Friday, October 28, 2011

Hoosier Weekend

Northwestern again looked good in the first half before falling apart in the second against Penn State. On the other hand, they did so while joining the trend of using Future Uniforms meant to invoke the gradual transformation of college football into an underground arena blood sport where defensive backs are allowed to use implements such as pruning shears and laser cannons to slow down offenses.

Northwestern's special alternate
uniforms irritate Wildcat football

The Northwestern defense once again had holes. Penn State QB Matt McGloin wasted no time bombing it to the endzone, and Silas Redd carved up the Wildcats for 164 yards, averaging 9.1 yards per carry while sporting a name befitting a Dickensian villain. The Northwestern offense, prolific in the first half, failed to score a point in the second half. Dan Persa left the game with a turf toe injury, making him questionable for the Indiana game. Joe Paterno won his 408th game and tied the record for most wins for a Division I coach and continuing his undefeated streak against Pat Fitzgerald. The Wildcats lost their fifth game in a row and now need to all but win out to make it to the post-season. A cyclone has ripped Ryan Field from the ground and deposited it in the lake. Pat Fitzgerald has been spirited away by pirates and is being held ransom for chests of doubloons and spices from the Orient. A Big Ten shaman has placed a curse on the team rendering them unable to wear cleats for the rest of the season. The indoor practice facility has become sentient and turned evil, held at bay only by a mob of Evanston citizens with torches. It has been a rough week for Northwestern football.

Even Air Willie has been mysteriously swapped out for Evil Air


For the Wildcats to make it to a bowl, they'll have to use all of the cunning, strategy, and daring British eccentricity of Geoffrey Spicer-Simson to pull off the seemingly impossible. Spicer-Simson led one of the strangest naval campaigns in modern history during the First World War when he and his men transported two motor boats named the Mimi and Toutou overland from Cape Town to engage with German gunboats in a battle for supremacy over Lake Tanganyika. Spicer-Simson's adventures are chronicled in Giles Foden's Mimi and Toutou's Big Adventure: The Bizarre Battle of Lake Taganyika, which details how Spicer-Simson led the expedition, successfully destroyed two German vessels, and inspired the C.S. Forrester novel and John Huston movie The African Queen.

Spicer-Simson was an unlikely candidate to lead the expedition. He did not exactly fit the model of an early twentieth century naval officer. His body was covered in an extensive array of butterfly and snake tattoos and, once deployed on his African mission, he eschewed the tyranny of pants in favor of more breathable khaki skirts. Still, if he had he been the second coming of Nelson, the Admiralty would have probably forgiven his unbecoming epidermal decorations. His naval record, however, revealed a dangerous propensity for incompetence in all manners of sea-borne combat. As Foden relates, Spicer-Simson had already been twice court-martialled: once for smashing his destroyer into a liberty boat bringing sailors ashore for leave; another time he drove his boat onto a beach. Spicer-Simson also nearly sank a British submarine during a periscope hunting exercise and during the war he abandoned his coastal flotilla for an evening reverie with his wife only to watch from a hotel window as German torpedoes destroyed one of his ships. By the time the Admiralty planned to launch an expedition, they seemed wary of allowing Spicer-Simson to command a fleet of rubber animals patrolling a bathtub.

Spicer-Simson shown in naval uniform and as a tin soldier
in his more familiar khaki skirt get-up

The British government had learned of the German presence from a big game hunter named John Lee who spotted the Kaiser's legions aboard a fearsome gunboat called the Hedwig von Wissen while stalking an elephant. First Sea Lord Henry Jackson ordered an attack on the German ships at Lake Taganyika, declaring with the cartoonish hubris of a nineteenth-century British naval officer that "it is both the duty and the tradition of the Royal Navy to engage the enemy wherever there is water to float a ship." At the same time, Lake Tanganyika was hardly a priority for the war, and the Navy had a difficult time finding someone to lead the expedition. Eventually they settled on Spicer-Simson who, according to Foden, was either the last man left or simply in the right place at the right time, sitting at his desk where the Navy hoped he could inflict minimal damage upon their war effort.

