Friday, November 12, 2010

Iowa Week

It's Iowa Week, and Wildcat fans are buzzing about the looming showdown with recent rivals from the Corn Capital coming in caravans and hoping to avenge Northwestern's consecutive upsets ending the Hawkeyes' Big Ten title hopes. It's been an interesting couple of weeks for Northwestern. Throughout the year, Northwestern has had trouble putting games away, really only beating ISU and Rice comfortably.

The game against Indiana naturally involved letting the Hoosiers back in when underrated Indiana QB Ben Chappell hit Duwyce Wilson to narrow the margin to three points. Of course, a Northwestern-Indiana close score is not a particular surprise to anyone paying attention to recent Northwestern/Indiana clashes, a section of the population limited to Northwestern fans, Indiana fans, and angry Big Ten Network subscribers who would ordinarily watch these teams play only if the game occurred on their front yard. These games always come down to the final moment, as if Northwestern and Indiana find themselves in a sort of football stalemate.

Experts on stalemate warfare: (left to right) Gen. Sir Douglas Haig, Field
Marshal Horatio Kitchener, the tyrant-Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Field Marshal
Paul von Hindenberg. In Britain, the war was frequently referred to in the
1920s and 1930s as the Great War, as a way of describing the mustaches of
all participants political and military. The exception, of course, was
Woodrow Wilson, whom I suspect remained clean-shaven to avoid association
with the greatest conflict of mustachioed persons in the history of humanity,
a tactic that certainly hurt his 1916 rival Charles Evans Hughes (far right)

With the victory over Indiana, Northwestern took its bowl eligibility swagger into Happy Valley and played 29 minutes of inspired football. Instead of discussing the Wildcats' painful collapse at the hands of the ageless Paterno, why not take a gander at this germane video presentation that essentially boils the second half of the game into less than four minutes.

Congratulations to Joe Paterno on his astounding 400th win and mastery of
gestures used solely to demonstrate an intense hatred of snakes. HE HATES THEM


The official BYCTOM position on fist shaking in American political discourse is very clear: politicians should do everything they can to get rid of inferior, meeker, and more television-friendly gestures such as the Bill Clinton button thumb, and return to angrily shaking their fists in the direction of their opponent in order to demonstrate derision at their positions and the dire danger that opposition policies will rain down upon the nation. Note that I'm not advocating a Ukrainian-style legislative riot (kudos to the clever deployment of umbrellas into impromptu egg and debris shields); speakers' fists should abuse only air molecules or possibly comical effigies of political rivals.

Progressive Wisconsin Governor and later senator Robert LaFollette was a master at using his fists for political purposes. Though he earned the nickname "Fighting Bob" for his tenacious pursuit of reform and dogged anti-corruption efforts, it's also apt for his pugilistic speaking style.

The most impressive thing about LaFollette's fist-shaking is that in two
pictures to the right, including the impressive double-barreled action
at the end, LaFollette deploys his fists on the radio, the medium
traditionally most resistant to fist-shaking

LaFollette is an impressive figure in terms of being able to dish out a fist shaking as well as take one. I'll let the author of LaFollette's wikipedia page explain:

After the speech, Senators Frank B. Kellogg (Minn.), Joseph Taylor Robinson (Arkansas), and Albert B. Fall (N.M.) in turn attacked La Follette's position on the war. Senator Robinson was a combative and fiercely partisan defender of Wilson and the Democratic Party. His speech "synthesized the scattered attacks on La Follette that had been filtering in for seven the speech progressed, he became more agitated and abusive. The virulence of Robinson's attack shocked the floor and galleries into complete silence." A United Press correspondent described Robinson's speech as "the most unrestrained language that ever has been heard in the Senate." La Follette sat motionless in his chair, even when Robinson began shaking his fist at him.

The attack came because of misconstrued reports of a LaFollette speech defending the sinking of the Lusitania. In onerous minutes of online searching, I have not successfully located a transcript of Robinson's comments, although evidently he insinuated that LaFollette harbored a loyalty to the hated Kaiser himself, an excellent tactic used to discredit so many American politicians that have used stump speeches as an opportunity to assure constituents of their unswerving dedication to hated foreign monarchs and pledged to work tirelessly to see voters crushed under said monarch's bootheels.


