Monday, March 30, 2009

Relegation and College Football

This week marks a lull in Wildcat sports between the inglorious end to a surprisingly frisky basketball season and the beginning of spring football speculation, with women's lacrosse season in the midst of pre-tourney doldrums. In addition, baseball season is still a week a way, and the Bulls and Hawks are comfortably locked into a inevitably disappointing playoff berths, which means it is time for some groundless speculation on ruining sports in the sprit of previous entires on an all-Chicago prebasketball tournament and a way to liven up the NIT that potentially does not end in gruesome death for all participants.


Once every two years, a major world soccer tournament rolls around and I get temporarily sucked into soccer fandom. It's easy to get sucked into international soccer because everyone cares unlike the gutless pinko heretics who decry the World Baseball Classic as a waste of time, and it is a good time to gain a dated knowledge of soccer stars who may or may not be washed up by the time the next tournament rolls around.

French midfielder Franck Ribery had a
great World Cup run in 2006, and then
disappeared from my consciousness until
he crashed the Bayern Munich team bus
in January. In the understated tradition
of the British tabloid, the website writes
that "The hotel were left fuming by the
damage and the fact that Ribery didn’t
have a bus driving licence, and
embarrassed Bayern general manager
Uli Hoeneß had to suffer the consequences
of Ribery’s prankery."

European soccer, in addition from boasting homemade stadium pyrotechnics and films about hooliganism inexplicably starring Elijah Wood, has relegation, a brilliant system that adds drama to the bottom of the table as crappy teams attempt to avoid demotion to a lower-tiered league. For example, the 2007-8 Fulham team managed to avoid relegation from the Premiership with what fans called the "Great Escape" triggering celebratory youtube tribute videos about finishing in firmly in 17th place.

Fulham were captained by U.S. soccer legend and current Fire forward Brian McBride
getting a face full of elbow from Old Robert DeNiro, who showed no remorse at the post-game
press conference


If there's any sport that can benefit from relegation, it is college football. Much like the English Premiership, college football is top-heavy and dominated by a few heavyweights, with lower level teams in BCS conferences and non-BCS conference teams having little to play for but berths in crappy bowl games. While BYCTOM ardently supports all crappy bowl games, this is not enough. More importantly, high-level "BCS buster" teams such as Boise State have shown that they deserve a chance to prove themselves in BCS conferences and bedevil teams with trick plays such as The Annexation of Puerto Rico.

The Annexation of Puerto Rico infuriated both Ed O'Neil and Pedro

With the stark difference between BCS schools and mid-majors, annexation would work well for college football.


This model pairs BCS conferences with mid-major conferences-- the Big Ten and the MAC, the Big 12 with the Mountain West, the SEC with the Sun Belt, and the Pac 10 with the WAC. The winner of the mid-major conference moves up to the BCS conference and the team with the worst record in the BCS conference in relegated to the mid-major conference (sorted in priority by overall record with conference wins and head-to-head as tiebreakers.) Because there are six BCS teams and only five midmajor conferences, the ACC and Big East are both associated with Conference USA. The ACC swaps with the C-USA winner, while the Big East gets the Conference USA runner up. This is not perfect, but I use those conferences because C-USA is the mid-major with the most football teams and the Big East the BCS conference with the fewest.

Fig. 1: BCS-Mid-Major conference pairings.

Using the Big Ten as an example, Indiana would be relegated to the MAC East, replacing MAC champion Buffalo. This model privileges winners of conference championship games, especially as a way to make BCS conference fans more excited about mid-major conference championships other than ESPN's insane scrolling commentary from internet users and the Lloyd Bridges Glue Sniffing Society.

Fig. 2: Relegation in the Big Ten. Note that Indiana is relegated due to
conference losses, although alternate models may invoke the Michigan
Relegation Schadenfreude Clause which allows Michigan to be relegated
whenever vaguely plausible in order to bring delight to college football
fans across the Midwest

Imagine how great college football would be with relegation. The Sweet Sioux Rivalry would have had serious ramifications in the last decade. UCONN and Duke would regularly play meaningful games in November. Programs like Boise State and Utah could get into BCS bowls without questions about their schedules. Imagine the joy at watching Michigan fighting to avoid playing in the MAC East for the next year, or a team like Buffalo coming out of nowhere to get a chance to play in the Big Ten. Imagine coaches of relegated SEC teams not only get fired, but also thrown into a moat filled with alligators that travels from SEC school to SEC school on the back of a flatbed truck to placate legions disappointed overall enthusiasts.

