Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Those Were The Things That Happend Then Part II

Like most Bears fans, I had assumed after the Bears preseason that they would scratch their way to maybe eight wins tops in front of an aging defense and a comically ineffective offensive line.

Bears plans for the offensive line went horribly awry early in the
2010 season

And, for the beginning of the season, that prediction looked solid, as Cutler darted for his life behind the group of matadors, turnstiles, and maitre d's that allowed him to be pummeled into a swollen-brained incoherence that interfered with his Rex Grossman-like desire to deliver the ball to the opposition. But football is a game that changes fluidly, governed by the whims of fate more than the whims of spittle-emitting fans calling for the heads of everyone even vaguely involved with the organization after every loss, and somehow the Bears became the top team in the NFC North by the end of the season. The defense regained its fierce Chicago pedigree that terrorized a wide assortment of third-string quarterbacks, the offensive line became at least functional, and Devin Hester began Devin Hestering people enough to demonstrate the comical ineptitude of my football prognostication skills.

Pretty much my only skill in prediction
games like fantasy football is picking up
Kyle Orton as my main quarterback and
then taunting the unfortunate people in
my league with endless digital reams of
Orton-related propaganda as I lose game
after game because my entire team is built
around Kyle Orton


One of the most exciting things I've come across in the past several months the fact that a book exists entitled Is the Kaiser Insane? A study of the great outlaw published in Britain in 1915 by Arnold White.

Perhaps if Wilhelm wanted to avoid an unceasing
string of Kaiser-bashing from ramshackle sports
blogs in the next century, he would have made more
of an effort to adorn himself with slightly more
restraint than other major world leaders such as
Victor Von Doom

I have not read the book yet, but according to one contemporary review, "the author has gathered no little evidence regarding the Kaiser’s genius, egotism, insensitiveness, obsessions, and cunning, and seeks to prove that he is a dangerous megalomaniac." I trust this reviewer's opinion implicitly because it comes from a 1915 edition of the spectacularly titled British Journal of Inebriety (which suffered an unfortunate series of name changes and exists now as Addiction).

I am taking this opportunity to launch my own
publication called the Journal of British Inebriety
featuring articles such as "Oi, the fuck you lookin' at:
a history of lookin' at me, 1931-1946" and "1984: A
Year in Headbutts"

The publication of a book like that is not at all surprising, considering that the British war effort focused on liberating the world from the Kaiser's brand of Teutonic tyranny and not the various ism-based causes of war found in AP history textbooks; White's book certainly seemed to have filled a void for British readers who found comfort in taking to the trenches against a cackling madman hell-bent on world domination.


Despite my enjoyment of the unexpected success of the Bears' season, it still ended on a sour note with a loss to the hated Packers in the NFC Championship game. The Packers were a particularly irritating team last season since they demonstrated intolerable amounts of pluck after most of their team went down with injuries. By far the most annoying subplot before the game, however, was the endless comparisons between Packers' likable happy-go-lucky quarterback Aaron Rodgers grinning and flaunting his Butte College merchandise, and the Bears' churlish, sour-faced signal caller Jay Cutler.

The images of a carefree Rodgers contrasted with Jay Cutler, here shown
wearing an expression comparable to this photo taken from an Onion article
with the headline "Whaler Sandwich 'Not Sitting To Good' With Area Man"

The Bears-Packers rivalry naturally raised the question of how players are portrayed in the media and whether or not I should care if evidently the quarterback for my favorite team is consistently presented as kind of a jerk. And obviously, I don't. Even if Cutler is as unpleasant in the comical 1980s fingerless glove enthusiast bully way that reporters allege (which reached its zenith with this Rick Reilly attack column that opens with the unmistakably groan-inducing zinger "For a man from Santa Claus, Ind., Jay Cutler is one of the least jolly people you've ever met."-- if anything Jay Cutler does momentarily angers Rick Reilly, then he should be immediately canonized by someone with lax canonization standards), it has zero effect on how I enjoy the Bears. In fact, it would not irritate me at all if Cutler decided to give in to his reputation and toured schools knocking lunch trays from the hands of impressionable students, stood around on street corners only to laugh in the faces of elderly women attempting to cross, and started an offseason game show entitled "Don't You Know Who I Am?" inviting various Chicagoland service industry personnel to test their knowledge of whether they know who Jay Cutler is, do they know how much money Jay Cutler makes compared to them, and what are they going to do to stop Jay Cutler from just walking into this club right now with like eight or nine other dudes.

