rock band's inevitable resurgence in 2009 to stick it one more time to the late Erich Honecker. Though the Times speculates that Mann could testify against Thatcher as the main financier, likely nothing will happen to Mann other than staring vacuously into his Spanish compound, bumping into things, and becoming involved in a dangerous network of white van schemes and multi-level marketing promotions that ultimately involve a penniless Thatcher stumbling into Parliament with a catalogue of upmarket knives.

Thatcher instinctively strikes a beatific pose looking optimistically
towards a sunny future


Like Thatcher, Northwestern will find itself in the sights of a jilted enemy in traditional rival Illinois on Saturday. What looked like the surest Big Ten win a few weeks ago now looks more difficult as the Illini have been frisky, winning their last two and energized by the desire to seize the first Land of Lincoln Trophy in this red-hot rivalry that is no longer predictably played at the end of the season when rivals have a chance to spoil each others' seasons or play for championships but more intriguingly at some random point that the Big Ten promises will be "some time during football season" as a way to add even more intensity to this contest.

The Land of Lincoln Trophy is part of an NCAA initiative for all rivalry trophies to be
entirely hat-based by 2034

Northwestern, though technically bowl-eligible, needs another victory to ensure itself of a post-season berth and keep alive the possibility of an eight win season. Let's hope Mick McCall is working on new wrinkles such as the T-formation or the Bloodless Coup which involves Sir Mark Thatcher accidentally lighting himself on fire and running about the stadium unable to express his predicament while a Northwestern takes advantage of the chaos and calmly strides into the end zone.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Game Preview: Iowa

Going into Kinnick, the Wildcats have a tall task ahead of them. Iowa is ranked #4 in the country and undefeated, with a convincing win over Penn State. On the other hand, Iowa have not exactly been a juggernaut schything though the opposition. The fact that Iowa remains undefeated despite their close wins to mediocre, unranked, and extraordinarily unranked teams remains a remarkable feat of overcoming sloppiness, showing killer instinct, and posessing luck and ingenuity.

Using Trojan Corn, an ancient Iowan tactic highlighting
the cunning, unconventional battle plan that allowed
the Iowans to fill Des Moines with the pillaged
artifacts of the Middle West's most cherished treasures

The game may be the biggest of the season for the Wildcats. With only one home game remaining against an underrated Wisconsin team, Northwestern has to play like its bowl chances are on the line in every game. Beating Iowa would set Northwestern up for another bowl appearance and gain some momentum from displacing the Big Ten's top team, a team which has incidentally developed a bit of bad blood-- not quite Sharks vs. Jets, but more like the Sharks versus a different ethnic gang that they're not afraid to pull the switchblade combs out on. Otherwise, the hope of the season rests on beating an abysmal Illinois team for the first Land of Lincoln Trophy or face watching Zook smash it to smithereens before ripping off his track suit to reveal either a skintight buckskin suit or a tatooed facsimile thereof and reclaiming the Sweet Sioux in the name of all past and future Zook.

Kneel before Zook


What Northwestern needs is a transcendant statement game, taking it over and making it its own. The musical equivalent of the takeover probably comes from Stan Getz's classic Captain Marvel album from 1972 that's completely dominated not by the venerable Getz, but by pianist Chick Corea. Corea, who is perhaps best known now for thanking L. Ron Hubbard in his liner notes and looking as much like Chief Wiggum as an actual human being can, composed all of the tunes (except a cover of Billy Strayhorn's Lush Life), and put together a the beginnings of his first iteration of Return to Forever.

Chick Corea from his newest double-album
Book 'em Lou: One Count of Being a Bear,
and One Count of Being an Accessory to
Being a Bear

Return to Forever quickly changed in the 1970s from a Brazilian-tinged fusion outfit to an out and out arena rock outlet with songs about wizards and album art developed from the same studio that painted rides for traveling carnivals that made the pitiful dragon ride sort of look vaguely fearsome.

It would take a team of quantum theorists dozens of pounds of goatee, clipboards, and
medium sized hadron colliders decades to somehow puzzle out an equation on how what
is going on on the right somehow contributed to the album to the left


While very actively not commenting on college football, BYCTOM has been equally neglectful on the rest of the Chicago sports scene, including the forgettable and mediocre Chicago Bears and the promising Bulls who let an inspiring opening-night win over the Spurs get overshadowed by a loss on the road to last year's conference rival Celtics. It was an disappointing loss for the Bulls who finally had to contend with international chin model Kevin Garnett, whose suit-based chest-pounding and jaw jutting vacillated between distateful and transcendantly distasteful, a phenomenon perhaps best exemplified by the decision to have John Lithgow speak the King's English with nary a comment from another character during the entirety of Cliffhanger, even managing to throw out an acceptably Shakespearan "AAAAUUUGGGH" as he plummets into a cliff while trapped in a non-functional helicopter.

