Monday, March 15, 2010

NIT Bound

Somehow it all came together. It may have taken a train full of spices from the Orient or an incriminating photo of a selection committee member performing deviant sexual acts on illegally harvested organs filled with narcotics and pirated intellectual property or the use of psychotropic drugs and Air Willie or maybe even a combination of all three involving Air Willie illegally harvesting organs while secreting illegal narcotics through its porous plastic tongue and blaring a bootleg Time records-- regardless of how it happened, the Wildcats are in the NIT.

A look at Northwestern's NIT credentials

They face off Wednesday against Rhode Island in their second consecutive NIT road game after last year's dispiriting loss to Tulsa. Northwestern joins fellow Big Tenners the Illinois in the tournament; it also has a chance to potentially avenge itself in Madison Square Garden against the Golden Hurricane and jump-start a rivalry (the only thing more satisfying than a trip to the NCAAA Tournament is surely a fierce annual showdown with Tulsa in the NIT) and is set up for a potential Northwestern-Northeastern game that has fans ordinal directions leaping out of their prescription loafers. Despite disappointment at coming up short of that elusive NCAA bid, Northwestern fans can savor at least one more opportunity to celebrate an improbably exciting season in a tournament where the teams are not expected to show up with their own basketballs, sweat mops, and 24 second clocks, officials, and 2 Unlimited CDs.


No matter how a president is captured, be it a candid photograph, heroic oil painting, or lithographed into a terrifying bejowelled lion/president hybrid that would haunt the nightmares of Skip Myslenski, each only gets one chance to have an official portrait. By custom, presidential portraits are presented after a president gets to leave an imprint on the country, ideally leaving a sort of idiosyncratic footnote to his administration.

For such a tradition, the presidential portraits showcase a surprising amount of variety of poses, props, expressions, and styles. More importantly, they force a decision about which president looks like your favorite Dracula.

Official BYCTOM president to Dracula conversion chart

A common early style focused more on the president's head before shifting to more dynamic scenes that could show the president interacting with bundles of paper or in the vicinity of a globe.

Early portraits focused on the president's expression. To the left, James
Madison gives his best "how are you gentleman" face most commonly
used to demand from some defunct international body like the League
of Augsberg a sum of silver ducats and the Duchy of Warsaw
lest he destroy Europe with the early moderm equivalent of a space
laser which I guess would be a giant wooden rod painted red, whereas
James Monroe demonstrates the sonic power of his stereo equipment

Of all of the many showcasing the standing around with bits of paper motif, none is better than John Tyler, who decided that his legacy is best described as distraught newspaper crumpling.

Tyler looks like he just saw William
Henry Harrison drift ghoulishly into
the Oval Office to punish Tyler for his
coat-disparaging taunts

Washington and Taylor are the only armed presidents, although Washington looks far more prepared to use his sword as he gestures peevishly at some unseen man from Porlock. Other presidents chose to go outside, such as Truman enjoying some sort of veranda and McKinley, demonstrating a high-pressure front moving in on Receda and urging citizens to get out their galoshes in this time of national crisis.

Rutherford B. Hayes and Chester A. Arthur demonstrate the importance of
a dramatic setting, whether it is the middle of the apocalypse or in a
Scarface mansion filled built on a sound combination of pimping and

The whole spread of portraits are available here, along with some helpful anecdotes about why Theodore Roosevelt seems even more pugilistic than normal, although it leaves as a riddle why Buchanan has the only round portrait, why Grover Cleveland did not get two non-consecutive portraits done, and how Taft's portrait artist was left with no choice but to lapse into Impressionism.


Although the NIT is not necessarily a springboard to Big Ten domination in the next season, it is hard to imagine that the success in this tournament will not help build confidence for next year. Though the Wildcats lose Nash, the heart and soul of the Northwestern defense, the experience gained by "Juice" Thompson, Drew Crawford, and the inevitable merging of Shurna and Coble into a spindly mass of limbs that will act as some sort of Vishnu of offensive production builds up expectations for next year. But with the unpredictability of injuries, the grind of a tough Big Ten season, and the fact that Northwestern's basketball team plays for Northwestern, it is best to enjoy the fact that, like the football team, Northwestern is establishing the post-season of any sort as an attainable goal and something to build on for the endless array of next years in the program's future until the Rutherford B. Hayes Apocalypse.

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