Thursday, October 21, 2010

Michigan State Preview

The Wildcats are looking for redemption after a loss to a gutty, injury-ravaged Purdue squad, the Spartans are looking to remain undefeated and looking toward a Big Ten championship run, Coach Fitz is looking for a sixth win, bowl birth, and an upset, Coach Dantonio is looking for a return to the sidelines after recovering from a heart attack, orphan Timmy is looking for a father figure he never knew, wealthy industrialist R. Pickering Fossbottle is looking for the child he never knew he wanted, young Maude Fossbottle is looking for love in all of the wrong places, and everyone is looking for priceless artifacts from the Orient before it's stolen by a Peter Lorre type.

A lot is at stake.

Fitz makes the long hitchhike from Ryan Field after the gutting
loss to Purdue

The Wildcats have not won convincingly against an FBS team with the exception of Rice. On the other hand, the Spartans have beaten Notre Dame, Wisconsin, a resurgent Michigan team, and frisky Illinois. Of course, it would be foolhardy to assume a Michigan State win; Northwestern tends to surprise teams and it's hard to count out an offense led by Dan Persa. This has the makings of a potential trap game for Michigan State as they look forward to a big game in Iowa City.

The Wildcats prefer getting a drop on unsuspecting
opponents, as demonstrated by these Hessian reenactors
expertly recreating a drop-gotten-on scenario

Northwestern will have to repel an overwhelming force, much like the Syracusians attempting to hold off the Romans in the Siege of Syracuse. The Romans came by sea with the sambuca, which was not a polite gift of occasionally flaming liqueur, but the less polite siege machine used to quickly enable soldiers to climb from ships onto fortress walls and begin stabbing everyone in sight. Syracuse was famously defended by mathematician Archimedes with mirror-driven heat rays of dubious historical authenticity and the Archimedes Claw, the result of an experiment gone wrong resulting in him growing a giant claw instead of a left arm that he used to shake menacingly at the advancing Roman soldiers and snap at anyone that attempted to interfere with his circles.

Attempts to replicate the effect of the Archimedes heat ray have had mixed results on
models of Roman ships, but have elsewhere proven to be devastating


Bears fans will get to see Rex Grossman make an emotional return to Soldier Field with the Redskins this weekend. According to this Tribune article, Grossman expects to be booed should he manage to get into the game, get shown on the JumboTron, or attempt to fling his clipboard downfield after getting confused and thinking that he saw Bernard Berrian running straight ahead wide open. But why would Bears fans boo Rex, the only quarterback to take the Bears to the Superbowl without the aid of flashy message-bearing headbands? I can understand the enmity of Bears fans against Grossman if he had walked around the city scattering citizens with a cane in the haughty Hohenzollern manner of Frederick William I, or bulldozed "Rex Rules OK" into the Meigs Field runways, or pillaged the Field Museum of priceless Egyptian artifacts so he could walk around dressed like Batman villain King Tut with impunity, but he did none of those things as far as I am aware. Instead he merely fit into the Bears tradition of underwhelming quarterbacks, albeit with a particular flair for ineptitude.

In order to properly give Rex his due, here's eight sincere minutes of Rex Grossman highlights set to "Eye of the Tiger."

Bears fans should celebrate both the highs of the Grossman era and the myriad comical
ways that opponents relieved him of the ball


The after months of uncertainty, politicking, intrigue, and the interference of the House of Bourbon, the Cubs have picked a successor to Lou Piniella. The new manager, chosen to trade fame and fortune for a Job-like existence at the helm of a team destined for eternal failure while enduring the jibes of angry fans and a vicious media is Mike Quade. Quade, who spent most of his career in the minor leagues, is best described by the phrase "grizzled baseball lifer" and that is not merely a cliche; expect Quade to erect his own thatch dugout, make his own tobacco juice, and trump all comers in locker room scar-sharing exhibitions.

The Cubs will be less fun to follow without Lou Piniella. Stats-minded baseball fans have raised questions about the importance of managers, many of whom can be argued to do more harm than good by putting hitters unable to get on base in the leadoff position because they are fast, call for unnecessary bunts, make curious pitching decisions, bench promising young players in favor of underperforming veterans, and engage in futile micromanagement for the sake of micromanagement. Of course, that does not take into consideration important motivational ploys such as walking around naked and creating provocative posters of any former showgirl owners. Piniella, of course, excelled at getting angry at umpires, developing the optimal body shape for bellying up to them and taking advantage of having a profession allowing him to scream at people three inches from their face and throw things with impunity. Lou's managerial rapping skills, however, are more dubious.

Lou makes an impassioned demand about either the strike zone
or free silver coinage


If there's one thing that careful study of European history has demonstrated, it is that aristocrats default to two behaviors: leading armies of musket-wielding infantry against each other and killing animals for their amusement. It was not enough to hunt animals; instead they decided to fling them about their courtyards in the brutal sport of fox tossing. Foxes or other small animals would scurry around a fox tossing arena while hopeful tossers stood about with cloth bands draped on the ground. When the animal found itself on top of a band, the participants would stretch it, catapulting animals into the air and competing for the highest toss. Noted fox tossing enthusiast Augustus the Strong (also apparently nicknamed as "Iron Hand" and "The Saxon Hercules" by an early modern Bruce Buffer equivalent) would toss with a only a single finger.

A gleeful tossing from 1719. Augustus II of Saxony (right) managed his impressive
feats of strength before the invention of the single-strap unitard

The fox tossing wikipedia page is full of helpful notes about this cultured practice, such as "The Swedish envoy Esaias Pufendorf, witnessing a fox-tossing contest held in Vienna in March 1672, noted in his diary his surprise at seeing the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold Icourt dwarfs and boys in clubbing to death the injured animals...". Boars were apparently more hazardous "to the great delectation of the cavaliers, but to the terror of the noble ladies, among whose hoop-skirts the wild boars committed great havoc, to the endless mirth of the assembled illustrious company."

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