Friday, August 30, 2013

Football Season is Here

Last night, thousands of people swarmed to stadiums bathed in light, bands serenaded them with fanfares invariably coming from the classic American 70s jazz rock songbook, the slightly-less-hulking men booted their footballs into graceful parabolas where they fell into the arms of another person who tried desperately to avoid being run over by eleven human steamrollers.  Football!

College football is a bewildering mass of contradictions.  It is rife with the pageantry of dance teams, marching bands that continue to dress like Otto von Bismarck, people who convert recreational vehicles into elaborate mobile meat distribution centers, the South, and an infectious student enthusiasm that can best be described as Gin Lane drunkenness.  It's enough to completely baffle and overwhelm outsiders such as Stephen Fry, who is unable to contemplate a flyover by both military jets and a war damn eagle.

College football is fueled by young people risking their knees and skulls for our amusement, watched over by a keystone police force determined to stop them from selling their signature or their pants while the grizzled, twenty-foot visages of the coaches shill woodenly for a variety of comical local products.

College football is a the engine of innovation as coaches from smaller programs desperately try to score against the NFL behemoths on the rosters of the BCS powerhouses.  In 2013, Northwestern will deploy up to eight quarterbacks simultaneously: A running specialist, a passing specialist, a run-option guy, a pass blocking quarterback, a quarterback who may or may not punt at any time, an all-time quarterback who also gets to play quarterback for the other team, and Kain Colter, who will do all of those things simultaneously.

College football sells itself on tradition, while universities move conferences and abandon century-old rivalries at the drop of a hat in order to vacuum up any visible crumb from an enormous pie.  The Big Ten will have 26 teams next year, at least two Lucrative Conference Championship Games, and a spin-off Big Ten Network 2 which will feature a show where Tim Beckman destroys all of the purple goods in a different retail establishment each week and one where Bucky Badger stares unnervingly into the camera for at least 30 uninterrupted minutes.
Big Ten Network 2 goes highbrow in its academic programming

Welcome back.


This Saturday, the Wildcats return to the field to take on the Cal Golden Bears.  Cal went 3-9 last year leading to a new direction for the program.  Now, Cal looks to head coach and potential Rocky trainer Sonny Dykes to right the ship.  These teams have some ancient history, as the Wildcats defeated them in the mythical 1949 Rose Bowl although this happened so long ago that I'm not sure the 1949 Rose Bowl wasn't a chariot race that the 'Cats won by engineering one of those evil chariot race contraptions that sliced up the other chariots' wheels while the drivers cackled relentlessly.  Dykes, a disciple of Mike Leach, will brings a variation of his high-powered aerial attack that fans have taken to calling the Bear Raid.

Northwestern's defensive preparations for the Cal game have become 
increasingly sophisticated as game day approaches

Running the show will be a true freshman, Jared Goff.  He'll have to deal with Ibraheim Campbell, Nick VanHoose, Tyler Scott, Chi Chi Ariguzo, and Damien Proby, and the 'Cats will hope to pressure him into early mistakes.  Meanwhile, Cal's defense needs to find ways to shut down the Colter/Siemian/Mark combination.  Both offenses rely on deception to open holes and get receivers open.  By the end of the game, the players will clear off of the field while Dykes and Mick McCall stand at the 50-yard-line in an Offensive Coordinators' Duel, furiously scribbling on white boards until one of them runs out of marker or collapses into exhaustion.

"Pro T Flare D," Dykes incanted


Northwestern comes into this game ranked #22 in the country.  The football season previews that I have been devouring from the excellent and insightful to the television people vapidly yammering about football to kill airtime have mentioned Northwestern as a team to look out for the in Big Ten.  Venric Mark is on preseason Doak Walker watch lists.  Commentators have expressed sympathy for teams that have been Coltered and those whose Coltering awaits them this season.  Even the Northwestern defense has not been maligned.  This is exciting and terrifying.

One of the things that I've really enjoyed about Northwestern football is that it is generally liberated from insane fan expectations to win a national title every single year. College basketball and football are rare sports in that they allow for small triumphs: Ending an embarrassing national losing streak and throwing goalposts in the lake, beating a storied rival, making it to some benighted bowl game sponsored by a company whose dot-com bona fides have made it defunct before kickoff, actually winning a bowl game, maybe making that basketball tournament that I've been hearing about even if they get run off the court by the Washington Generals who in the future have given NCAA eligibility and been moved to a separate conference with the Globetrotters, only the Globetrotters have been disqualified and have vacated generations of wins because of glitter buckets.

For fans of teams looking up at the traditional powerhouses, college football can seem monotonous and unfair, perennially under the boot heels of Ohio State and Michigan.  But the fact that winning begets winning can also be a source of hope.  There's mercifully no tanking in college sports; otherwise, Northwestern would have been an unstoppable football juggernaut and I would be spending my free time screaming at Paul Finebaum.  And look where the Wildcats are now.

It is no secret that the Wildcats have a very good football team this season.  And it is no secret that the tough schedule, bad luck, or a few unfortunate injuries could derail them short of contention for the LEGENDS title.  Even if they get all the breaks, it will be difficult to top last year's ten victories, plus the bowl game victory that caused Pat Fitzgerald to parade around the severed head of a plush monkey doll like a medieval warlord.

Patfitz Khan exhorts Our Young Horde to plunder one village at a time

There has been no football played yet.  The Wildcats have yet to thrill us with an overtime victory or shatter us with one of those fourth quarters.  On the eve of this football season then, we should enjoy what this season will bring: purple-clad fans attempting to intimidate people with fist-claws, Venric Mark and Kain Colter incinerating hapless defenders, interceptions and fumbles, Dave Eanet highlights, and at least four solid months of mocking Tim Beckman anonymously on the internet.  Football!

1 comment:

Purple Flag on Saturday said...

I shall henceforth refer to each of our upcoming games as a darby. My friends and neighbors will be dazzled and impressed, much as they have been when the purple flag is hoisted (actually stuck into the flagpole holder on the front of the garage, but hoisted sounds so much more impressive) each autumn Saturday morning. So Bob's your uncle with that.