Friday, September 20, 2013

Remember the Maine

A week after routing Syracuse, the Western Michigan Broncos rowed into Ryan Field and gave the 'Cats a first-quarter scare.  The offense stagnated and the defense yielded large chunks of yards to a quarterback operating under the pseudonym "Tyler Van Tubbergen."  Fitz pumped his fists to little avail.  Automatic kick machine Jeff Budzien missed a 42-yarder.  The Broncos went up 3-0.  The 'Cats finally scored a touchdown after about 17 grueling minutes.  On the next play, Van Tubbergen found a wide-open receiver streaking down the field for a 75-yard touchdown.  Charlton Heston sunk to his knees in front of the Statue of Liberty.  Mighty Casey took his second strike, looking.  Edvard Munch was hired to paint literally every Northwestern fan at the game.  Things looked grim.
 Northwestern fans react to a 10-7 Western Michigan lead

The scare, however, was temporary, and the 'Cats rallied behind Treyvon Green to run up a 24-10 lead at the half.  Green rushed for 158 yards while Kolter added 106 on the ground.  Ibraheim Campbell intercepted another pass, making that 5 straight games dating back to last season.  Campbell has grabbed picks off of tip drills, on overthrown passes, by jumping routes, and through the long con known as the "The Viscount's Rake" which involves hiring a confidant to serve as an opposing team's offensive coordinator who designs plays specifically to go in Campbell's direction and then, in the dead of night, uses counterfeit university documents to rename opposing sports facilities after a fake donor so they have to play their basketball games at the "Ernest P. Worrell Family Arena."  In the summer, Campbell will intern with a consortium of suave international jewel thieves.

In the end, the 'Cats were too much for P.J. Fleck's squad.  The game was never in doubt in the second half, and it's possible that the 'Cats just came out flat in a bad first half that will henceforth be known as the "Van Tubbergen Mutiny."  Fitz prefers not to dwell.  Ever since that horrible football laboratory explosion, he spends his time after games in torn clothes, wandering around Sheridan Road, unable to remember anything about the game except for the fact that he has an undefeated Maine squad coming to Evanston on Saturday.


Maine is Northwestern's only FCS opponent.  The Black Bears are 3-0, including a win against an FBS opponent.  Granted, that team, UMass, is in its second year in the FBS and had come off an opener where massive Wisconsin linemen sat on them for 60 minutes. 
UMass plays at Vanderbilt this week, and I plan to go to the game wearing purple 
boxing trunks and scream I WANT VANDERBILT!  DO YOU HEAR ME OLD MAN?  

Regardless of their record, Northwestern should beat Maine handily.  But games against the FCS this season are hardly gimmees.  In Week 1, four FCS schools scored upsets, including season-derailing victories by North Dakota State over Kansas State and Eastern Washington over a ranked Oregon State team.  FBS schools pay these teams for record-padding-- after a loss, angry FBS coaches should be forced to remain on the 50-yard line to present their opponents with over-sized novelty checks made out to "I'll See You In Hell."

Northwestern, of course, is no stranger to the FCS home upset.  That is because Northwestern received a grant in 1975 to explore every possible avenue of football-based humiliation.  Circumstances certainly did not favor the 'Cats that year.  The New Hampshire game was the emotional home opener in Fitz's first year as the team attempted to handle the loss of Randy Walker.  New Hampshire also had a ludicrous speed offense coached by none other than Chip Kelly; I assume that most of Kelly's offensive concepts are based on neutralizing Tim McGarigle.

(I should add here that I know McGarigle had graduated before the 2006 season, but I assume Kelly was preparing for him anyway because of a little-known NCAA by-law that said if McGarigle was living on a houseboat reliving the tragic memories of the Sun Bowl, it would be legal for him to suit up for one last season, but only if he initially refused to play and then told the NU coaching staff that this time he was playing by his rules and also because this time it is personal.  There is also an NCAA by-law that says we haven't had a dumb McGarigle joke here for awhile and I'm going to work it in this way even though it makes much more sense to reference his stint as an opposing linebackers' coach for Western Michigan because we don't do things by the book here at BYCTOM.  Go ahead and take away my badge, Chief, but I'm working this one my way.)