(I'd like to pause for a moment here to recognize the guy responsible for the Lyttle Lytton writing contest who singled out probably the platonic ideal of a Rick Reilly shame on you-style column opener:
"Some things are so small, so miniscule, so atomically insignificant, they can be seen only from three feet away using the Hubble telescope. The heart of Jean Musgjerd is one of these things.")

Cutler fell further under fire by getting injured in the championship game, leading to thousands of Chicagoans to evidently take online courses to become amateur videographic orthopedists allowing them to question the severity of his injury and his willingness to play through pain. Some NFL players even joined in the fray, which implied a certain unpopularity among his peers.

Cutler was also targeted by a wide variety of sports columnists

With more access to athletes than ever before, modern sports fans have to decide the extent to which how they perceive athletes off the field colors their enjoyment of sports. As a football fan, I enjoy watching gigantic people smash into each other in an organized fashion for my amusement; I'll support anyone who helps the team I like smash the other team more effectively regardless of churlishness, smarm, sass, or blandness. On the other hand, I would prefer that none of these people does anything so unreasonably heinous that supporting them becomes uncomfortable-- unless they commit a crime so spectacularly grandiose that it falls into the category of heist, or involves doing something like stealing the Great Pyramid of Cheops and then attempting to ransom it back to the Egyptian Government with a series of opaque riddles designed to foil international police agencies. Unless that plan involves a dastardly attempt to crush Europe with the spike covered fist of megalomania.

Friday, May 6, 2011

This Website is Surprisingly Funct

BYCTOM may have missed all of the exciting sports action, hurriedly-researched history, and of course gratuitous mustaches from the past several months. Nevertheless, sports certainly don't lend themselves to immediacy; it's far better to experience sporting events through the magic of hindsight after they are no longer so boringly relevant, so please join me for a new BYCTOM feature entitled:


Northwestern managed its most successful post-season run in the history of Wildcat basketball by making it within one overtime period of the vaunted NIT Final Four at Madison Square Garden (I'm going to exclude the Big Ten champion teams from the 1930s because, while I recognize that team's accomplishment, I also am pretty sure that basketball in the 1930s did not involve recognizable aspects of the game such as the 24 second clock, leaping, and passing-- ball movement at that time primarily revolved around encouraging a teammate to give up the ball through cogent argument and rhetorical flourishes).

Modern basketball players are more quick to dismiss claims for
the ball as spurious without strong enough evidence. Here Aaron
Gray is shocked by a teammate admitting to the irresponsible
use of hearsay and anecdote

The quarter-final game against Washington State was a heartening comeback led by Northwestern basketball legend Juice Thompson, with the last minute being one of the most astounding endings to a basketball game that I've ever witnessed, in which the following occurred:
1. Northwestern ties the game on a Washington State goal-tend
2. With no time remaining on the clock, Northwestern is called for a foul giving Washington State a rare opportunity for a walk-off free throw.
3. The Washington State player improbably bricks both free throws, sending the game into OT.

The last minute of this game therefore featured two of the three worst ways to possibly end a basketball game-- on a goaltend or foul with no time left (the third worst way is of course to have one or several players wade into the stands and begin pummeling spectators. I suppose the absolute worst way to end a game would be to have the basketball court annexed by a hostile nation that does not play basketball and immediately have the players replaced by a team handball squad or a triumphant troupe of net-ball all-stars, but that's unreasonably hypothetical).

An illustration of a problematic end to a basketball game also doubles as a tribute to
the world's most placid cameraman. Nenad Krsitc would probably have benefited
from Troy Hurtubise's Project Troy armor, a suit that came initially from his
never-ending quest to stave off rampaging bears, but, as his Wikipedia page
succinctly put it, "the process has developed ideas and technologies whose purposes
go beyond simple bear attack protection"

Unfortunately, the Wildcats faltered in overtime, disappointing Northwestern fans, but relieving the Evanston Police Department from having to plan for quelling an NIT victory riot that would grind the city to a halt with a deafening chorus of huzzahs and unrefined sherry guzzling.


With a decade of increasingly improbable bowl defeats and three consecutive losses in the NIT, Northwestern fans are getting hungrier for a title of some kind in football or basketball. The Athletic Department deserves recognition for bringing the historically woeful programs to the post-season, the very upper tier of mediocrity. Therefore, Northwestern fans should demand a fraudulent NIT title.