Foden wonderfully describes Spicer-Simson's merry band of outcast adventurers that included a Chief Engineer who had been a Grand-Prix-winning race car driver who with limited knowledge of engines, a medical officer described by Foden as having "an odd way with sideburns," an adventurer-reporter who had already been declared dead once, and two enormous kilt-wearing Scotsmen who joined the expedition directly from the tavern. Of course my favorite of the officers was C.T. Tyrer, who affected a monocle, consumed Worcestershire sauce as a beverage, and referred to everyone as "Dear Boy." The plan was to arrive in Cape Town and transport the two eight-ton boats overland through the use of rails, oxcarts, and the occasional pulling power of the beefy Scotsman 10,000 miles to the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika.

The map at left shows the distance from Port Elizabeth to where the boats eventually
launched. The transport of the boats went mainly by locomotive, although used a variety
of means of transportation in a military version of Fitzcarraldo

The British operation's absurdity meant it attracted ample attention. As Foden relates by using both British and German sources, the Germans knew of the expedition well before Spicer-Simson reached the lake. Nevertheless, the expedition proved remarkably successful. The expedition captured a German vessel and added it to their flotilla (renaming it from the Kingani to the more terrifying Fifi). They sunk the Hedwig and captured her crew. Spicer-Simson considered his mission completed. The Allied Forces, however, did not yet rule Lake Tanganyika's waves. Another German ship, the massive 1200 ton converted ferry Graf von Götzen, still patrolled its waters. Spicer-Simson was reluctant to engage the larger ship with its imposing 105 mm gun. He sought to counter by adding a larger vessel to his fleet. The naval battle, however, never came to fruition. While Spicer-Simson schemed, British and Belgian forces successfully attacked German positions by land. When ordered to support an attack on a German harbor, he instead ordered his fleet to flee in fear of the fort's guns. British forces captured the fort without him. Spicer-Simson returned to meet with the victorious British army, who, as Foden relates, revealed that he had fled from fake wooden artillery, mocked his cowardice, and, most painfully, cat-called him for his skirt-wearing proclivities. It was a low moment.

As for the Graf von Götzen, Belgian airplanes had damaged it and the German commander had it scuttled. Investigations later showed that the German forces had removed the ship's guns and it too sported wooden decoys. Defenseless, the Mimi and Toutou could have easily sunk it.

Spicer-Simson was rewarded with medals from both Britain and Belgium, but the Navy had apparently seen enough of him. As Foden relates, he was never given command of a ship again and immediately returned to his desk job.

Mimi and Toutou's Big Adventure does not stop there, though. Foden appends the book with an entertaining depiction of the making of The African Queen, where apparently Huston descended into directorial madness and earned the nickname "The Monster." The crew suffered tropical illnesses and star Humphrey Bogart self-medicated with an abundant supply of scotch. Foden closes the book with his own journey on the Lake on the Liemba, a cargo ship reassembled from the Graf von Götzen itself.

This still from The African Queen perhaps suggests why Hepburn
later wrote a book called The Making of the African Queen: Or How
I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My


The Wildcats travel overland to Bloomington this weekend to take on another Big Ten cellar dweller in Indiana. This should be a favorable match-up for the 'Cats, but these two teams have a recent history of close games, and Indiana's first-year coach Kevin Wilson must also see this as a winnable conference game for his squad. Wilson, of course, had been instrumental as Northwestern's offensive coordinator, unleashing of the spread offense in the first years of Randy Walker's tenure. Logic says to expect a shoot-out against a similar offense-first opponent, although given how things usually turn out when I predict them, the game will almost certainly end as a 4-2 slugfest with all scoring achieved via safeties and blocked extra point returns.

