Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nonconference Update

Sometimes, time moves really fast and you wake up and realize that Northwestern is 4-0 against a challenging non-conference slate of mostly FBS teams, quarterback Dan Persa is looking like the best Northwestern signal caller since Otto Graham, and people in the nineteenth century continue to have comical facial hair.

A lot can happen when you're not paying attention

Northwestern survived a nailbiter against Vanderbilt, crushed Illinois State, dominated Rice, and played fairly decently against MAC powerhouse Central Michigan. It was very clear in each of those games that Coach Fitz and Mick McCall wanted to embrace the running game and it became clearer that running the ball might fall by the wayside alongside other foiled plans such as the Concert of Europe or reliable '80s movie villain William Atherton co-opting Val Kilmer's talent with lasers.

Viscount Castlereagh (left), a major voice in the development of the
post-Waterloo Congress system managed to survive a minor political
scandal when he shot rival and fellow cabinet minister George Canning
(the saucily-posed man at right) in a duel in a more civilized age when
politicians were able to cut through the red tape of political disagreement
with firearms. Much like Northwestern's non-conference schedule,
Castlereagh wisely chose an opponent that he could reasonably handle as
Canning had never before fired a pistol; likewise, Northwestern has not only
added ancient rival Chicago Dental back to its non-conference schedule but
is also scheduled to take on a local haberdashery and leading
representatives of the Bull Moose Party at Ryan Field next season.


Obviously the big story for Minnesota is whether or not the Gophers will rally around embattled coach Tim Brewster-- actually, I don't think the unnecessarily martial cliche "embattled" is strong enough for Brewster's position; "besieged" seems more appropriate or alternately "approximating the college football coaching version of the four seconds before a wild-eyed Mola Ram rips out one's heart in an underground amphiteater conveniently located above a giant pit of lava."

Mola Ram thought he got a good deal on Pankot Palace until he realized the upkeep cost
on miles of underground tunnels and shoddy plank bridges

From all accounts, Brewster's style is relentlessly positive, but he might have to assert himself more in order to prove to the school that he still has control of the locker room. Perhaps he can model himself after legendary Paraguayan General Dr. José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia y Velasco who became known as El Supremo Dictador of Paraguay 1814 (from a time in the nineteenth century when it was perfectly acceptable to fashion oneself formally as a dictator and have it printed on nineteenth century business cards that one hands out while taunting other leaders at international conferences). According to his Wikipedia page, Francia's reign followed the modern dictator playbook to a T: becoming instrumental in tearing the country from the yoke of Spanish oppression, declaring oneself head of the national Church, closing the borders, antagonizing neighbors, and then coming up with increasingly spectacular demands such as personally conducting all weddings, declaring war on dogs, and demanding that citizens tip their hats to him when he passed or, if hatless, carry a hat brim for tipping purposes. Francia remained in power until 1840.

El Supremo assures you that if he
was not a dictator, he would not
have gotten away with that

The 'Cats will be hoping to take advantage of a discombobulated Minnesota squad on the cusp of a coaching coup and Gopher fans hope that they'll be able to turn around their disastrous start in conference play with a win.


I recently stumbled upon the miraculously thorough Sword Swallower's Hall of Fame, chronicling the greatest practitioners of this noble art. I have no proof, but I'm willing to wager that if it happened in sword swallowing in the last several hundred years, it appears on that website, with sections for performers with fantastic names like "Veno the Electric Sword Swallower," "The Yankee Yogi," and, tantalizingly, an entry referencing an 1867 work entitled "Bizarre Medical Abnormalities."

An 1899 poster of sword swallower
Chevalier Cliquot found on the Hall of Fame
website. As the poster demonstrates, the
Cliquot act evidently consisted of
swallowing multiple swords, balancing rifles
on his face, and modeling what I'm anxiously
hoping will soon become acceptable attire for
high-stakes business meetings or international

Finally, readers need to be aware of this lost footage of a sadly abandoned Orson Welles project entitled "Orson Welles: the One Man Band" in which he plays a number of elderly and certainly gout-ridden members of a bygone London club. There's no audio on the club scene and I'm having trouble deciding whether that makes this more or less horrifying:


Northwestern will be hoping to start of Big Ten play with a big win in the Gopher state, avenging last year's loss and paving the way for a not entirely implausible shot at going 6-0 against the reeling Gophers and knee injury-ravaged Boilermakers. Even with a weak non-conference schedule, that would be quite a coup by Fitz and the team, one worth tipping one's cap or Francia-approved hat substitute to.

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