Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hoops and Bowls

Northwestern's basketball team has continued to pile up wins against teams with tournament aspirations, beating an undefeated NC State team and making a vital contribution to the Big Ten's victory over the ACC in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, which allows Big Ten officials to seize tobacco plants and bib overalls after being forced to surrender their corn crops and wretched post-industrial blight to the ACC year after year.

Drew Crawford fouls the Wolfpack's Dennis Horner hard
enough to turn him into a Messerschmidt grotesque

Though the Wildcats entered the year with the goal of wrenching the NCAA Tournament monkey off their backs-- not one of those untrustworthy monkeys that toddles around the houses of unsuspecting eccentric and lonely people in a diaper only to turn into a simian wrecking ball of fur and fang, but one of those full-on shrieking, biting Outbreak monkeys-- but the 'Cats' continued success without Coble is as gratifying as it is surprising. The Wildcats' winning stems from Shurna and Juice emerging as serious threats, Nash wreaking havoc in the 1-3-1, and Bill Carmody finally embracing the occult after no longer getting satisfaction from punishing fans of loose, flowing basketball with his plodding Princeton offense.

Carmody is captured in this grainy footage attempting to make contact with
the Assyrians' most hostile deities, such as this demon whose modus
operandi was sneaking up on a target distracted by his own vigorous fist-
shaking and aching calf tumors

Unlike in the carving depicted above, Northwestern's Big Ten foes will see them coming partly because of Bruce Weber and Tom Izzo's shared passion for applying Near-Eastern mythology to basketball stratagems, but also because Northwestern has made some noise on the national stage. LTP exuberantly predicts a 10-1 nationally ranked Northwestern heading into conference play, although less optimistic fans may still want to prepare for the possibility of the bandwagon crashing into another wagon filled with poison, cutting implements, and poinsonous cutting implements.


Northwestern football is left twisting in the wind until this Sunday, when the creepy cabal of corporate stiffs, NCAA officials, athletic directors, and bald men chained to briefcases full of money (I've always wondered whether the fancy steel briefcase used for illegal monetary transactions is pro-rated into the deal or if the hitman or cop impersonating a hitman to atone for the death of his partner or child skipping happily along in the fuzzy, merrie-go-round music flashback gets to keep the briefcase as an extra bonus, and then you go to his house and he has no space for leather jackets and tight t-shirts and automatic weapons because he has dozens of fancy silver briefcases taking all of his closet space. And surely the briefcase is thrown in, because no drug dealer or arms dealer or South American coup aspirant is going to say something such as "here is $10 million in unmarked treasury certificates for the sniping, less, of course, $654.31 for the fancy briefcase although being thrifty and accountable is the way to the top of the drug, arms, and dictatorship career) decide where everyone gets to go bowling.

This is also the time of the year when the NCAA bowl system comes under the greatest scrutiny, as pundits propel themselves out of the woodwork on homemade woodwork propulsion systems in order to mock the lesser bowl games as money-grubbing wastes of time. Yes, bowl games are money-grubbing and no, they often have no ramifications for the college football world, but BYCTOM has and will continue to embrace all crappy bowl games.

Unfortunately, crappy bowl games have little appeal beyond the competing teams' supporters beyond comical sponsorship names and the occasional power team in an off-year shunted off to some sort college football version of Siberian exile. What these bowl games need is a bit of pizazz to garner interest, much like minor league baseball games with their colorful gimmicks or circus freak shows employing loud people to trumpet the virtues of their particular freak show and get the townspeople lining up for blocks.

For example, for the recently renamed Little Ceasar's Pizza Bowl in Detroit, why not play upon the Caesar imagery to redecorate Ford Field like a mighty Roman coliseum while toga-wearing boosters strut about in their luxury boxes and effigies of Carthaginians are festooned on local trashcan fires? Even officials can get in on the act.

It displeases Mike Ilitch to see holding from #75 on the offense.
Mike Ilitch demands a penalty of 10 yards from the spot of the foul
from #75 that shall be collectively paid by the entire offense. Let
it be known from this day forward: it remains second down

Incidentally, the greatest Roman combat spectacle did not occur in the arena at all. Instead, it featured Emperor Claudius and a beached orca that ended up in a Roman port, attracted to some hides en route from Gaul. As Pliny relates, Claudius had the bloated whale imprisoned in the harbor with a series of nets and ordered his Praetorian Guard to shower it with lances and put on a show for the crowd, although this wikipedia article on gladiators makes it seems like Claudius somehow took on the orca mono-a-whaleo which would have been a far more impressive spectacle because there is pretty much no way to get a single man and killer whale in an arena with both at equal advantage unless there was a half-earth half-ocean arena not unlike the Federer-Nadal glass/clay challenge.

The only thing that stopped whale-baiting from soaring in
popularity is the difficulty of putting together a suitably seedy
underground den where gentlemen can safely wager on civilized
sporting events

Similarly, the Alamo Bowl can feature a half-time recreation of the battle and as an added wrinkle, if a Texas team is involved and loses the game, the winning team gets hoist the standard of Santa Anna and Mexico is allowed to annex San Antonio for the duration of the evening. The Gator Bowl can feature pre-game or half-time gator wrestling for eager tots (the gators are corked for their safety, naturally), the International Bowl can feature a festival of Epcott-style celebrations of worldwide cultural stereotypes, and the Insight Bowl can eschew raucous bands and cheering for some intense group pondering of metaphysical quandaries, such as how we can simply accept the "Insight Bowl" collectively with nary a raised eyebrow.

Each bowl then, instead of being largely interchangeable and forgettable, gains a unique character beyond what local food that ESPN guy can triumphantly discuss eating during the fourth quarter of a rout. Instead of worrying solely about booster vacation destinations or conference matchups, coaches will also have to worry about whether they would be forced to lead their teams onto the field with a bellicose display of military hardware (Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl) or while dressed as an Elizabethan imperial explorer (San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, a bowl so uninspiring that it can only benefit from fitting irritable coaches with enormous ruffled collars-- this is so logical I can't believe others have not thought about it first).


Although most Northwestern pundits seem to be pointing to the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, these ESPN predictions have the 'Cats in Tampa for the Outback Bowl (the losing team will be "transported" home on an aging Victorian sailboat with no access to lime juice). With Friday's World Cup draw, this will hopefully be the most exciting sporting event involving picking teams until Selection Sunday finally putting Northwestern in the NCAA tournament or watching an entire fanbase sink into a Messerschmidt grimace.

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