Thursday, November 3, 2011


A victory for Northwestern at last. The Wildcats recorded their first win since trouncing Eastern Illinois and snapped a five-game losing streak by beating Indiana and then stepping on them to get inches above the Big Ten cellar. It was a remarkable offensive performance against Indiana's matador defense as the Wildcats put up 59 points. Along the way, Drake Dunsmore set a Northwestern record with four touchdown catches, setting off a hailstorm of horrible commentator puns such as "Drake Duns-score," "Drake Dunsfour," and others too ghastly to dignify with a mention in this august online publication. As a professional supplier of ape-related puns to car dealerships using giant inflatable monkey marketing, I urge Big Ten Network television crews to holster their puns and leave it to the pros.

"Our prices are bananas," "This A.P.R. will
make you go A.P.E.," and "Let this orangutan
sell you a tan Durango," are the ones I'm
giving out for free

No one doubts that Northwestern can put points on the board. The Wildcat offense confused Indiana with a variety of looks, as the versatile Kain Colter lined up at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, superback, and right tackle as well as kicked an extra point, coordinated the defense, took a turn inside the Willie costume, liaised with the media, organized the Athletic Department budget, and participated in a psych 110 experiment during media timeouts.

Fitz and Mick McCall sent Colter on a mission to represent
Northwestern football at the European Sovereign Debt Crisis
summit after handing the offense to Trevor Siemian and the

Northwestern's defense, however, still gave up 38 points to the Hoosiers and had difficulty tackling their dynamic freshman quarterback Tre Roberson. While Northwestern's defense allowed the offense to outscore Indiana, they will have a tougher task as they travel to Lincoln to begin their rivalry against divisional foes Nebraska.


Northwestern will be looking to try to save their season against the newcomers who mark the first step in Big Ten expansion towards 64 teams. As most Wildcat fans know, the last meeting with Nebraska ended in an Alamo Bowl routing appropriate for its location near the actual Alamo. The defeat has been seared into the minds of Wildcat fans thirsting for vengeance and Nebraska fans, some of whom can recall playing in something called the "Alamo Bowl" in the year 2000.

This year, unfortunately, the possibilities of revenge seem slim for the Wildcats. They face a 7-1 Husker squad ranked #10 in the BCS standings that has only lost to a seemingly unstoppable Wisconsin team that had not yet exposed its vulnerability to the hucking the ball 50 yards into the endzone with no time remaining play. Northwestern, on the other hand, limps into this game quite literally, with Dan Persa suffering from a painful turf toe injury. The Wildcats also must win in Lincoln's creatively-named Memorial Stadium against 80,000 screaming Husker fanatics hoping to intimidate the Northwestern offense with noise and their horrifying mascot who lurks in the shadows with his frozen grin belaying a confidence in all manners of sinister uses for corn farming implements.

Nebraska's mascot was created as a composite of popular
children's nightmares

How will the game shake out? On the one hand, the Huskers don't pass the ball particularly effectively, which helps cover up some defensive struggles against the long ball. On the other hand, Northwestern's run defense has been closer to Maginot than Thermopylae, and they will be facing a far stouter defense than Indiana's feeble unit. No one but Pat Fitzgerald seems to think the Wildcats have a chance. But Northwestern football thrives as the underdog with no expectations, and Nebraska may be looking past the 'Cats to a meeting with potential inaugural Big Ten Championship opponents Penn State the next week. Anything can happen in the Big Ten, and Northwestern has yet to notch their annual signature upset by failing to beat a surprisingly weak Iowa team. Hopefully, the Wildcats can catch an overconfident Nebraska team unaware as they prepare mainly by choreographing elaborate touchdown celebrations designed to flout the spirit but not the letter of stringent NCAA restrictions to prevent football players from enjoying themselves.