Actual Auburn booster Jimmy "Yella Fella" Rane expresses his
displeasure with an inexplicably grizzled Tommy Tuberville


The last post ended with a possibly spurious claim that the Harmonicats are the greatest all-Harmonica band of all time. Recently, I have discovered a potential challenger with a band called the Philharmonicas, who gain bonus points for performing Raymond Scott's Powerhouse.

I don't know if the Philharmonicas and the Harmonicats ever met, but my guess that it would look like a tiny version of the end of Desperado.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

NIT Analysis

A disappointing week for sports as Northwestern ended its season in Tulsa in the first round of the NIT, the Honkballers fell to the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic, in the U.S. fell to Japan in the quarterfinals.


The 'Cats lost another winnable game as they folded down the stretch and Tulsa's Uzoh and Jordan took over in the second half. They got into some turnover trouble and could not handle the intense, bug-eyed leer of Tulsa head coach Doug Wojcik who looks like his pre-game ritual involves taking piles of trucker-approved amphetamines and putting his forehead through various objects.

Wojcik springs into action after
spotting a pledge pin on a uniform

Wildcat fans also got short shrift, as we got stuck watching a double-overtime Duqesne-Viriginia Tech game that took up most of the first half and would have been thrilling if it didn't happen during the NIT or prevent me from watching Kevin Coble throw down off-balance one legged lefty scoop shots. We also got announcer Dickey Simpkins who spent the entire game shouting meaningless basketball cliches instead of using the broadcast to spout a venomous string of uncalled-for personal attacks on Jud Buechler from their days of battling to be the last guy on the Bulls' playoff roster during the second Three-Peat run.

The Buechler-Simpkins rivalry was the most compelling
subplot of the Bulls' second dynasty fuelled mainly by
Buechler's refusal to teach Simpkins how to fly up and
down the court on an invisible surfboard

Dickey Simpkins actually started on those abysmal 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 Bulls teams, and his Basketball Reference Page also reveals that his full name is the unparalleled LuBara Dixon Simpkins. Simpkins also now runs a training center in the Chicago suburbs, and his page includes a tremendous highlight reel as well as a fantastic demonstration of defense and offense.


The end of the 'Cats season is somewhat disappointing, although losing in the NIT is a less bitter pill than falling off the bubble for the NCAA tourney. Making the postseason was an important step, and frankly, performance in the NIT is essentially irrelevant. Having the NIT and other second-tier tournaments at the same time as the NCAA essentially kills all interest in them once the Madness starts up. The NIT has the right idea by kicking off on Wednesday to snag those who cannot wait one more day for their basketball fix, but after that, the tournament vanishes into background like another drunkard in Hogarth's Gin Lane lithograph.

Gin? What do I look like, a pox-ridden baby tosser?

If they want to make the NIT a ratings winner, they should condense the tournament into a single day on Wednesday by having the winners immediately play their next games with no break until only one team remains standing. They can start at 5:00 in the morning and crown the champion sometime early Thursday, with the exhausted champions carried out off the court onto a waiting parade float. It will give terrified walk-ons a chance to get some tournament experience sometime in the third or fourth consecutive game, and would definitely be a compelling lead-in to the NCAA tournament. Richard Dawson can host the whole thing, and they can get 500 people to shake money during the entire time.

A few minor changes make the NIT a must-watch
tournament, another sensible idea from BYCTOM


Tico Tico No Fubá is not just a jazz standard, but apparently some sort of mid-century musical phenomenon. The peppy Brazilian piece was written in 1917 by Zequinha de Abreu, but became popular in the US with its use in Disney's Saludos Amigos in the 1940s, after which musicians began rushing to cover it the way indie rock bands ironically flock to the A-Ha catalogue. The tune is fairly infectious, although an awkwardly phrased translation of the lyrics includes the phrase:

This tico-tico - he's the cuckoo in my clock.
And when he says: "Cuckoo!" he means it's time to woo

This WFMU blog entry cataloging 61 versions of Tico Tico remains consistently riveting. The blog has downloadable versions from luminaries such as Les Paul and Henry Mancini, as well as from the greatest all-harmonica outfit of all time, the Harmonicats.

