Friday, November 16, 2012

There are No Fists Pumping in Mudvanston

Good gravy, it happened again.  Northwestern fans had already steeled ourselves for the inevitable fourth-quarter comeback; those are old hat by now, and we face them with the steely resolve of a circus freak show man preparing to receive an cannonball to the solar plexus or the late Crocodile Hunter riling up a poisonous reptile and letting it lunge its fangs near his unprotected khaki crotch.
Another day at the office for Frank "Cannonball" Richards.  According to his 
Wikipedia page, "Richards began by letting people (including heavyweight 
champion Jack Dempsey) punch him in the gut. He then progressed to letting 
people jump on his belly, being struck by a two-by-four, being struck by a 
sledgehammer, and finally being shot by a 104-lb. (47 kg) cannonball from a 
spring-loaded 12 ft. (4 m) cannon," and then presumably finished the day by 
watching Northwestern try to hold a lead in the fourth quarter.

All Northwestern had to do to walk out of the Enormous House with a rare victory was to hold on for less than 20 seconds and prevent the ball from floating 30 yards in the air, getting batted by the defender, and having Roy Roundtree somehow pluck it out of the air with one hand while falling to the turf.  College football is an engine of cruelty.


Another close loss means for agony for Northwestern fans, who have witnessed the third frustrating collapse of the season.  The sour ending overshadowed a stellar offensive performance against a tough defense.  The offensive line opened holes for Mark, Colter zipped around befuddled Michigan defenders who actually expected him to occasionally pass, and Siemian came in led an impressive drive at the end of the half.  Even Demetrius Dugar, who had a tough game, managed to redeem himself with a crucial late-game interception.

What does the loss mean?  The Wildcats were unlikely to compete for the divisional crown; that dream died as Penn State and Nebraska receivers skipped merrily along through the Northwestern secondary in the dreaded fourth quarter.  It affects what bowl they go to, although one Pizza City is as good as another in my book, and the 'Cats will still be at the mercy of rapacious and unaccountable bowl representatives who tend to favor teams with more than four dozen alumni.  The most tragic circumstance of the defeat was missing the opportunity to ruin the afternoon for a large number of Michigan fans, which is one of the most noble goals for Big Ten Teams to aspire to.

The lack of stakes salves the sting a bit.  A Northwestern fan for the past dozen years has already seen the Wildcats lose a shot at the Rose Bowl in a barren Iowan hellscape, miss a bowl game after inciting the rage of Timmy Chang by throwing him at a sideline bench, miss the NCAA basketball tournament in the most heart-rending way possible, and literally every single thing that has happened to Northwestern in a bowl game since the dawning of the new millennium.  This includes two overtime losses, allowing Bowling Green to come back, and surrendering a 22-0 first-quarter lead which also included giving up two onside kick returns to the same fucking guy because the whole blowing a 22 point lead thing wasn't enough and it would have been too much for the game to end with 25 laterals or a hastily-added clause to the NCAA rulebook that prevents Northwestern from playing offense or a blimp attack or some sort of disembodied hand rising up from the turf at Sun Bowl Stadium and sacking Brett Basanez then doing some sort of elaborate sack dance with its claws or fingers.
The disembodied sacking hand may be similar to the 
one adorning Jim Varney's head in this cinema classic.  
The fact that the DVD cover has a picture of Varney 
dressed as Ernest as the main selling point is probably 
the most entertaining thing about this movie

On the other hand, cheer up, Gloom Beams!  The Northwestern University Wildcat Football team is 7-3, is definitely going to a bowl game, and still has a shot at nine wins.  We still get to watch Colter and Mark run faster than other people while Pat Fitzgerald punches the legions of invisible antagonists that torment him on the sidelines.  Maybe we won't get Brian Griese this week.  Let us talk ourselves off the ledge before getting onto another one as the 'Cats can potentially cling to another shrinking lead against the only team in the Big Ten more committed to destroying the lives of its benighted fanbase.


When I saw Northwestern clinging grimly to a lead with 18 seconds left, my mind immediately flashed back to the 2001 Northwestern-Michigan State game, one of the most insane endings to a college football game I've ever seen.  For the sake of those unfamiliar with Northwestern football lore and people google image searching for pictures of Jim Varney in both Ernest and non-Ernest iterations, this is what happened: Northwestern scored a go-ahead touchdown in the final minute to go up four.  With 29 seconds on the clock, Northwestern kicked off, determined to hold off  any last-minute shenanigans from the Spartan offense.  They didn't get the chance.  Herb Haygood housed the kickoff, then went into the stands and punched every Northwestern fan in the gut.  But State got a celebration penalty and the 'Cats blocked the extra point to keep the lead to two.  And with sixteen seconds left, the Wildcats put the ball in the hands of folk legend Zak Kustok.