I always support the inane movement to designate official state things (for example, Illinois's official state dance is the square dance, state fossil is the tully monster, and official type of municipal voter fraud is use of the deceased), so I've always been moderately fascinated that Maryland's official sport is jousting. One would think that the sport went back to some sort of colonial method of feud settlement as practiced by legendary Marylanders such as Lord Baltimore or Omar, eventually evolving in the nineteenth century and codified into a less lethal version much like how modern cockfights include full medical inspections and tiny beak guards. Instead, the joust became the official sport in 1962 encouraged by a group of equestrian enthusiasts enamored with the idea of crowns and pointy maiden hats and left in a helpless situation because Medieval Times had yet to be invented.

From the Maryland Jousting Tournament Association, a photo (left) of a the triumphant
announcement of the adoption of jousting as official state sport. (Right) A depiction of
the type of behind the scenes manipulation, and use of doubloons used to pass the motion
through the intrigue-inundated Maryland state legislature of the 1960s described by a
contemporary local reporter as:
"that nest of the damn'd/the vile reprobate/
A scoundrel's abode/where the rogues machinate/
I bet a few of them are commies"

Unfortunately, Maryland jousting is not a bloody spectacle of impalement. Instead, jousters use their lance-like poles to snare hanging rings, in much the same way that medieval knights would thunder through European countrysides ridding the land of tree-dwelling pests.

Unfortunately for famous joust victim Henry II of France, the
Lord Lorges did not abide by the Maryland Joust Association's


Iowa comes into town looking for revenge from last year's BCS-busting loss to Northwestern in Iowa City, dropping a second consecutive home game to the 'Cats. Northwestern again represents a classic trap game for Iowa as they host Ohio State next week. But as ESPN's Adam Rittenberg reports, Iowa won't be looking past the Wildcats after recent trouble beating them. As Rittenberg points out, Fitz is 3-1 against the Hawkeyes, and since 2002, Northwestern has accounted for three of Iowa's ten home losses.

This decade, Northwestern and Iowa have split the series 4-4,
evidently as evenly-matched as these large-hatted women
squaring off in late nineteenth century Australia in a type of
fighting which I would like to coin as fancy-boxing. I think the
woman in white has the clearcorner advantage by looking at the
tale of the tape:

(source: The Powerhouse Museum, Haymarket New South Wales)

I like that there is some genuine passion in this rivalry, with Iowa fans reacting to each loss like a Gruber Brother being continually informed of John McClane's incessant survival as they climb to higher levels on the Heston Scale of incredulity (incidentally, the highest Heston scale rating I can find recently is in the trailer for the Russell Crow Robin Hood movie showcasing a blood-curdling "I DECLARE HIM TO BE AN OUTLAW" outburst. I haven't seen this movie, but I have a hard time believing anything else that happens in it can be better than that).

Traditionally, visitors to Ryan field view Northwestern as either a minor speed bump on the way to a showdown with a fellow title contender or a winnable game in the quest for bowl eligibility; it certainly is a change of pace for a team that actually wants to beat Northwestern for the sake of beating Northwestern, to direct a fist pump at Pat Fitzgerald rather be on the receiving end of it, to tear fans' fancy cummerbunds asunder and grind their monocles into dust. It should be an atmosphere approximating that of a Big Ten game in Evanston.

On paper, of course, Iowa has the edge. The Hawkeyes have an excellent defense, an underrated running game to test a vulnerable Northwestern run defense, and a quarterback in Ricky Stanzi having a spectacular year; Northwestern has looked very vulnerable against some very bad teams. On the other hand, I'm going to say throw out the record books. Go ahead and print out a list of every game Northwestern has ever played against Iowa starting with their first contest in 1897 when the rules of football included outmoded features such as pistol duels, knuckle dusters, and used cockfighting in lieu of a coin toss and then throw that stack of paper outside of the nearest window. The Wildcats have had no business beating Iowa most of the time in the Kirk Ferentz era, so hopefully Northwestern will finally be able to put a complete Big Ten game together and continue to inexplicably dominate in this underrated rivalry.

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