The Harmonicats were born from an experiment to test
whether it would be more disconcerting for someone
to pull a tommie gun or a giant harmonica out of a
nondescript leather case

The Lucien Jeneusse version remains a personal favorite, but you would be doing yourself a personal disservice if you didn't drop what you are doing (including a small child if you are located near a supply of gin and a precarious wooden staircase) and download the Shooby Taylor version. I don't want to ruin too much, but it's a must have in the fusion genre combining scat singing and grand mal seizures.

Also of interest is Raymond Scott's version, not because it is particularly good but because Raymond Scott himself is a fascinating guy, putting together odd, quasi-jazz orchestral recordings in the late 1930s that were taken by Warner Brothers musical director Carl Stalling and used as the backbone of Looney Tunes soundtracks, most notably using the second half of Powerhouse as ubiquitous "factory music." Scott was also a notable pioneer in electronic music, and he dedicated his mature years to developing synthesizers and an electronic composing machine he called the Electronium.

Scott built his Electronium (right) after an unfortunate discovery that whirring tape
machines cannot be used for any purpose other than space lasers

At best, Tico Tico is a whirling cascade of notes, which is most effectively demonstrated by Ethel Smith, the "first lady of the organ," who gets down with her backing band, which I have dubbed the Squarenado.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

NIT Madness

I hope that everyone has their NIT brackets filled out because the 'Cats travel to Tulsa tomorrow to take on the Golden Hurricane in the first round of NIT action. This will be the first time that Northwestern plays in the NIT away from the Chicago area. Tulsa is of course known for its Golden Digger, an enormous yellow statue that guards the Tulsa County Fairgrounds and wards off evil spirits and malevolent djinns.

The Golden Digger must defend the Tulsa County Fairgrounds from Big Tex,
who emerges from the prairie every so often to plunder elephant ears, send the
tractors into disarray and menace the carnies

Tulsa went 24-10 this season, finishing second in Conference USA to Memphis. The Golden Hurricane is led by guard Ben Uzoh, center Jerome Jordan, and their mascot Captain Cane, who was stolen from a misguided Dairy Queen promotional effort.

Captain Cane's hollow, funnel-shaped
head has led to a series of unfortunate
mascot drownings on rainy football
afternoons and a near catastrophe with
a disastrous wadded up paper
night promotion

The city of Tulsa prided itself on a 1957 time capsule project that included a 1957 Pontiac Belvedere. The capsule leaked, destroying the car, but preserved the rest of the contents of the capsule, which according to this picture seem to be a mysterious series of jugs.

Tulsa's thwarted attempts to mess with time have thankfully prevented an inevitable
Bifftown apocalypse


Seeding for the NIT is, of course, a mysterious science that has little in common with NCAA tournament bracketology. While the NCAAs have a series of pundits looking at record, RPI ranking, conference standings, and conference RPI, the NIT uses the telepathic dolphin from Johnny Mnemonic.

Ecstatic fans react to the dolphin's selection of Tennessee-Martin as an eight seed in the NIT

Johnny Mnemonic is a tremendous movie because no one in his or her right mind can turn down Keanu Reeves, Ice T, and Dolph Lundgren battling the Yakuza in a poorly-thought-out cyberpunk setting with computers operated by what appear to be Power Gloves. Dolph Lundgren had a brief run in the 1990s as the poor man's Schwarzenegger, selflessly churning out direct to video gems at an laudable clip. Try to guess which of the following Dolph Lundgren movie titles are fake: Hidden Agenda, Bridge of Dragons, Storm Catcher, Danish Vengeance, Silent Trigger, The Minion, The Clobberer, Red Scorpion.

Welsh-Ryan Ramblings has assailed the NIT seeding process, arguing that Notre Dame got an undeserved home game while the 'Cats have to take a prairie schooner out to Tulsa. The complaints are logical and make sense except for that Welsh-Ryan Ramblings might be the only person on the face of the earth to take NIT seedings seriously. Not even the NIT selection committee cares about where teams are seeded as they're too busy escaping from the Future Yakuza and Johnny Mnemonic's demands for room service and a $10,000 a night hooker. Still, you can contact the NIT and give them a piece of your mind, but I believe that they'd just laugh at you like a Zaporozhian Cossack.

