Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pre-Bowl Anticipation

The New Year's showdown against Auburn is looming for the Northwestern football team. You can get into the spirit by spray-painting your possessions purple, vandalizing any Bo Jackson billboards you come across, and learning the 1929 Wildcat song through sheet music and lyrics that somebody has inexplicably put on Ebay so you can make sure each one of your yows is pitch perfect.

As the team gears up for the trip to Florida, the news is obviously stagnant, aside from the usual reminders of Northwestern's bowl futility. In a shocking change of pace, the Chicago media has been dominated by Notre Dame Intrigue, which now features torchlit booster meetings, clever use of improbable doppelgangers, and stair-bound swordplay (incidentally, there's a factoid that you always get on tours of medieval fortresses and the like about spiral staircases being designed for the advantage of right-handed defenders in sword fights which naturally brings up the question of how many staircases they could have had in the House of La Russa). The college coach swapping procedure seems designed to force false denials and betrayals that seem more at home in the Congress of Vienna than in, say, South Bend, Indiana.

The Duke De La Russa signals for a
lefty staircase to optimize the matchup
between his stalwart guard and
marauding invaders

In any event, there is something extraordinarily unsavory about a coach who changes jobs for whatever reason before finishing the season. No one likes a demoralized team rallying feebily around a lame-duck coach, especially in a BCS game. The situation badly needs to be injected with some semblance of rationality and sanity, so here is a workable solution: Teams may not hire another team's coach until both teams have finished bowl play. In return, the team firing its coach is allowed to literally run the coach out on a rail or parade him through town in one NCAA-sanctioned medieval punishment device as disappointed boosters pelt him with offal. In addition, schools would almost certainly circumvent the rules to make sleazy under-the-table offers to other coaches before bowl season, which will maintain the vital levels of sleaze, dishonesty, and hypocrisy that currently fuel college football and keeps pitchfork-wielding journalists employed.

One approved coach humiliating device would be the pillory,
used here against highwayman and convicted perjurer John
Waller in this 1732 engraving where enterprising mob members
re evidently pelting him with mice. According to the Newgate
Calendar,"This profligate wretch, Waller, to robbery added the
still greater sin of accusing the innocent, in order to receive the
reward in certain cases attending conviction" and he was also described as an
"abominable dealer in human blood" which also seems like a phrase
that has escaped the lips of Michael Buffer at some point


The Wildcats are an astounding 10-1 heading into a Big Ten showdown with Illinois after holding on against Stanford and beating Central Connecticut. As reported in this article, flabbergasted Central Connecticut coach Howie Dickenman labeled Northwestern as one of the top three teams in the Big Ten and claimed that he will now refer to Carmody's version of the Princeton Offense as the "Northwestern Offense" before stopping to hand out a bunch of Gobots and Mr. Pibb to disappointed youths.

It's a good thing that the Wildcats are winning with the Chicago Bulls squandering last year's playoff momentum by turning into a truly awful basketball team. The season's futility climaxed in an epic, NBA-record 35 point choke job against the equally inept Sacramento Kings that will almost certainly end with Vinny Del Negro pretending to sell computers out of Frank Constanza's garage.

Brad Miller was unable to get his vengeance on the Kings for forcing him
to participate in a misguided Evil Sheriff Day promotion at Arco Arena


This week's New York Times had a fascinating story on the Pacific island nation of Nauru and its game of high stakes diplomacy. Nauru became the fourth country to recognize the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia along with Russia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. Nauru evidently did not have the struggle of the peoples of the breakaway regions under the boot of Georgian oppression in mind, nor a desire for general world-wide recogition of Nauru as a contry that exists. Instead, Nauru claimed $50 million of aid from Russia's Department of Whimsical Foreign Affairs. Times Reporter Ellen Berry describes the Russian reaction as not quite a diplomatic coup:

The news provoked waves of mirth from Russian commentators, some of whom broke down the per-capita cost of lobbying various nations to recognize the enclaves: roughly $3,500 a head for every resident of Nauru, $100 per Venezuelan, $200 per Belarussian, etc.
Of course, this is not Nauru's first endeavor in the aid-for-recognition game. Nauru earned $130 million from China by refusing to recognize the independence of Taiwan in 2002 (I have no idea how this happened, but I like to imagine an uncomfortable confrontation at the U.N. where someone gets a face full of martini) only to stab China in the back three years later by reestablishing relations. These incidents of micro-treachery stem from economic issues instead of the more pleasant rationale that Nauru's foreign relations department is filled with people who run their foreign relations strategy based on the board game Diplomacy, where it is far more satisfying to betray people for no apparent reason than to watch your flank from an unexpected attack from the relentless Ottoman war machine. These diplomatic moves, as well as other strategies such as providing disreputable offshore banking and accepting aid from Australia to take in their unwanted refugees, are part of a strategy to make up for the drying up of the phosphate supply that powers the Nauru economy.

Nauru achieved independence in 1968 under President Hammer DeRoburt, as noted on this helpful Late Twentieth Century Hammer Achievement Chart:

On this graph, the X-Axis represents time and the Y-Axis general
Hammer progress in HAUs (Hammer achievement units) with data
points demonstrating key Hammer moments: president of a pacific
island nation, home run king, hard-boiled, mustachioed detective,
parachute pants enthusiast

Nauru is not the only troubled country in region. Consider Palau, a fellow Mircronesian island, which spent the 1980s embroiled in murderous controversy over the ratification of the Compact of Free Association with the U.S. that would end trusteeship on the island. In 1985, its first president, Haruo I. Remeliik, was gunned down outside of his home, leading to the arrest and conviction of three suspects related to his oppostition which was later overturned, as detailed in this New York Times article as well as an excerpt from Embattled Island: Palau's struggle for independence by Arnold H. Leibowitz. A later investigation led to the conviction of Remeliik's former Minister of State John O. Ngiraked for aiding and abetting the assassination. Meanwhile, other investigations focused on bribery and intimidation surrounding the Compact ensnared president Lazarus Salii-- in one incident, a party of government employees including Salii's own assistant had a frank exchange of bullets with an opposition leader's house. As the net closed in on him, Salii died in 1988 of gunshot wounds in an apparent suicide as noted in this chaos filled excerpt from a section of the Europa World Year Book that can be easily confused for the back of a Graham Greene paperback.

A guide to Palau intrigue from left to right: Remeliik, Salii,
Ngiraked, the inevitable Walken intervention or Walkentervention
as it is known in the mercenary business

With the football team poised for its first New Years Bowl since 1996 and the basketball team on the precipice of hope against hope for the gossamer chance at making the NCAA tournament though there's still a long way to go let's not jinx anything before we get into the high-flying excitement of Big Ten baseketball season, it's an exciting time to be a Northwestern fan. And with the rest of the non-hockey Chicago teams breaking new depths of incompetence (I will be ready to discuss the concept of Carlos Silva in 2010), the Wildcats are essentially the only game in town leading perhaps to Chicago fans recognizing them as a legitimate home team and getting some locals into the stands to the cheer on the team with a furious intensity that is slightly unsettling. If not, perhaps a generous gift from the Athletic Department can earn some recognition overseas.

1 comment:

Chaddogg said...

I am eagerly looking forward to your discussion of the "concept" that is Carlos Silva....