Friday, August 12, 2011

A Return to Wildcat Football in the Month of August

Rejoice, friends! Professional sports may have tainted themselves with tedious labor disputes, the Cubs may be helplessly flailing themselves into oblivion (as I'm writing this, twitter rumors are flying that Carlos Zambrano has cleared out his locker and announced a professional wrestling style non-retirement retirement); a Dickensian bleakness surrounds Chicago sports. But no longer! Wildcat football begins in earnest as players return to Camp Kenosha next week and expectations are high. Fitz has said he has expectations beyond making another "Pizza City Bowl," the excellent has NU ranked #35 in the nation, and Northwestern's marketing department has begun an actual Heisman campaign for senior quarterback Dan Persa.

Persa Strong billboards have appeared throughout the
Chicagoland area trumpeting "Chicago's Heisman Candidate"
although I'm disappointed that none of them feature him
uncomfortably wielding tools within some sort of purple Tron
landscape like this iconic 2005 poster. Clearly the most
menacing Wildcat is Tim McGarigle, who is unfairly given a
chain saw which is overkill on par with allowing Bill
Laimbeer to traverse basketball courts using a fully equipped
war chariot

I have to admit, while I am excited about seeing what Persa can do, I'm worried about the athletic department's potential for hubris in constructing their Ozymandius website. Let's hope that Persa does not become the Northwestern football equivalent of the Palace of Soviets, an enormous Stalinist edifice designed to terrify Moscow residents with a glowering cloud-guzzling Lenin statue.

A drawing of Boris Iofan's winning design for the Palace
of Soviets. The Palace was to take the place of the Cathedral
of Christ the Savior. The German invasion, however, halted
construction on the building and the site was turned into
an enormous public swimming pool


The return to Camp Kenosha also means the return of media days and interviews. Here is a particularly fascinating passage from Skip Myslenski's interview with Coach Fitz, mentioning Superback Drake Dunsmore's bold statement that he expects the 'Cats to win the division:
"We've got it on our goal board. Our goals are simple. After consistently preparing, we want to win the Legends, win the championship and win our bowl game. I don't think that's unique to just us, though. So now what are we going to do about it? I got no problem with you asking a question and him answering it directly. I'd rather have him do that than sugar coat it and give a B.S. answer and then he walks away and says, 'No, this is how I really feel.'"

I prefer that too, we tell him, attempting to make a joke.

"At the end of the day, guys, we're not starting over here," Fitzgerald goes on, totally ignoring the lame effort. "There's a lot of teams in our league starting over, trying to reinvent themselves. We're far away from there. We crossed that bridge a long time ago. There's a certain set of expectations and if you don't get that kind of stuff done, we should get a little ticked off about it. I think that's the way everybody feels around here."
First off, I'm concerned that Fitz has slipped into casually mentioning the LEGENDS DIVISION like it is a real thing. I'm greatly concerned about slipping into LEGENDS AND LEADERS complacency and firmly believe that every mention of the unbearable division names should come with a bracketed discalimer that LEGENDS AND LEADERS are dumb names for divisions and are greeted by Big Ten fans with Heston-like incredulity. At the same time, I admire Commissioner Delaney's Soviet response to seeing the nearly universal rejection of the names and deciding to force them upon us anyway.

My favorite part of this passage is in the middle where Myslenski gives play-by-play of Coach Fitz artlessly no-selling him on a feeble joke. In Myselnski's defense, I'm fairly sure that Fitz does not have a sense of humor beyond carving giant pumping fist runes into Iowa cornfields and then cackling as he circles them in one of Patrick Ryan's helicopters.

"The aristocrats," concludes Myslenski. Fitz is

Fitz's ability to bulldoze anything vaguely interesting with a barrage of inspiring coach-talk is nearly superhuman; if the United States were to fall victim to some sort of horrible catastrophe that involved a large wave of radioactive mutants overrunning our state capitals, he could coolly appear on television and assure us that not only are our young men are doing the best they can to bludgeon enough radioactive mutants with blunt objects to secure a cordon around, say, Lansing, Michigan until the National Guard arrives, they were ticked off at the mutants and were bludgeoning them with chips on their remaining shoulders.


Another college football season comes with another set of scandals of players on the take, clandestine coaches gleefully shattering NCAA regulations for sport, and revelations involving shadowy figures. The largest one caused the removal of longtime Ohio State coach Jim Tressell this spring. To be honest, I have not been following these stories particularly closely even if it means the weakening of a successful rival program. For one, doing so involves taking the NCAA and its byzantine code of regulations seriously while their enforcement and the bizarre half-measures designed by schools to artfully elude them are farcical.

A group of recruiters from an unnamed program evade the
watchful eye of NCAA regulators by meeting high school
underclassment on Berlin's Gelinicke Bridge

I also find these sorts of scandals tiresome because they're not particularly interesting. I refuse to read anything about NCAA scandals unless articles describing them include a close approximation to the following phrases:
  • a network of international operatives
  • as he ignited another NCAA rule book and flung it from a fifth-story window
  • was given a collection of colorful capes
  • he proclaimed from his self-constructed throne
  • but the briefcases were filled with useless confederate dollars

The Cubs, meanwhile, stood pat at the deadline except trading Kosuke Fukudome to the Indians for a pair of lowly regarded prospects. I was crushed by the trade because Fukudome is one of my favorite Cub players-- he was the only Cub with an on-base percentage over .370 (only two Cubs currently sport OBPs over .350: Reed Johnson and Carlos Zambrano. In fact, using the weighted on-base average metric, Johnson and Zambrano are the Cubs' most effective bats), but more importantly, I really enjoyed the fact that his name was Fukudome.

In Wrigleyville did Jim Hendry
A stately Fuck You Dome decree


Football is here! As we speak, the Bears are prepared to attempt to deploy an offense featuring the battered remains of Roy Williams, an offensive line designed for one purpose: murder, and the fearsome spectre of Corey Wootton in the exciting NFL preseason. The 'Cats, meanwhile, hope to improve on last year's withering end to the season en route to a well-deserved bowl victory in Pizza City, Potato Town, the Duchy of Pre-Owned Tires, or even Pasadena in what Delaney is trying to call the Heroic Victory of the Conference Cadres Bowl.

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