The NIT Committee responds to Stephen F. Austin fans' remonstrances at getting
an unjust seven seed


According to legend, in 1676, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV sent a letter to the Zaporozhian Cossacks in the lower Dniepher river area a demand to "submit to me voluntarily and without any resistance, and to desist from troubling me with your attacks." The Cossacks apocryphally replied:

Zaporozhian Cossacks to the Turkish Sultan!

You, turkish devil and damned devil's brother and friend, secretary to Lucifer himself. What the devil kind of knight are you, that can't slay a hedgehog with your naked arse? The devil shits, and your army eats. You will not, you son of a bitch, make subjects of Christian sons; we've no fear of your army, by land and by sea we will battle with thee, fuck your mother.

You Babylonian scullion, Macedonian wheelwright, brewer of Jerusalem, goat-fucker of Alexandria, swineherd of Greater and Lesser Egypt, Armenian pig, Podolian villain, catamite of Tartary, hangman of Kamyanets, and fool of all the world and underworld, an idiot before God, grandson of the Serpent, and the crick in our dick. Pig's snout, mare's arse, slaughterhouse cur, unchristened brow, screw your own mother!

So the Zaporozhians declare, you lowlife. You won't even be herding Christian pigs. Now we'll conclude, for we don't know the date and don't own a calendar; the moon's in the sky, the year in the book, the day's the same over here as it is over there; for this kiss our arse!

Koshovyi Otaman Ivan Sirko, with the whole Zaporozhian Host

Let's hope the 'Cats can make an NIT run starting with those wheelrights and scullions over at Tulsa.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Northwestern's crushing loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday ended their slim hopes of making it to the NCAAs for the first time in school history. The 'Cats had an opportunity to win the game late, but were again unable to close the game out. Despite the disappointment and the national attention (even Sports Illustrated had a blurb about Northwestern in the last issue), the 'Cats will almost certainly play in the NIT. For many schools, the NIT is a booby prize, and it's a bit of a bitter pill to swallow considering how many of Northwestern's losses came from heartbreaking collapses, but the Wildcats are a young team, and making the NIT is a significant step for a school with a basketball legacy as successful as the Gruber brothers' futile attempts to kill off John McClane.

There are two schools of thought on the use of the phrase
"Die Hard" in everyday conversation. On the one hand, Die
Hard can be used exclusively to refer to John McClane, as in
"did you see the part when Die Hard hanged that enormous
German blond German guy with those iron chains." Alternately,
Die Hard can be used as a verb to describe the vengeful killing
of all opponents in an unnecessarily gruesome way. Examples
of die harding involve driving vehicles indoors, uses of rocket
launchers, most impalements, and anything having to do with
helicopters; therefore, the best venue for die harding is almost
certainly a helicopter blade, railroad spike, and dynamite factory
located next door to either a bottomless pit or a crocodile farm.

The loss to Minnesota is payback for 2003, when a twelve-win Northwestern team unexpectedly upset the Gophers and knocked them off the bubble. Minnesota was led that year by Rick Rickert, who left for the NBA after his freshman year in order to fulfill the childhood dream of getting pummeled by Kevin Garnett. Rickert now plays for the New Zealand Breakers of the Australian NBL, who are currently sitting at third behind the South Dragons and the Melbourne Tigers. The NZ Breakers are led by Tony "Bear" Ronaldson, who is the Brett Favre of Australian basketball, missing only 15 games in his 19 year career, including a 324 game streak.

The Breakers game day experience involves the Moppets,
their youth mopping squad who dance with the Mizone
Breaker Girls and antagonize their Mascot Cheeky the Kea,
who according to the website, "spent countless hours
each day learning the Superhero force from the masters.
He studied ancient teachings that heightened his intelligence,
trained tirelessly to sculpt his muscular physique and
developed combat techniques to make the enemy tremble
in terror."


The World Baseball classic delivered on one of the greatest upsets in the history of international sports when the Netherlands beat the Dominican Republic twice to advance the second round of competition and knock the powerhouse Dominicans out of the tournament altogether. The Netherlands beating the Dominicans was like the Miracle on Ice only twice and without the spectre of mutually assured nuclear destruction hanging over their rivalry. When the Netherlands meets Venezuela in Round Two, however, there are grave political overtones.