Kustok, a nine-foot colossus who had come to Northwestern on a chariot pulled by bears, called for the ball.  He took off to the right, setting off minor tremors, then cocked his arm and launched the ball to John Schwiegert, who somehow managed to hold on despite the heat from the friction of a Kustok heave traveling through Earth's atmosphere.  They set up a David Wasielewski field goal, and he nailed it for a 25-24 win. 

The most improbable thing about that game is that the major people involved 
were named Herb Haygood, Zak Kustok, John Schwiegert, and David Wasielewski, 
an unparalleled confluence of Midwestern football names

Michigan State hosts Northwestern in an attempt to salvage the wreckage of its season.  Pundits had picked the Spartans as a Big Ten title contender; they are currently struggling to become bowl eligible.  Like Northwestern, Michigan State seems to have received a grant from the American Heart Institute to try to induce cardiac arrest in anyone who witnesses its grim works.  With the exception of a shellacking at the hands of the Fighting Irish, who are (cringe) undefeated BCS title contenders, the Spartans have lost every game in agonizing fashion by less than 5 points. These include a one-point loss to Ohio State, an overtime loss to the hapless Hawkeyes, and another collapse gifted to probable division champions Nebraska.

Somebody has to win this game.  Northwestern is eager to move past last week's loss and put away a Big Ten opponent.  Michigan State desperately needs a victory to qualify for a humiliating consolation bowl berth in Pizza City, Potato Town, or the Bowl Filled with Bitter Tears.  I predict that the fourth quarter will consist of a series of Alphonse and Gaston-style attempts to give the game to the other team, which will end when the ball is fumbled for 25 consecutive minutes from endzone to endzone with no one able to fall on it during the dying minutes of the 12th overtime period and the fans inside form rival tribes and begin organizing raids on the enemy-controlled popcorn and elephant-ear infrastructure.
A simulation of the ending of the Northwestern-Michigan State game


In 1952, the 18th Duke of Alburquerque achieved his dream of racing in Britain's Grand National Steeplechase.  His horse threw him and he broke a vertebrae.  Undaunted, he saddled up again in 1963, and again fell from his horse.  The Duke endured.  He did not seem to let what was either a criminally inadequate measure of horsemanship or possibly an uncanny ability to communicate hateful insults to horses that caused them to violently toss him from their back from stopping him.  His compatriots called him the "Iron Duke" for his propensity to endure equine injury, which is better than the other Spanish Iron Duke, who earned his nickname by acting like a ruthless Habsburg ogre in the Low Countries during the sixteenth century.  In 1976, the British steeplechase people finally barred him from competition because a bunch of horses trampled him, broke many of his bones, and rendered him comatose.    

The Duke of Alburquerque was an impressive Spanish pedigree.  Numerous Dukes had served as Viceroys of New Spain in the seventeenth century.

This was all a thinly-described excuse to post this picture 
of the Eighth Duke of Alburquerque because that mustache 
is not physically possible.  It may also interest you to 
learn that someone tried to assassinate him with a sword 
because that kind of facial hair increases the risk of 
assassination by swashbuckling by 80%


The Wildcats have to travel to Michigan again for another tough road game.  The Spartans may have drifted from their title hopes, but they still have a dangerous defense and Le'Veon Bell.  They also have nothing to lose.  Northwestern could be their most impressive win since the opener against Boise State.  Northwestern wants to bank another win before the critical showdown to restore The Hat to its rightful scalp.  Both teams are attempting to emulate the Iron Duke by mounting their horses, throwing caution to the wind, and causing their fans grievous internal injuries as they attempt to weather another 60 minutes of Big Ten LEGENDS Division action.  I couldn't possibly be more excited and also I am vomiting internal organs.


danwhite77 said...

I do not know what it is, Mr. BYCTOM, but when I read your posts I routinely experience a pleasant, methodical convulsing commonly referred to as "laughter."

Your posts do not merely tickle my "funny bone" in the commonly understood and pedestrian manner. Instead, these posts utilize a Stryker Series 7 Orthopaedic Power Drill to drill a hole through my compact bone, osteon of compact bone, and trabeculae of compact bone, to inject humor into my humors (not that I need to explain this to a guy that referenced Samuel Pepys in a post, but that's a pun utilizing an apocryphal term that I'm certain you use on a daily basis).

Keep up the good work and thanks for taking the time to keep posting. It's always a labor of love when you're not getting paid. But, then, who doesn't love posting about a football team mired in a record-breaking spate of futility?

Go Cats; obtain the absurdly short stovepipe hat and split the Illinois defensive line like the hat's namesake's monicker of Railsplitter!

BYCTOM said...

Thanks for the kind words. Glad you enjoy the blog.