A loss here effectively ends Northwestern's season, but a victory sets up the possibility of going 6-6 by beating Rice and Minnesota, miraculously upsetting one of Michigan State or Nebraska, and possibly sneaking into a bowl game by stealthily huddling under canoes. Although this season has been maddening through the squandering of many leads, Wildcat fans can at least enjoy watching younger players such as Colter, Siemian, and Smith begin to solidify the offense of the future. A future where Northwestern uniforms include gray helmets and utility belts, and the NCAA is controlled by an even more blatantly corporate cabal of bloodsport-peddlers hoping to harness our amusement for their nefarious double-dealing.

Enjoy your Inevitable Future NCAA Football Dystopia

Thursday, October 20, 2011


The Wildcats will head home from Saturday's loss against Iowa to face Penn State under the lights. Though Northwestern mounted a comeback from 17 down to tie the game and menace Iowa fans with the specter of another game slipping through their fingers in the manner of a suave international jewel thief continually foiling a dogged Interpol agent, the 'Cats ran out of mojo in the fourth quarter. Hawkeye fans hope that a win against Fitzgerald will finally break the Wildcats' spell over their snake-bitten program, but I suspect that Northwestern lost the game to lure them into a false sense of security. Next year, Iowa fans will not only face a Northwestern team hell-bent on vengeance, but a rival patriotic card display promoting Soviet industry by filling the stands with gigantic pictures of Lenin and tractor factories located in the former Tajik SSR.

Jubilant Hawkeye fans storm Iowa City to celebrate finally
defeating the indomitable Wildcats

Iowa now prepares for a cross-divisional showdown with Indiana as they attempt to stay in the lead for the division. The loss, meanwhile, marks the fourth consecutive defeat for the Wildcats as they cling precariously to the cliff of bowl eligibility while the prospect of contending for a divisional crown has been tied to the railroad tracks and no doubt gruesomely eviscerated by a passing locomotive.


Watching the World Series is bittersweet since its very existence evinces the Cubs' masterful futility. This year, instead of retreating to their traditional October irrelevance, the Cubs are busy completing a complicated Morris Dance with the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres in an attempt to sign Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and, perhaps tomorrow, exhume the corpse of Branch Rickey in order to bring the Cubs a front office that uses modern baseball analysis instead of relying on some sort of arcane wizardry that hopes to enable the likes of Aaron Miles to successfully play Major League baseball.

Famed Elizabethan clown Will Kempe claimed to have Morris
danced from London to Norwitch over nine agonizingly
annoying days

As the drama unfolds, the only pleasure left for the bitter husks of Cub fans is to root against the St. Louis Cardinals and the machinations of Tony La Russa. La Russa, who fancies himself the type of manager who plays chess while the others play checkers, enjoys doing things like using back-up catcher Gerald Laird as a pinch-runner and playing the matchups to the extent where I'm fairly sure he would alternate pitchers every pitch if it was allowed by the rules. Unfortunately, watching the World Series also means being subjected to Fox coverage, bringing with it the dynamic duo of Tim McCarver and Joe Buck who combine an emotionless blasé delivery with inane gibberish. By the end of the game, it is no longer possible to distinguish McCarver's words from this Italian fake English go-go song. Fox has yet to unveil its baseball robot yet, but has treated fans to a special infrared camera that achieves the same effect achieved by Rowdy Roddy Piper when he put on the They Live glasses.

The Fox infrared camera in action. After the game, Buck and
McCarver pummeled each other in a parking lot for seven solid

Even when it comes to the facile world of sports fandom, there's nothing noble about watching a game specifically hoping for a rival team to fail. It feels somewhat seedy, not unlike going to a bullfight secretly hoping to see a goring, rooting for the Apes to neutralize Charlton Heston, or watching a demolition derby wishing for the cars to escape with nary a scratch. At the same time, sports provides a rare arena to guiltlessly wish misery upon a group of people with whom I have no other quarrel other than the color of their jersey and I hope that the good people of St. Louis are forced to endure an offseason reliving a horrible World Series moment such as losing a game because of an unnecessary headfirst slide by Nick Punto whose lack of a basic grasp of the laws of physics ends up dooming the Cardinals.