As mentioned in the the last post, the Netherlands team is made up of several players from the Netherlands Antilles. Three of the islands, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, are located just off the coast of Venezuela, and President Hugo Chávez has in recent years been doing a bit of saber-rattling there. In this 2006 Spiegel article, Chávez attacked the Netherlands foreign minister as a "Washington stooge" and accused the Dutch of allowing the U.S. to use the islands as a staging area for an invasion of Venezuela. In 2007, a Dutch public radio broadcaster staged an elaborate hoax, reporting that Venezuela had invaded Curaçao, setting off a mild panic.

Chávez decries Yankee imperialism while a
V.I.L.E. henchman skulks in the background.
You must be on the right track!


The Dutch Antilles formed a minor theater for a proxy war against Portugal in the the Netherlands' war for independence from the cruel Habsburg yoke during the Eighty Years' War fought from 1568 to 1648. The global scope of these naval battles during the Early Modern period is remarkable as the Dutch and Portuguese clashed in the Caribbean, Goa, Jakarta, the Gold Coast, and Macau during the first quarter of the seventeenth century.

The more exciting action of the Dutch Revolt, however, took place on the Continent. The Spanish sent in the Duke of Alba to pacify rebellious Dutch noblemen which was the early modern equivalent of bringing a gun to a knife fight. The "Iron Duke" quickly endeared himself by ordering an impressive array of public decapitations in his "blood court." Though Alba's mission involved cracking down on Protestant heretics, he also found the time to decapitate loyal Catholic nobles in an attempt to end their unacceptable reign of tolerance.

The "Iron Dukes" Alba (left) and Wellington, progenitors of the Iron tradition
of rule

The Dutch hero was William of Orange (The Silent, not to be confused with the William of Orange who took the English throne in 1688), who led the rebellion until his assassination by Balthasar Gérard in 1584 after Phillip II put a bounty on William's head, calling him "a pest on the whole of Christianity and the enemy of the human race." Before Gérard, Juan de Jáuregui attempted the assassination on behalf of his boss, a vengeful Spanish fur merchant who was tempted by the bounty. Though de Jáuregui wounded William, he struck down by Royal Halberdiers. Unfortunately, Gérard and de Jáuregui did not team up to take down William of Orange and Klaus Kinski as the Hunchback. Instead, Gérard's elaborate plan involved walking into the palace and shooting the Prince, and was remarkably successful. He planned to escape via moat by using a pigs' bladder as a makeshift water-wing, but was caught and condemned to an elaborate series of gruesome tortures described with a slightly creepy amount of relish on his Wikipedia page.

Gérard attacks a vulnerable William as he takes refuge at an institute for
the gaping-mouthed

The Dutch face a similar uphill battle to advance in the Classic, facing not only their political archrival Venezuelans but also the Yankee Imperialist Americans in next round of group play. The Wildcats will find out about their NIT fate, I assume, sometime after selection Sunday. The 'Cats have been good enough this season that a run in the NIT would certainly be less shocking than another Netherlands win in the WBC, although it would be slightly less inspired by Habsburg treachery.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Baseball Classic

Yesterday, Northwestern lost what may have been the most important game in the modern history of the program. Despite a ridiculous four-point play after a Juice Thompson desperation heave and some second-half heroics from Craig Moore, the 'Cats came up short in the clutch after valiantly battling back in the second half. Northwestern will need a miraculous run in the Big Ten Tournament in order to make the NCAA tourney, but the a berth in the NIT is almost certainly assured. An NIT appearance is certainly a step in the right direction for a program on the rise, hoping to add to the 1931 National Championship (as named by the Helms Athletic Association).

The halcyon days of Northwestern basketball ended with the Hoover


Despite the depressing basketball loss, this weekend also saw the kickoff of the World Baseball Classic, brilliantly combining international competition with professional baseball and constant fear of injury. Organizers hope that the World Baseball Classic will someday be as meaningful to baseball as the World Cup is to international soccer, although they have a lot of catching up to do in terms of international tension, historical blood rivalries, and vicious, marauding hooligans.

FIFA would never sanction a souvenir bat night

The Classic so far has had everything a sports fan could want from an international tournament: crazy upsets, young players coming out of nowhere, hilariously washed up guys waddling into the on-deck circle, screaming Venezuelans, Asian events that start at 5:30 AM and Canadian baseball legend Stubby Clapp. The U.S.-Canada game at Skydome was probably the best international baseball game since China kept beaning Americans in the Beijing Olympics causing commentators to claim that "our relations with China were nearly broken at the plate." The Canadians looked like a formidable team, hiding their lackluster pitching with an impressive array of major league sluggers and keeping Matt Stairs around in case of a little-known WBC rule that ends ties with a beer chugging and wing eating contest.

