Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Good Grief

Northwestern treated America to another overtime thriller, cementing its status as the country's most consistently exciting bowl team with its roller-coaster theatrics. Of course, this being a bowl game involving Northwestern, the roller-coaster ride traditionally ends with the bar lifting off as stunned patrons are then pummeled with festive carnival implements such as giant plush gorillas or foam cowboy hats by disgruntled carnies. From now on, Northwestern will be required to have a cardboard Yosemite Sam on the sidelines to make sure that only the most calm and serene fans can watch the games in order to prevent nervous breakdowns, heart palpitations, and acts of violence fueled by Heston Scale-breaking incredulity.

The plucky Kafka led comeback after comeback in an astounding five-interception performance that at times resembled the mythical Shane Falco meltdown from late night basic cable staple The Replacements starring Keanu Reeves, whose fictional Sugar Bowl performance apparently ended up with him living in a houseboat, which in movies is a clear sign of hitting rock bottom since you never see a movie organized around the theme of successful, well-adjusted, clean-shaven people living and prospering in a happy neighborhood of houseboats.

Keanu Reeves in the first two parts of his planned
"Quarterback Trilogy" loosely organized around the themes
of being a former quarterback and Keanu Reeves. On a vaguely
related note, I strongly believe that while people are willing to
accept Keanu Reeves characters named Shane Falco and
Johnny Utah, if Keanu attempted to play a quarterback named
Colt McCoy from Texas back in 1997, Keanu would have entered
the Uncanny Valley of fake quarterback names that are too
ridiculous even for someone willing to pay money for a Keanu
Reeves performance meaning that we are now living in a world
where quarterbacks can legitimately have names that would have
been too over-the-top for Keanu Reeves only ten years ago

The Outback Bowl had everything-- gut-wrenching reversals of fortune, multiple lead changes, crazy offenses, writhing kickers, inexplicable costly penalties, and the fake field goal that everybody knew was coming. If Northwestern was ever going to win a bowl game, it would seem that the most appropriate way would involve some sort of ludicrous comeback. After all, every single NU bowl game this decade has been in the same mold (except for the 2000 Alamo Bowl) including the Debacle in Detroit, the UCLA Onside Fiasco, and the Missouri Why Are You Punting To Maclinstravaganza. And while watching the 'Cats lose in increasingly excruciating ways may put a bit of a damper on a New Year's hangover, it is far better than not making it to bowl games at all.


I was recently thinking about the Age of Exploration and the extent to which explorers' lust for fame, fortune, spices from the orient, and just plain regular lust led them to set off on a death wish of a journey into parts unknown armed only with some swords, crude muskets, and Western disease. And, in the competitive, international, anti-Olympic spirit of conquest and intrigue, where could one go to meet a gloriously horrific end, what country was most likely to kill its explorers, and other such important information germane to an irregularly published college football blog.

The Portuguese were somehow the greatest explorers, expanding remarkably throughout the early modern world in a short-lived burst of relevance. Yet, their explorers did not fare particularly well, with Vasco da Gama dying of malaria in Goa and Magellan losing to the invincible forces of Lapu-Lapu in Cebu. Both explorers are memorialized by logos-- da Gama as part of a Brazilian soccer team entitled Club de Regatas Vasco da Gama and Magellan by the inclusion of a victorious Lapu-Lapu on the official seal of the Philippine National Police.

Lapu-Lapu provides a reminder that exploration and conquest
provides a rare attempt to list getting hacked to pieces by indigenous
groups in a failed attempt to extract armed tribute as a valid
occupational hazard

The Spanish-funded explorers fared better. Both Columbus and Cortes died in Spain-- the fact that Cortes survived despite making war upon the entire Aztec Empire and was able to return to Spain twice and even take a shot at the Ottomans for good measure is fairly remarkable. After his death, his remains were even more mobile, moved at the whims of Dukes who needed space, lackadaisical enforcement of his last wished in his will, and attempts to avoid desecration in the heady aftermath of Mexican independence.

Being an English explorer, however, seemed to invite the most trouble. Henry Hudson found himself on the business end of a mutiny-- although some suspect that the crew dispatched of their captain, they claim that they merely abandoned Hudson, his son, and his loyal lieutenants in a boat in uncharted and foreboding waters with every chance of not dying from hunger, thirst, scurvy, or attack by some sort of comical Bay Monster that seems like something that early modern sailors might believe in. Sir Walter Raleigh, the warrior/poet/explorer/ruffle enthusiast did not even get the pleasure of being hacked to pieces by a warrior in his search for El Dorado or killed by a crazed Roanoke survivor that had latched onto the back of his boat like a sort of Elizabethan Cape Feare (I'm adding the extra e for an authentic Shakespeare touch) but instead got beheaded by the order of James I for a complex web of reasons involving everybody hating Sir Walter Raleigh by the seventeenth century. And Drake had dysentery.

An official explorer death map indicating (from left to right)
1 Hernando de Soto: died of a fever, putting a minor wrinkle in his plan to convince
Native Americans that he was an immortal god
2 Hudson and the Mutiny
3 Cortes and a dysentery related death
4 Raleigh's beheading
5 Da Gama's malaria
6 Magellan's encounter with Lapu-Lapu


Northwestern's basketball team has also struggled in Big Ten play, losing in overtime (why not) to Illinois and struggling against a tough Michigan State Team at home. Hopefully, they can pull together against UT-Pan-American and gain some momentum for the rest of the Big Ten season and avoid mutineers, dysentery, and the N.I.T.




The plum which I have extracted from today is "short lived burst of relevance".

That to which we all aspire.

Also: Portugal was not a good road team

Bob said...

I think that Rigg's residence in Lethal Weapon should be included as an honorable mention in fictional houseboat retreats. The place was a total dive, and I believe it was close enough to the Pacific Ocean to be considered a houseboat of sorts. Thoughts?

I am proud to be living in a universe of ridiculous OTT Keanu Reeves quarterback names.

Chaddogg said...

How do you bring up houseboats and not mention architect Tom Hanks living on a houseboat in Seattle for "Sleepless in Seattle"? I mean, he was an architect, and thus supposedly invested in designing buildings, which have as their raison d'etre permanence upon land....

Yet he lived on the water.

No wonder he was single and required his son to call into nationwide radio talk shows to get him dates -- the contradictions inherent in his work-domicile arrangements would be off-putting to most women, I'd imagine.

BYCTOM said...

As much as I would like to grandfather in Riggs, I'm not sure it fits proper houseboat criteria such as

1. Is the house actually a boat?

I also got a kick the Sleepless in Seattle reference which is essentially the "you forgot about Poland" of movie arguments with no possible reaction other than droning, long-faced incredulity. I've never see the movie, but I can speculate that Hanks either is a renegade architect reacting so violently to his profession that he has to retreat from land itself at the end of the day, or that he specializes in non-land-based architecture such as floating cities and hollowed out volcanoes and goes to ribbon cutting ceremonies where a jumpsuit wearing henchman fails to successfully aim the oversized scissors for upwards of fifteen minutes.

The most underrated houseboat dwelling was on the Highlander TV show where Duncan MacLeod lived on a ramshackle houseboat on the Seine but he was hardly successful in that every third episode there was some guy lying in ambush with a comical historical sword variation. Then again, there is probably nothing more rewarding than chopping off someone's head and shaking spasmodically in a shower of cheesy sparks even if you have to go home to a ramshackle houseboat on the Seine.

Bob said...

Well if Riggs is rejected then I vote for his house to be first alternate in the houseboat in film olympics.