Just as Kirk Ferentz finally exorcised his Northwestern demons, Pat Fitzgerald will attempt to finally beat Penn State. Fitz is 0-3 against the Nittany Lions, including last year's stunning loss where the Wildcats blew a 21-0 lead, which served as a helpful preview of every loss this season. Northwestern has only beaten Penn State three times since they began playing them in 1993. At least that is one more than Penn State's early twentieth century rivals Washington and Jefferson College, who managed only two victories against Penn State from 1894-1917. It should be noted, however, that the Jaymen as they were then known (now their nickname is the vastly more satisfying Presidents although it is not clear whether it refers specifically to Washington and Jefferson or extends to all presidents, even crappy ones such as Chester A. Arthur) tied them twice, including an 1899 contest ended by the referee for fighting. Considering that football in 1899 was largely indistinguishable from the pleasant meeting of a pair of angry mobs, I'm assuming that the game descended into manly displays of pugilism and cudgelmanship.

Of course, no football game could roil nineteenth century American pugilists more than the works of Shakespeare. In the 1840s, a feud between actors Edwin Forrest and William Charles Macready took a violent turn as partisans for each actor pummeled each other in the streets of Manhattan. Forrest had taken to following Macready's American tour, taking the same roles as a way to prove himself the superior soliloquizer. As wikipedia suggests, their rivalry became a proxy battle for tensions between the United States and Britain; working class Americans favored the American Forrest as their own, while Anglophile upper classes preferred Britain's Macready. Feelings ran so strong that even virulently anti-Irish nativists joined with their emerald brethren in the time honored nineteenth century American tradition of hating British people.

Macready endured taunts, sheep carcases, and cries of "Down with the codfish aristocracy." In May 1849, Macready endured heckling at a performance at the Astor Opera House filled with angry pro-Forrest factions stoked by fliers distributed by Tammany Hall Boss Isaiah Rynders invoking patriotic rhetoric to quell this Shakespeare insurgency. The hostile crowd, who had earlier pelted Macready with offal, including what the wikipedia page describes as "bottles of stinking liquid," boiled over. The police surrounded the opera house as the mob attacked, and the state militia fired into the crowd.

The Astor Place Riot, May 7, 1849. It is odd for modern readers
that a performance of Shakespeare could trigger such violent
partisan fighting since Shakespeare today is associated with
the turtleneck and half-glasses set who are unwilling to
disagree with their fists and sword-canes. Instead, riots today
can stem from far more reasonable origins such as the outcome
of sporting events

The Astor Place riot was one of many violent disturbances in New York in the 1840s and 50s. In 1857, another major riot broke out among various gangs with names such as the Bowery Boys, the Dead Rabbits, and the Roach Guards in what has been called the Dead Rabbits Riot. On July 4, the Irish Dead Rabbits and the nativist Bowery Boys became enmeshed in a series of street fights that began when Dead Rabbits broke into a Bowery hangout, destroyed it, and drained it of its precious booze stocks. This act escalated into a street battle involving hundreds of gang members and associated looting enthusiasts. The fight deleteriously affected Rynders's career when his attempt to reason with the gangs to stop fighting was met with a riposte of stones throne at his top-hatted person.