The seventh inning of the WBC is the
beer inning, and Matt Stairs is ready to
rake or chug for his country

Unfortunately, Canada was eliminated earlier this evening by Italy, a team made up of European Baseball Championship Serie A players and selected major leaguers who have recently eaten at a Sbarro restaurant. Another major upset involves BYCTOM favorite Australia, who not only beat Mexico in Mexico City, but invoked the slaughter rule in the eighth inning after racking up 17 runs. According to the Australian Baseball Federation, Australia not only faced Mexico's major leaguers but a hostile crowd that threw nuts and bolts at the Australian bullpen and drenched the Embassy staff with beer. The last thing you want to do is insult an Australian, especially former Prime Minister Paul Keating who has an entire webpage devoted to his insults. Some highlights include calling Wilson Tuckey a "stupid foul-mouthed grub" and shouting "Shut up! Sit down and shut up, you pig!" at him, calling John Howard a "little dessicated coconut" and a "mangy maggot" while taking cheap shots at his unkempt eyebrows, and assailing John Hewson's speaking style as "being flogged with warm lettuce." He also continuously attacked the Liberal Party in parliament as dullards, cheats (cheats, cheats-- he repeated this one for effect), scumbags, blockheads, and "intellectual hoboes."

Paul Keating has no time for intellectual hobos or their
periodicals about lakes of stew and whiskey too, thwarting
railroad bulls, and a Goofus and Gallant feature.


The story of the tournament so far, however, has been the Dutch who upset the powerhouse Dominican Republic on Saturday and gave Puerto Rico all it could handle in San Juan and Montreal's Hiram Bithorn Stadium. The Netherlands traditionally dominate European baseball, but also augment their success through Dutch imperialist legacies, using players from the Dutch Antilles. Aruba's Sir Sidney Ponson got the win on Saturday, and the WBC has brought back former Cub and racing sausage assailant Randall Simon from Curaçao. The sausage assault can be seen here in a newscast that breaks down the incident like the Zapruder film. Most people seem to forget that Simon was wearing a ridiculous mustard Pirates throwback uniform with a cylindrical hat that made the incident approximately eight percent funnier.

Legacies of Dutch Imperialism

The Netherlands Antilles have an interesting place in the Dutch Empire. After the smooth decolonization of Dutch Indochina, the Antilles remained part of the Dutch Empire. In the twenty-first century, the Antilles have been angling for further autonomy, with Curaçao and Sint Maarten leading the way (Aruba got its own semi-autonomous status in 1986). For now, however, the Antilles remain under the iron fist of Queen Beatrix.

Baseball enjoys larger popularity in the Netherlands than in the rest of continental Europe. This may be due to the fact that they refer to baseball as Honkbal, the greatest word ever created by human beings. This site has a guide to Honkbal in Dutch, with such phrases as Dat is vast een homerum!

Wel raak slaan hoor!

The Dutch face an elimination game against a vengeful Dominican Republic that they probably will not win. Nevertheless, the Dutch have shown that nothing is impossible in sports, a valuable lesson as the Wildcats head to the NCAA tournament and do their best to make their final case for the NCAAs. And to anyone who doubts the Wildcats' chances, as Paul Keating would put it, "We're not interested in the views of painted, perfumed gigolos."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Dance hopes still alive

Northwestern's big win over Purdue in the Keadydome on Wednesday has kept hopes for a tournament bid alive, and garnered national attention. Though I will still consider the season a massive success if Northwestern makes it to the NIT without suffering a travesty of justice like in 2002, the tournament talk has made this the most memorable Northwestern basketball season of this decade.

Mirkovic celebrates Wildcat
basketball and defies Principal

Northwestern needs a win on Sunday in Columbus as well as an impressive performance in the Big Ten tournament in order to bolster its bubble, but the NCAA tournament selection process remains a mystery. As Jeff Goldblum might say if he wasn't making discrete phone calls to Sam Neill about his availability for a fourth Jurassic Park movie in order to make a yacht payment, god help us we're in the hands of bracketologists.

Jeff Goldblum and the S.S. Ah um ha uh yes a um yacht?