Maine in the nineteenth century was of course the United States's primary front in a war against rapacious British land-grabs from Canada.  In the 1830s, an area claimed by the U.S. as the northern part of Maine was the subject of a border dispute arising from vague provisions of the Treaty of Ghent.  That treaty attempted to restore the borders to those agreed upon in 1783.  One can only speculate that the Treaty of Ghent did not resolve this issue because delegates became too distracted by the Ghent nightlife, which is how the phrase "like a diplomat at Ghent" became a winking euphemism in nineteenth-century foreign policy circles.

Meanwhile, tensions increased as lumberjacks from New Brunswick began lumber-jacking in the disputed territory.  American and Canadian lumberjacks organized themselves into armed militias.  The Governor of Maine denounced the Canadians as "unruly wood thieves."  Maine land agents were captured.  Sabers were rattled.  A skirmish was interrupted by an unexpected bear attack, as one would expect during nineteenth-century conflicts.    

Finally, British and American diplomats formed a compromise treaty.  According to Wikipedia at least, this compromise involved both sides allegedly hiding maps and accusations that the British forged a map made by Benjamin Franklin to convince Americans to accept the treaty.  I have no idea if that is true, but I'd prefer to assume that all nineteenth-century diplomacy hinged on things that Nicolas Cage would do in one of those movies where the Declaration of Independence is actually a code for a Secret Declaration of Independence that replaced a list of accusations against King George with a number of rhyming clues about a Crown Jewel hidden in one of Alexander Hamilton's wigs that is being held in Teddy Roosevelt's right nostril at Mount Rushmore and there are evil treasure hunters trying to get to it first in order to compromise America's Freedom.
Wait a minute, it says here that the American territories were won by the Duke of 
Portland in a crooked horse race and his descendants can use any inhabitant for 
cudgeling practice

The U.S. and Canada remain in dispute over the Machias Seal Island off the coast of Maine.  The territory is referred to as a "grey zone" with both sides attempting to flood the island with lighthouse keepers.  It is also the setting for a movie I'm producing called "The Gray Zone: Bear Puncher," where Liam Neeson exploits the murky international boundaries to guide illegal bear hunting expeditions but of course something goes wrong and Nesson is forced to punch dozens of increasingly-larger bears and, if we get the budget, a gigantic lobster with a granite chin.


Northwestern looks like a legitimate challenger for the LEGENDS crown as Nebraska's defense was dismantled by a good UCLA team at home and Michigan was nearly done in by a plucky Akron team supported by the powerful Michigan Suffering Lobby.  Michigan State is undefeated but is planning to play every single eligible man on their roster at quarterback for a snap this season. 

You'll notice this post has not looked past the Maine game.  But the fact is that if Northwestern defeats the Black Bears (in a civilized, un-Neeson-like manner, we presume), they will be 4-0 heading into a bye week before a looming showdown with Ohio State.  And, if Ohio State beats Florida A&M and a tough Wisconsin team that has spent the past week sending threatening telegrams to officials, we could see a showdown between the two unbeaten teams in what we can calmly describe as a GODDAMN FOOTBALL APOCALYPSE 2013 AT RYAN FIELD.  And the Four Horsemen of the Football Apocalypse shall appear: Sack, Fumble, Hamstring Injury, and NCAA Sanctions for Allegedly Selling Your Own Pants.  Lee Corso could potentially put on a Wildcat Hat.  The game will be a sold-out free-for-all with Northwestern fans going all out to claim up to 25% of their own stadium.  Pat Fitzgerald could end the game needing experimental fist replacement surgery.

It's all very exciting, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.  We all know Fitz has nothing but Maine on his mind.  He has contacted the State Department for Grey Zone maps to better understand the Maine mindset.  Next week, he will focus on the bye week by scrutinizing tapes of patio furniture and lawn maintenance equipment.  Let's hope for a quiet week unmarred by bear attacks of the literal and football variety. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Least Northwestern of Games