Despite his stoning and removal from machine power, Rynders remained a
factor in American politics as shown in this 1859 cartoon. According to
this Harper's Weekly article by Robert C. Kennedy, the cartoon is satirizing
US Secretary of State Lewis Cass for his volte-face on the issue of forcible
German conscription of naturalized German American citizens visiting
Germany. On the left, Cass derisively blows his nose as a legion of
mustachioed Prussians drag a German American away to do their
Hohenzollern dirty work. On the right, Cass warmly protects a German
man while Rynders waves the flag in celebration of the government's
humane policies brought about by a sincere concern for capturing the
votes of German American citizens

The Dead Rabbits refused to accept responsibility for the riot and instead attempted to blame their rivals, the Roach Guard, clearly betting on the public siding with the gang that sounded slightly less likely to serve as the main antagonists for a cheap Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knockoff. They issued this statement to the New York Times:
We are requested by the Dead Rabbits to state that the Dead Rabbit club members are not thieves, that they did not participate in the riot with the Bowery Boys, and that the fight on Mulberry street was between the Roach Guards of Mulberry street and the Atlantic Guards of the Bowery. The Dead Rabbits are sensitive on points of Honor, we are assured, and wouldn't allow a thief to live on their beat, much less be a member of their club.

The Wildcats will be facing another tall task in handling the vicious Penn State defense. Their hope is that the inconsistent Nittany Lion passing attack will stall against the heretofore porous Wildcat pass defense and that Persa, Colter, Ebert, and the rest of the Wildcat Gang can manage to outscore them. A win in front of a hopefully rabid homecoming crowd could hopefully give Northwestern enough momentum to salvage the season, terrorize the rest of its Big Ten opponents and Rice, and send Pat Fitzgerald Morris dancing towards Bloomington while belting out a soliloquy about his young men in a way precisely calculated to rally the Wildcat faithful and disparage the codfish aristocracy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Iowa Week

The Wildcats followed up the crushing hat debacle with another defeat against an irritatingly resurgent Michigan team last week. I came in expecting an insane high-scoring quarterback shootout, and the first quarter did not disappoint as both teams flew up and down the field. Fitz even successfully used the passing quarterback/running quarterback alternation strategy with Persa and Colter, hoping to confuse the Michigan defense by getting them think that they would obviously pass with a hobbled Persa and run with the dynamic Colter, but maybe they'll switch things up and run with Persa but maybe they already thought about that so they'll really pass with Persa, but no, that seems to obvious, what if they run with Persa but then he flips it back to Colter who then laterals to Former High School Quarterback Jeremy Ebert who bombs it to a wide open Rashad Lawrence streaking down the sideline.

Mick McCall's game plan is based on a solid foundation of

In the second quarter, though, the offenses tapered off. The Michigan offense came prepared for a shootout in the second half, but Northwestern could not score at all, and now the Wildcats stand at an alarming 2-3 at the precipice of missing a bowl game. So let us turn our attention away from this worrying development in Northwestern football to make fun of hilariously corrupt colonial officials.


British India in the early nineteenth century was sandwiched in between a trade monopoly ruling through the accepted traditions of the regions and an aggressive expansionist global power. The East India Company technically administered British India, but the British government controlled the region's political and strategic affairs. The small British bureaucracy maintained influence indirectly through alliances with the myriad Princely States under British protection. The British government sent Residents to their courts, political agents who kept an eye out for treacherous anti-British alliances, advised the rulers, and generally maintained British interests. Throughout the eighteenth century, these Residents often existed within a familiar context of conquest and occasionally adopted Mughal customs (this phenomenon is wonderfully chronicled in William Dalrymple's White Mughals).

By the early nineteenth century, a reforming tide had arrived. British officials in India began promoting English-language education, civil service reforms, and a joyless Victorian moralism. Civil service reform began in earnest with the appointment of William Bentinck, a utilitarian under the influence of a pre-taxidermied Jeremy Bentham who sought to modernize the Indian government. The case of the British Resident at Delhi, Sir James Edward Colebrooke, gives a fascinating look at the intersection of the British and Indian worlds meeting at the crossroads of universal pocket-lining corruption.