The only way that Garnett can thrust his chin out further is
if it were to split open and a stalk with another, smaller
chin comes shooting out of the aperture

Another aficionado of the chin jut is no other than a young Joseph Stalin, here seen mean muggin' in the back center of his class photo back when he was known as Soso Djugashvili the choirboy.

This photo has been run solely to attract people who have
been simultaneously google searching for the phrases
"Joseph Stalin" and "mean muggin'"

Stalin's progression from son of the town drunk to the Bolsheviks' preeminent bank robber, extortionist, and eventual confidant to Lenin is told brilliantly in Simon Sebag Montefiore's Young Stalin. Montefiore, who already wrote the Stalin in power tome In the Court of the Red Tsar confidently reconstructs the dictator's young life by unearthing sources that had somehow remained hidden in dusty Georgian archives to survive the purges, although Montefiore is a bit showy with this information, revealing each new manuscript with the same subtlety as a carnival barker revealing never before seen freak show acts such as a bearded lady that also wrestles bears (the actual footnotes are amazingly not part of the paperback edition although they are available at Montefiore's website).

Montefiore constructs a vivid world of crime and revolution around the young Soso, who also went by aliases including Soselo (under which he published poems), Koba, Oddball Osip, The Priest, and Pockmarked Oska (Stalin, like Lenin, only stuck with his final name because it is what his best-known work became published under, which is a shame because we could have had an iron-fisted dictator running around named "Joe Pox" which would have perhaps taken an infintessimal amount of sting out of forced collectivization). Even in his early 20s, Stalin was a driven, ruthless operator. The following occurred during Siberian exile in 1915:

At a boozy dinner, Kamenev asked everyone round the table to declare their greatest pleasure in life. Some cited women, others earnestly replied that it was the progress of dialictical materialism towards the workers' paradise. Then Stalin answered: "My greatest pleasure is to choose one's victim, prepare one's plans minutely, slake an implacable vengeance, and then go to bed. There is nothing sweeter in the world."
I only hope there was an elderly fantasy Mongolian there to agree with him.


Iowa will be looking for vengeance for last year against the Wildcats as the last thing Iowa fans want to see will be Northwestern ruining their perfect season and hearing the lamentation of the Iowa women. Northwestern can use a bit of chin-jutting swagger or at the very least, the swagger that comes from wearing a southwestern themed rug as an article of clothing. And hopefully, when the dust clears in Iowa City, Northwestern fans can settle in their yurts and determine what is best in life.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It is still football season

Northwestern has continued to play football with varying levels of success since the Debacle at the Dome. In a season of high expectations, Northwestern came into the season with a confidence not unlike Garey Busey's in Under Siege, during the part of the movie between when the catering crew-disguised pack of mercenaries successfully seizes an Iowa Class destroyer and the part when he realizes that the chef running rampant on the ship is actually a Navy Seal killing machine capable only of stabbing people and squinting quizzically into the distance.

Gary Busey's acting range consists of maniacal, toothily
maniacal, and exploded

With bowl hopes dwindling, Northwestern finds itself going into a vital game against unlikely undefeated #4 Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. A win in Kinnick could salvage the season by showing that Northwestern can hang with the top of the Big Ten, throw fuel onto an emerging rivalry or at least mutual disdain, and put Northwestern in a good opportunity to get to another bowl game. Beating Iowa at Iowa will, of course, remain a tall order for Fitz, who may need to go on a shamanistic vision quest across the midwest in order to inspire his banged-up team, although I must note that any Northwestern fans interested in vision quests related to football should be very careful in selecting the Wildcat serving as their spirit animal lest they be subjected to unimaginable horrors.

Sure, it has been frustrating watching the Wildcats' struggles this year, especially on defense where it looked like they had finally turned a corner last year, but after long evenings of reflection by staring out into sunswept valleys and tranquil brooks disturbed only by the graceful appearance of a duck or heron, I've decided that Northwestern's football season is better than being transported on a rickety wooden ship to a starving penal colony on the very edge of the known world as was the fate of many of British convict in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.

