Wednesday, December 29, 2010

TicketCity Bowl

This Saturday, Northwestern takes on Texas Tech in the inaugural TicketCity Bowl at the Cotton Bowl in Texas. This is because the Cotton Bowl is now played at Jerry Jones's Ozymandius-like Texas Stadium while the Wildcats and Red Raiders now get to play under the watchful eye of Big Tex as the Texas State fairgrounds.

I prefer the original Big Tex from 1956
which showcases a look of wide-eyed
homicidal fanaticism that I prefer from
state fair gargantuans. Here, Tex's body
language can be best described as hastily
explaining to the authorities

Northwestern will be seeking to avenge two blowout losses to end the season and capture the team's first post-season victory since 1949. Texas Tech will be looking for a bowl win to cap its first season under Tommy Tuberville after the program's messy divorce from Mike Leach. In Tuberville, Tech found a name coach, by which I mean that he has a spectacular name that is wasted in college football coaching and should immediately be loaned out to the leader of a 1950s doo-wop revival group featuring matching garish blazers. Contrast Tuberville with Minnesota's hiring of Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill, whose name is far more suited to the martial pretension of football, probably because there wasn't a qualified person available named Trench Bludgeoner.

Tech will be playing without former defensive coordinator James Willis, who left after Tuberville learned that he had clandestine talks with the University of Florida, according to the spectacularly named Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. The departure of Willis reiterates the ridiculous notion of coaching searches that occur during bowl season, with coaches hired, fired, departing under the dead of night, and inundating their rivals' residences with untraceable poisonous reptiles all before and during the preparation and playing of bowl games. This intrigue is one of the best parts of college football season as it involves fickle fans either braying for the head of an unfavored coach or shouting perfidy as a beloved coach leaves for greener pastures as well as the activities of cabals of shady boosters manipulating the purse strings and plotting in their festive team-logo festooned neckties.

Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands is seen leaving a meeting
where he was rumored to call for the replacement of Mack Brown,
but when questioned by reporters replied "I am above that."


The Big Ten finally unveiled the names of the divisions to great fanfare and even greater derision. Northwestern will compete for the 2011 Legend Division Title. There is absolutely no reason why division titles should ever be anything other than cardinal directions-- the idea of striving for some sort of geographical accuracy is absurd when absolutely no one cares about the Dallas Cowboys being in the NFC East, the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks playing in the same building but competing in their league's Eastern and Western conferences respectively, or the Big Ten containing 20 percent more teams than advertised. Every other sport uses some sort of vague and inaccurate geographical signifier for divisions and there is no need to start breaking new ground by attempting to bring in abstract concepts. In that case, why not go with the Pop and Soda divisions based on what to call sugary fizz-water since, as any Midwesterner can attest, more people invest fierce ideological attachment to their regionalism than almost any other opinion they have ever held for no apparent reason instead of some more crucial issue such as the constitutional validity of the King-Byng controversy.

Major players in the King-Byng Canadian Constitutional Crisis of 1925 (l to r):
Mackenzie King, Lord Byng, Arthur Meighen. The controversy came about when
attempting to transpose a nineteenth century political crisis into the twentieth
without the aid of duels to sort things out properly. Instead, all Commonwealth
constitutional problems involving Governors-General ought to be settled by some
sort of stodge off, where a politician must endure 65 minutes of hectoring from a
crowd while attempting to respond in the most humorless and stiff possible manner,
while the winner is assessed from a scientific measurement of the crowd's dour

Of course, I'm predisposed to criticize Jim Delaney after my calls for renaming the conference the Enormous Ten have evidently fallen on deaf ears.


Like most of you, I've been fascinated by the leak of U.S. diplomatic cables free for our perusal because I've been desperate to catch up on diplomatic gossip, such as how many nightclubs Lola Karimova, daughter of Uzbekistan President Karimov, currently owns and favors with her late night disco dancing. Actually, the leaks are a font of Central Asian political discotheque intrigue, such as this depiction of Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov at Chocolat, described as Astana's trendiest nightclub from a cable entitled "Lifestyles of the Kazazhstani [sic] Leadership":
Masimov led his companions on to Chocolat's dance floor soon after their arrival. The dance floor holds approximately 100 people, and at the time perhaps 50 patrons were dancing. However, Masimov himself chose to dance on an empty stage above the dance floor. His companions quickly tired but Masimov remained, dancing alone and animatedly on the stage for another 15-20 minutes.

Massimov (center) with Belorussian Premier Sergei Sidorski
(right) and beloved Russian crooner Vladimir Putin

Another revelation is the rollicking Duke of York, who charmed a gathering of British and Commonwealth business leaders and officials in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan by assailing Kyrgyz corruption, comparing it to France and anorexia, respectively. The American Ambassador described the Duke as being an "equal opportunity Great Game player" and soliciting cries of "hear, hear" which makes me worried about him spontaneously growing mutton-chops.

The most troubling revelation comes from stories published side-by-side at the New York Times web site about Russia and Canada. See if you can spot the pattern:
A trove of diplomatic cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to a number of publications, disclose a perception by American diplomats that Canadians “always carry a chip on their shoulder” in part because of a feeling that their country “is condemned to always play ‘Robin’ to the U.S. ‘Batman.’ ”

Asked about a cable that described President Dmitri A. Medvedev as “playing Robin to Putin’s Batman,” he said the author had “aimed to slander one of us.”

The State Department cables also reveal which countries'
economies move at a penguin-like pace, which are riddled by
corruption, and raise troubling questions about United States
relations with Egypt


Although this time of year is when college football comes under assault for the nonsensical bowl system with prestige-bereft bowls such as the TicketCity Bowl used as prime examples of the inscrutable nature of the FBS post-season, Northwestern fans are clamoring to see Fitz finally hoisting a bowl game trophy. With the basketball team looking like a potential threat to finally breach the NCAA tournament, this could potentially be the year for Northwestern athletics in getting over the hump to mediocrity outside of the field of women's field hockey and most Big Ten equestrian sports.

Almost 50 years ago, President Kennedy asked why Rice plays Texas when pledging to put on a man on the moon stressing its difficulty, emphasizing perseverance, and tactfully not mentioning the possibility of igniting a terrifying war with subterranean Moon-Men that would certainly side with Khrushchev. Today, we ask why does Northwestern play Texas Tech and the answer is so that a bunch of corporations make money. Having said that, and politely ignoring what the hell just happened in those last couple of sentences, let us hope that Evan Watkins can lead the Wildcats to a 21st century bowl victory. And if anyone around you disparages the necessity of winning the Inaugural TicketCity Bowl in the grand scheme of things, you punch them right in the face and say "I am above that."