Governor-General Bentinck (l) was influenced by UK Stare Champion
James Mill (center) and Jeremy Bentham, shown here in stuffed form
worshiped by an evil utilitarian cult apparently appeasing his logical
wrath by bringing him a fresh head

The accusations against Colebrooke can be found in this October 1932 edition of Asiatic Journal. Colbrooke, by then an aged official in the prime of his venality, stood accused of dozens of incidents of corruption mainly concerned with giving and receiving gifts from various leaders of Princely states, a practice which had been banned in 1828 as part of a reform initiative. In one sense, Colebrooke's crime had been not adjusting to the new bureaucratic regime and conducting affairs through a more Mughal mode. On the other hand, Colebrooke had been caught in the great tradition of nakedly buying and selling influence for a variety of nineteenth century bounty that left him condemned by nineteenth century language vituperative enough to enable the construction of the world's highest horse. Here is an arbitrary sample of charges against Colebrooke:
  • Accepting nuzzurs (a ceremonial offer of money and gifts prohibited by the 1828 law) from "every native above the lowest rank who has been introduced to him, with hardly any exception"
  • Embezzling public property
  • Allowing Lady Colbrooke to receive at her durbar the agents of the independent states and to maintain "an intimate and corrupt understanding with many of them"
  • Not paying his manservant but allowing him to accumulate wealth through "corrupt and criminal practices"
  • Improperly receiving an elephant
  • Illicit trading of shawls
  • Selling furniture, carriages, and other articles of property to "natives of considerable rank...some of those transactions being of a highly disgraceful and fraudulent description"
  • Receiving tantalizing vague "trays of stuffs"
The report concludes that Colbrooke was guilty of "gross misrepresentations," deprecated his defense as "discreditable," and was summarily removed from office. The case was prosecuted by Charles Trevelyan, a young official in India who later went on to a famous career in the British Civil Service. Bentinck praised him for doing his job "ably, honourably, and manfully" despite his "most painful and invidious task." Bentinck also praised the judges and used the case to show his civil service reform at work, hopefully in the dulcet plummy tones of this fictional colonial official (I know I keep linking to this clip, but I have yet to point out how much I love the way that actor chews up the phrase "from smuggling to swindling to receiving stolen goods to baldfaced blackmail." So sue me in the disciplinary courts of the Raj).

Charles Trevelyan contemplates
throwing the book at Colbrooke, but
worries that Colbrooke will sell it to
Nawab Shumsooddeen Khan for an
egregiously inappropriate number of
trays of stuffs


Iowa and Northwestern fans have developed a deep mutual antipathy this century that has been deepened by their proclivity to dash each others' Big Ten title hopes. Northwestern fans certainly remember the 2000 game at Kinnick where a two-win Hawkeye squad demolished the Wildcats' Rose Bowl hopes before gleefully storming the field, a loss that set in motion through mysterious machinations (that I suspect involved an illicit exchange of scarves involving Michigan boosters and bowl representatives) a berth in the far less prestigious Alamo Bowl. At least the loss in that bowl game has set the scene for the vicious LEGENDS DIVISION showdown in Lincoln where the Wildcats will face a hostile crowd of Nebraska fans suddenly remembering that they play Northwestern each year. In recent years Northwestern has paid the 2000 loss back with interest, defeating Iowa three years in a row, and five of the last six, occasionally ending their BCS ambitions.

Pat Fitzgerald loads his equipment from the last Iowa-
Northwestern game

This year the stakes are lower. Both the Wildcats and Hawkeyes bring sputtering squads to their clash at Kinnick. The disappointing record of both teams, however, may make this game even more important. Northwestern desperately needs a win to get back on course to make the illustrious Pizza City Bowl, and finally beating Northwestern may give the Hawkeyes the boost they need to become contenders in the mild division (which division? Ah, yes the LEGENDS DIVISION, thanks for reminding me that that's a thing). A clash of struggling teams may produce a swelling of enthusiasm that parallels the proclivity of these two fanbases for arguing with each other on the Internet.