From now on, as far as I am concerned, Northwestern is the 2011 NIT Champion. No one remembers who actually won the NIT, outside of a few fans of the winning schools, most of whom keep their NIT Champion merchandise in a closet with their Worldcom stock certificates. Northwestern can hoist a fake banner to the rafters, print up t-shirts, digitally alter the homepage of the Daily Northwestern, make every reference to the team feature the phrase "2011 NIT Champions," and use connections at ESPN to burn tapes of the actual NIT championship game and replace it with a game featuring the Wildcats squaring off against a group of theater students told that they are staging a dramatization of the tragic story of the Washington Generals. The university can rent out Madison Square Garden for a morning and encourage New York-based alumni to masquerade as a raucous NIT crowd by moving them around the arena and exchanging false mustaches. Within a half-decade, who would you believe: the university that actually won the NIT or Northwestern, endorsed by the American Association to Resist Shams as the nation's third most hoax-averse university, although it should be pointed out that I've just made everything in this sentence up, and my AARS link goes to the American Association of Railroad Supervisors, which offers derailment investigation seminars and promises that "our members are able to get the inside track on the latest in the railroad industry."

Juice Thompson and Northwestern fans celebrate a completely
legitimate and fairly earned NIT title as far as you know


By taking up the mantle of a false NIT championship, Northwestern would fit into a proud tradition of pretenders to the throne. There are a variety of ways to claim legitimacy. All of them involve finding thousands of sword wielding accomplices. One particularly strong move is to wait for a child in line for power to die and then pretend to be him or her several years later. Another is to revive an older usurped bloodline that had been usurped by a new throne or some sort of popular government, like the swinging pendulum of the French Monarchy in the nineteenth century.

Fifty years of French politics, c. 1800-1851

One of my favorite pretender stories involves seventeenth century Russia, where a variety of False Dmitriys kept cropping up to menace the Russian throne during the Time of Troubles. The original Dmitriy was a son of Ivan the Terrible. Ivan's death led to the ascension of Feodor I, Dmitry's older brother, and figurehead for the machinations of professional intriguer Boris Gudunov. Gudunov had sent Dmitriy and his family into exile, as one does with politically inconvenient toddlers in 1584, but perhaps that was not enough--Dmitriy died in exile at the age of eight after being either assassinated or accidentally stabbing himself in the throat with a knife while suffering an epileptic seizure (what modern historians label the "Derrick Rose scenario"). As Gudunov learned, however, sometimes conveniently dead relatives can cause problems in entirely non-zombie related ways.

In 1600, a man claiming to be Dmitriy appeared, proclaiming that he had escaped from exile and returned to claim the throne. He gathered up a loose coalition of Poles, Jesuits, and miscellaneous enemies of Gudunov and began marching against Russian forces. Gudunov's forces successfully held off Dmitriy, but the death of Gudunov in 1605 allowed False Dmitriy to take the real throne. He lasted about ten months. Angered by rumors of his impending conversion to Catholicism, his enemies stormed the Kremlin, killed him, and fired his remains from a cannon.

False Dmitriy displays the same incredulous
expression that is on my face because I am not
right now forming a rock band called The False

That was not the end of the Dmitriys. In 1607, another False Dmitriy popped up and began gathering his forces in future Moscow suburb Tushino. Like his predecessor, False Dmitiry II gathered support from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Don Cossacks, and various assorted rebels and overthrow enthusiasts. His forces were defeated by Russians with the help of their Swedish allies. He continued to campaign around Russia, but in 1610, a drinking companion and resentful flogging victim shot him, chopped off his head, and left behind a legacy of obvious there can be only one Highlander references.

False Dmitriy III appeared in 1611. He garnered Cossack support and, in the great False Dmitry tradition, began an assault on Moscow. He managed to stay upright for another year before captured and executed by Moscow authorities. The False Dmitriy phenomenon was part of vast power struggle in the first decade of the seventeenth century among various Russian dyansties that played out like a game show awarding the crown to whoever could stab the most people. By 1613, this chaotic time stabilized with the rise of the Romanov dyansty, and the Russian populace appeared Dmitriy'd out.

Apparently some Russian commentators have poked
fun at Medvedev as a "false Dmitry," but, as
this Economist article points out, "over the past few
weeks he has taken to sporting a khaki rollneck and a
bomber jacket emblazoned with the words 'Russia’s
Commander-in-Chief', perhaps to remind people of his

As Wikipedia's List of Current Pretenders notes, there are a significant number of descendants to various monarchical lines floating around the world, ready to gather their forces and retain control of their families' empires. For example, Georg Friederich, the current head of the Dread Kaiser's House of Hohenzollern has chillingly threatened that "I do not see any reason for the political system in Germany to be changed," and "I have as head of the House of Hohenzollern no political role −- and neither do I aim at such."


Stay tuned for future BYCTOM updates on stuff that happened a few months ago clumsily compared to things that happened several hundred years ago as well as several more productive ideas about using falsehood and chicanery to claim things that no one could ever possibly want.