The brutality, deprivation, and horror of Britain's transportation system is brilliantly reconstructed in Robert Hughes's 1987 The Fatal Shore. Hughes looks at the entire process of claiming an entire continent, one that was full of untold mineral riches, pastureland, and future NFL punters, and deciding that it is best utilized as a dumping ground for petty thieves, artful dodgers, and other lower-class undesirables. With no prison space, British officials were packing convicts into rotting hulks of ships anchored to into the Thames into a festive Waterworld where prisoners got to experience all of the scurvy and abuse of sea life without leaving the comfort of the festering underworld slums that nurtured them into a life of crime.

Few of those sentenced to transportation were like criminal geniuses such as as
Professor Moriarty, The Napoleon of Crime, here shown in a wax model only
slightly creepier than the stuffed version of Jeremy Bentham that is always
watching, watching

One of the best parts of the book describes the type of criminal that would get sent to Australia, borrowing from Henry Mayhew's reporting on different substrata of criminal. Under the heading of "Sneaksmen" (those who plunder by means of stealth), Mayhew includes the following: drag sneaks, snoozers, star-glazers, till friskers, sawney hunters (the wonderfully specific crime of purloining bacon from chesse-mongers' shop windows) noisy-racket men, area sneaks, dead lurkers, snow gatherers, skinners (described as women who entice children and sailors o go with them and then strip them of their clothes), bluey hunters, and cat and kitten hunters.


You know it occurs to me as I make an unprecedented second belabored joke about Jeremy Bentham's taxidermically preserved corpse sitting in a closet at University College London that it would be possibly even more effective for candidates for political office to avoid using the shopworn cliché of the inverted black and white photograph to make an opponent look like an inhuman monster capable of wreaking untold havoc on the county water board or something and instead manipulate a photo of them to look like they've been stuffed and fitted with a wax head, a jaunty straw hat, and a thousand yard stare because Jeremy Bentham looks like he might leap from his cabinet and go on a diabolical spree of doing the greatest evil to the greatest number

Although the old chestnut describes the Royal Navy as working through the holy trinity of rum, sodomy, and the lash (another possibly apocryphal Churchill quote that I cannot verify one way or the other but it's gotten to the point that if Churchill himself were to zombically rise up as part of some sort of voodoo curse against mid-century Conservative governments and led a parade of thousands of zombies towards his traditional feeding ground of Checquers, with all of them single-mindedly chanting the one thing they crave, I guarantee you that the word "brains" will be solely attributed to the zombie Churchill in the Bartleby Book of Zombie Quotations), Hughes manages to show an entire colonial society that ran under those principles. With specie at a premium, Rum basically functioned as currency, although its supply was controlled by a cartel of officers known as the "Rum Corps," which became powerful enough to depose the Governor and rule for two years.

The Rum Corps decides to continue its aggressive rum
acquisition policy into the 1809 fiscal year along with its
popular slogan "nobody here tells the coppers nothing, see"

Nothing dominated Australia more than the lash. Prisoners were chained, forced to work, and subjected to inhumanly demeaning conditions, but above all they were whipped with the cat o'nine tails. In the litany of hard and demented men who were able to rise to power in the isolated Antipodean prison, none were hated more so than John Giles Price, Commandant of Nofolk Island, and, as Hughes describes him, "one of the more durable ogres of the Australian imagination." Bedecked like a "flash gentleman" with a set of muttonchops and hairstyle that in a photo of him give the distinct impression that he was trying his utmost to pull of a look best described as "'dangerous sheep," Price beguiled prisoners by favoring vulgar accouterments such as the monocle and speaking in a distinct criminal argot. Somehow, Price increased the floggings at Norfolk Island, which functioned at the time as a next step prison for those too unrepentent or unlucky to deal with the normal vagaries of convict life in New South Wales. Eventually, Price took a job as a prison inspector looking after hulks anchored outside of Melbourne where he walked into the midst of prisoners who closed in around him and tore him asunder.

An investigation into raffish monocle-wearing reveals an eerie resemblance between
tariff reform advocate Joseph Chamberlain and suspected murderer Col. Mustard

The Wildcats face a tough test on the road at Iowa in an attempt to salvage a disappointing season. Though the Hawkeyes are heavy favorites, the recent success against Iowa and the evident enmity between the programs means that they will not be taking Northwestern lightly. Despite being 9-0, Iowa has not exactly been dominating the opposition. Let's hope that the Wildcats can pull together as a team, like the Rum Corps and their continental bootlegging scheme, or that group of prisoners that brutally murdered John Giles Price in a hail of quarry-hammers.