The civil and gentlemanly discourse regarding a difference of
opinion on the subject of the superiority of a college football

This game seems like it may also be a shootout, with Iowa's defense less staunch than it has traditionally been and with Northwestern's defense struggling against the unsporting chicanery of the forward pass. Given Northwestern's struggles against Illinois and Michigan, the combination of Vandenburg and McNutt is as terrifying, and Iowa fans have nightmares of Dan Persa, the latest in what seems to be an endless parade of mobile, accurate Northwestern quarterbacks.


The excitement of another Iowa-Northwestern game raises the question of why these new rivals cannot play for some sort of awful trophy now that they play every year (at least until the next round of conference expansions leads to a a massive 119-team conference called the Uncontemplatably Gargantuan Ten and Notre Dame). Either that, or the teams should play for lucrative control of all four Quad Cities or at the least the ability for each university to station a Resident there to bleed the region dry of its most valuable commodity--trays of stuffs.

Friday, October 7, 2011

No Hat, No Problem

The Wildcats will be taking on Michigan under the lights at Ryan Field on Saturday with the goal of getting past last week's wrenching loss to the Illini in a contest of grave hat-related consequences.

The Northwestern football program is as bareheaded as this
mildly terrifying Lincoln model I found without context on the
internet, although thanks to BYCTOM it will now come up in
google image searches for "creepy Lincoln murder stare"

Though the Wildcats managed to bottle the fearsome Illinois rushing attack that treated the defensive line like a well-trodden welcome mat in Wrigley Field, they had no answer for vowel enthusiast Nathan Scheelhaase and his wartime consigliere AJ Jenkins who lit up the Northwestern secondary for 268 miserable yards.

It is pointless to linger on unpleasantness of watching a team you root for give up a big comeback, especially for Northwestern teams that have developed a propensity for squandering leads with the relish of a spendthrift eighteenth century aristocrat pumped full of brandy, snuff, and an inbred overconfidence in his own abilities to outsmart the Continent's most determined baccarat hustlers. That, I suppose, is the danger in doing something as foolhardy as allowing oneself to become emotionally attached to the fortunes of sports teams whose members occasionally have the impudence to do something as insensitive as lose, and lose when the stakes are unfathomably high-- in this case, the retention of a crappy hat trophy and apparently some sort of vague seigniorial rights over Chicagoland.

Zook's Illini make an advance in the never-ending battle to
determine who gets to be Chicago's Big Ten team

In two consecutive games the Wildcats have taken late leads only to give the opponents just enough time to come back [correction: as pointed out in the comments by jhodges, Northwestern never actually blew a lead at Army, but the Wildcats did tie the game on a quick drive that allowed Army to methodically move down the field for the go-ahead score, which was also crummy] There are many unpleasant ways for a team to lose a football game: getting completely run over from start to finish, losing on a diabolical trick play or dubious penalty, realizing that they were secretly working for the opposing team the entire time and thus scoring against themselves through some confounding act of treachery. But scoring too soon knowing that the Sword of Damocles is hanging over the defense in the form of AJ Jenkins scampering through the secondary with nary a care in the world is a not particularly enjoyable way to spend several minutes on a Saturday afternoon.

Nevertheless, fans should take heart knowing that the season is still young and there is still ample opportunity for this team to shower spectators with the glory of associating with them or give fans the opportunity to grow as human beings through experiencing pain, heartbreak, and agony with our purple-clad friends as we all learn that the only game that matters is the game of life



One heartening thing to take from the Illinois game was the return and strong play of Dan Persa, who helped the 'Cats seemingly take over the game with a career-high four touchdown passes. Unfortunately, he left the game, leaving Kain Colter to lead the last drive, but all indications he will play against Michigan this week. Like most Northwestern fans, I've been excited about this game for awhile. The Illini game showed that Persa is still fun to watch as he deftly escapes from the enormous men repeatedly attempting to drive him into the ground. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is the most exciting player in college football. And given both teams' recent struggles on defense (Michigan's shutout of Minnesota notwithstanding), this could be a game with enough scoring to roil great Big Ten coaches of old disgruntled with the chicanery of the forward pass enough to possess the body of Jim Delany and run rampant through the Central Street business district.