Determining the teams and the seeding for the NCAA tournament has spurred its own cottage industry of experts, most notably ESPN's Joe Lunardi, who coined the term "bracketology." Of course, bracketing has inspired a number of different disciplines, such as David Mihm, who calls himself a bracketographer. "I kind of got tired of Joe Lunardi's schtick," Mihm said in this article about his motivation to challenge Lunardi. The article gives the impression that Lunardi is under siege from a host of underground bracket analysts who want to seize his throne as the foremost bracketologist and will no doubt suffer the same fate as Edmond Dantés's thousands of enemies on which he has sworn vengeance if he is ever betrayed and imprisoned on a desolate Mediterranean island.

Bracketology implies some sort of science and I always picture bracketologists toiling away at the sort of analogue computers with whirring tape machines that Bond villains are always using to set up their space lasers (and it's always a space laser-- I estimate that at least 35 percent of Bond villain plots involve a space laser of some kind possibly because the space laser company purchases the largest amount of advertising space in the Bond villain skymall catalogue that sells one-piece jumpsuits, eye patches, and glass furniture).

Bracketologists busily at work breaking down the
bubble teams, predicting seeding, and threatening the
United Nations with a laser apocalypse

Steve Rose wrote a fascinating article last November about Bond villains and architecture. Fleming evidently despised modernist architecture, which is why his motley collection of potential mass murderers always had swanky Le Corbusier-inspired bachelor pads in the middle of dormant volcanoes. Fleming even named Goldfinger after architecht Erno Goldfinger, who incensed Fleming by knocking down two Victorian buildings. In his defense, Erno Goldfinger did not help his case by posing like a potential Bond villain in publicity photos and menacing Fleming with an array of colorful, ethnic henchmen.

Erno Goldfinger and his modernist towers
named Good Afternoon Gentlemen and
You Have Twenty Four Hours

The Shirley Bassey Goldfinger theme is probably the best known of the Bond title songs, all of which are compiled here with full lyrics. Perusing the site is a powerful reminder of how severely underrated the 1980s Bond themes are, especially A View to A Kill's Duran Duran tune.

In fact, A View to a Kill is violently underrated-- it has Christopher Walken as a maniacal blimp enthusiast, Grace Jones, the horse-racing set, and a henchman who kills people by strangling them with his Walkman. More importantly, it features an aged Roger Moore bumbling through his last Bond movie as he castigates cashiers who keep him waiting too long, successfully completes car chases with his left blinker on, and romances a woman whose own mother is younger than him.

After dispatching Roger Moore, Grace Jones
traveled to Barcelona to steal the Dream Team's

A-Ha's The Living Daylights theme is also vastly underrated, but generally any Bond who gets upstaged by A-Ha does not deserve to karate chop people or flee from self-destructing buildings or dispatch Hervey Villachez when he sneaks aboard your getaway schooner.


Making the NCAA tournament would be a tremendous step in the right direction for Northwestern's basketball program, even if it didn't include a memorable upset or classic March Madness moment. Probably the most iconic March Madness event is Laettner's shot against Kentucky in the 1992 East Regional, which is now notable for the number of college basketball's most hated individuals including Laettner, Mike Krzyzewski and the entire Duke basketball program, Rick Pitino, and even Billy Donovan, the non-descript coach of Florida who is notable only for his dos-si-do with the Orlando Magic. Laettner parlayed his March Madness performance into a stint with the Dream Team and this truly ridiculous spread in People Magazine.

Who says white men can't jump? Here's one
who also shoots and rebounds and blocks shots.
Oh, and steals hearts too. After leading Duke
to its second straight college basketball title in
March, Laettner, 22, drove Arsenio's audience
beyond woofs into wild squeals.

Of course, Laettner memorably struggled with injuries and the general crappiness of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA. There's an article about his mini-resurgence with the Hawks in 1996, which reveals that he occasionally busts out a Mutumbo impression as well as owns unusual pets:

In the gym after a recent practice, Laettner is talking about his pet shark, which he keeps at home in a 600-gallon, salt-water tank...It seems Laettner's pet shark died on the move south from Minnesota. The creature didn't have a name. Laettner rolls his eyes. It's not like it came when you called it. So he bought another pet shark, and now it is thriving in Atlanta. In a burst of creativity, he calls this one "Shark No. 2"