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.


Muckelroy Killebrew, esq. said...

Two more contestants for NCAA-wide defensive player name rivalry, both Longhorns: Roddrick Muckelroy and Robert Killebrew.

WildcatBlue said...

If the deWeissification of South Bend is indeed imminent, Fitzgerald must spare no effort in the poaching of one Prince Shembo (LB/DE, Charlotte NC). Four star talent, five star name, and an end to our one year "Prince" drought.

BYCTOM said...

The omission of Prince Kwateng, even by the shoddy accuracy standards of this blog which is just above the confused guy with the sandwich board in Downtown Chicago that is still upset about the Soviet Union, is fairly shocking and I offer my most sincere apologies to any readers who might be shaking their fists at their monitors as we speak (I have a device not unlike a drinking pendulum duck that performs my shaking for me so that I can simultaneously type and express the impotent crotchety rage that fuels the internet).

Hawkeye State said...

I love this blog so, so much.


Four star effort, again.

TC said...

Does anyone know a sculptor? I desperately want that to be a trophy. The car wreck MUST contain an SUV towing a speedboat.