I have it on good authority that Jim Delany's fist names are
Legend and Leader

The Wildcats will be starting a streak of three consecutive night games this Saturday. They'll be traveling to the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium next week and then hosting Penn State. With a traditional ubiquitous Big Ten hatred of Michigan football, the recent enmity towards Iowa, and a desire to avenge last year's collapse against Penn State, there is the hope of gaining some momentum towards another bowl game.


No Northwestern win would be as daring as a manuscript robbery at Mount Saint-Odile in Alsace. This article, sent to me by reader and self-described Central Asian enthusiast Asher, involves a man who would stop at nothing to liberate the monastery of valuable rare books. The culprit, one Stanislas Gosse, found a map of the monastery in a public archive that revealed that all he needed to do to gain access to the library was to climb the monastery's steep walls, ascend a scary monk staircase, and then trigger a secret door hidden in a cupboard. It is not certain whether or not the map has revealed any additional hidden passages to a deadly conservatory.

Mont Saint-Odile had generally been resistant to
thievery because of the whole precipice of a sheer
cliff thing. In keeping with the clumsy Clue
reference in the last paragraph, the part of the
game that always left me mystified was
determining the weapon that killed Mr. Boddy.
I'm relatively confident that even the bumbling
Inspector Gregson would be capable of assessing
whether someone was shot, stabbed, hanged, or
bludgeoned to death without extensive police scrutiny

Between 2000 to 2002, Gosse allegedly made off with more than 1,100 volumes in this madcap monk mischief. He was caught by cameras planted in the library as he picked through volumes by candle-light, showing an impressive dedication to medieval burgling tactics. Fortunately, the courts resisted the urge to throw the book at him, although I should almost certainly be detained for what just happened in this sentence. Gosse was fined 17,000 Euros, but instead of prison he was sentenced to helping the monks restore their books. He was charged with burglary by ruse and escalade, although that charge seems wasted in this instance and should only be leveled against crimes involving seduction, absconsion, and escape from the Bridge of Sighs.


The Bears will also play in a high profile night game as they travel to Detroit for a rare Monday Night Football appearance in the Motor City. They are coming off a less than convincing win over the Carolina Panthers, who deserve no sympathy after cutting Tyrell Sutton. Detroit's vaunted defensive line may get a boost from rookie sea monster Nick Fairley, who may make his debut against the Bears' injury-riddled and competence-averse offensive line. Given that the Bears stand a far greater chance of seeing Jay Cutler turned into a pinkish smear on the Ford Field turf than actually winning the game, I suggest that the Bears turn to a surrogate quarterback willing to Sydney Carton himself into a number six jersey while Cutler remains safely esconsed across the lake and free from the marauding likes of Suh, Fairley, and Vanden Bosch. Perhaps they can contact that Jay Cutler body builder guy who always unexpectedly turns up mid-flex in an otherwise innocent google image search for the Bears quarterback used to mock his peerless sideline dourness.

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have
ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than
I have ever known. Flex.


Usually after four games, you have a pretty decent idea of what a team is like. Thanks to a Persa-less non-conference schedule that included a win over an increasingly unimpressive Boston College team, an FCS foe, a mind-boggling loss to Army, and the Illinois debacle, I admit I have absolutely no idea what is in store for the Wildcats this season other than it should be interesting. Nevertheless, I hope that the game against a ranked Michigan team is as exciting as billed. If the game is boring or disastrous, I'd like to encourage Wildcat fans to liberate university papers from the university's most inaccessible library in order to assuage another week of football grief.