Nebraska joins the Big Ten as a vital corn-producing region with a team nickname paying homage to their connection to the crop. The American mastery of maize continued to fascinate corn's greatest 20th century enthusiast, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. In the 1955, Khrushchev implemented a wide-ranging program to jump-start corn production in the Soviet Union. His enthusiasm grew after visiting the United States and, in particular, the vast Iowa cornfields of Roswell Garst, who then sold the USSR thousands of tons of seed to help rectify the Soviet Union's wretched state of cornlessness.

Comrades! We will crush the imperialist Redenbacher

There's a wonderful report on Khruschev's corn program in Central European University's OSA records of intelligence reports filed for Radio Free Europe about the goings-on behind the Iron Curtain. According to a 1958 report entitled "Khrushchev and Corn," the author has noted that Khrushchev had championed the crop since 1939. The document points out that "Almost every foreign speech...pays tribute to corn and often yields such bon mots as 'Corn in the hand means a pork chop in the mouth.'" The corn campaign, however, failed to live up to its expectations. The directive ordered growing corn in less than optimal conditions, and collective farm administrators dragged their heels in corn planting. The Politburo blamed problems on resistance from farm authorities and appointed corn inspectors, which the report incredulously describes as "another echelon of farm authority." "Only a Gogol could do justice to the Khrushehevian kolkhoz [collective farm] corn inspector," the report concludes.

The Radio Free Europe reports are a fascinating source of Soviet statistical misinformation and bureaucratic rapaciousness. The writer of the reports demonstrates a simultaneous cynicism and appreciation for the absurdity in these accounts, describing Soviet actions invariably as "malfeasance and skullduggery." In a report entitled "Butter and Egg Man-- Soviet Style," the author describes the results of a Soviet drive to catch up to the United States in livestock products such as meat, milk, and eggs. It reproduces a story (from where, it is unclear) about a Kirghiz collective farm where the chickens and cows began to double and triple egg and milk production over the amount they would normally produce when bound by traditional restrictions such as the laws of physics and biology. The reason for the increase was not the development of a Soviet super-cow (which surely would have ended the Cold War and begun a reign of worldwide Soviet hegemony), but through what the report describes wonderfully as "the swindler's machinations" of the farm administrator. Inquiries revealed similar statistical anomalies at nearby farms. The administrator, however, remained in his position.

Another report that must have been filed by the same author entitled "Kolkhoz Cash And Carry Operators" from 1959 discusses the corruption of state farms. The author attributes the problems to the practice of consolidation of farms into larger entities, reflecting a Stalin-esque "gigantomania" with enormous projects that led to opportunities for large-scale corruption among the "conniving cadres." The boodle involved inventing fictitious orders for supplies and pocketing the excess. As the annex notes "all sorts of business operators (deltsy) and intriguers are being attracted, as flies are by honey, by the chance to make profits" in acts of brazen misappropriation of state resources that would stagger even the most sticky-fingered Chicago machine bosses. The one significant weakness in this sort of Soviet boondoggle is that the Communist Party's faceless bureaucracy left these men unaccountable to the people and therefore unsuitably lacking in the nicknames necessary for the perpetration of acts of swindlery and corruptitude. Think of how much more impressive the reports would be if these acts of larcenous bureaucracy were perpetrated by people named "Tractor" Ivan Stepanovich or Grigory "Little Lenin" Pavlovich.

This poster celebrates the triumphant ordering of 100,000 fake
tractors by crooked kolkhoz operators


It is true that Northwestern is facing long odds against Nebraska. But it is also true that this is college football where the improbable and the unlikely occur on a weekly basis. Northwestern is still technically fighting for a bowl spot and a major upset this Saturday can turn the season around and ensure a berth in whatever god-forsaken bowl game would have the Wildcats. But should Wildcats yield to inevitability and the football team falters in its upset, I have no problem falsifying reports of victory and spreading them across the Big Ten. And then pilfering money meant for the purchase of vast swathes of Soviet capital goods.

1 comment:

barry f said...

Looking forward to next week's essay on errors and criminality associated with Mao's agriculture program.