Last Saturday, the 'Cats opened the season at Ryan Field by hosting out-of-conference nemesis Syracuse.  The 'Cats hoped to improve on their first game with the comforts of home: a reasonable time slot instead of playing at some ridiculous midnight moon time, stands full of Wildcat partisans, and an inspiring tarp that stood in for empty seats that opposing teams could look towards and imagine thousands of angry fist claws shouting at them on third down, theoretically.
Early speculation remains that the tarp will be deployed at a future Big Ten game-- 
imagine the opposing team feeling comfortable down by the north endzone and 
prepared to go about its business when the tarp is suddenly lifted to reveal a secret 
cache of Northwestern fans in a common football tactic known as the "Trojan Tarp"
(Photo from

Northwestern and Syracuse have played enough over the past few years to create something of a rivalry.  Some Syracuse fans have complained about the officiating in the last game that allowed Northwestern's dramatic comeback; I will never forgive Greg Paulus for his excellent play in a win against Northwestern, and I'm disappointed that Fitz never returned the favor by putting in Juice Thompson or Luka Mirkovic in for a play to show them what it's like and also to accrue a never-used NCAA infraction for attempting to play graduated basketball players in a football game because of spite.


I think as Northwestern fans, we can all be greatly disappointed by the kind of football played by Northwestern the past weekend.  Kain Colter returned to combine with Trevor Siemian into an unstoppable bomb-throwing, scrambling, optioning, quarterbacking monster that I will be referring to as The Colterian.
As the old football adage says: if you have two quarterbacks you 
have no quarterbacks unless they are melded into a two-headed 
multi-limbed mutant capable of optioning to itself and coming 
up with the world's most elaborate celebratory handshake

The high-powered offense and an opportunistic defense that snagged another four interceptions allowed the 'Cats to leap out to a 34-7 lead at the half.  I don't know about you, but I watch Northwestern for the adrenaline after last year's Four Quarters of Terror campaign, not to watch them slice up a defense, to watch Dan Vitale and Treyvon Green become stars, and to see the spread offense wreak havoc with an arsenal of receivers who are all named Jones.  There weren't even accusations of Wacky Races skulduggery to have opinions about and no coaches calling the team a disgrace to the concept of college football which is doubly insulting because the NCAA exists and sets a pretty high standard of being an insult to college football. 

I hope the Northwestern football establishment realizes the disappointment of fans who expect to spend the duration of games strapped into their recliners as the Wildcat defense is expected to perform a Reverse Teen Wolf and return to a feeble teenage Michael J. Fox status that allows the other team to start inexplicably executing hail mary passes and Roundtree Catches.  What kind of lunatic who is invested in a college football team wants to see them playing extraordinarily well against an ACC team because of an incredibly entertaining offense that dominates even with Venric Mark out?  I don't ask much from Northwestern football other than a vision of oblivion in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter where I enter an otherworldly plane, an out-of-body experience that is happening because I'm worried that the football team I like might lose.


This week, Northwestern will play Western Michigan.  This was not supposed to happen.  It came about because of the Assassination of the Northwestern-Vandebilt Rivalry by the Coward James Franklin.  As you may recall, and given that you are reading like the eighth-most trafficked Northwestern football blog on the internet I'm guessing that you do, Vanderbilt canceled its 2013 and 2014 series against the Wildcats with a variety of low-tech notification methods including a telegraph, a passenger pigeon, a Soviet-era analogue hotline, and a disastrous attempt to send a gorilla-gram with an actual gorilla that just ended in a tragic Nashville-area gorilla rampage presumably because Northwestern kept beating them and James Franklin and the Vanderbilt Athletic Department are yellower-bellied than the Yella Fella Yellawood pitchman who is apparently a powerful football booster at Auburn University.
No, thank you, I prefer not to be Coltered, says a 
terrified James Franklin.  I should probably add here 
that I have no idea if Vandy dropped the series because 
they wanted an easier schedule, but I took a vow long 
ago that if I could vaguely accuse an opposing athletic 
program of ducking Northwestern I would react the 
same way that Clubber Lang would because I train 
alone, I blog alone, and I tweet "shut up old man" at 
any geriatric Vanderbilt supporters I can identify 
in cyberspace

Western Michigan is a program in transition.  They are led by 32-year-old first-year head coach P.J. Fleck, who has the square-jawed enthusiasm of a Fitz but has decided that he is obsessed with overwrought boat-paddling metaphors.
Fleck traces the influence of his motivational techniques to Hagar the Horrible

The Broncos have had a rough season so far.  Last week, they were upset by FCS Nicholls State in the Fortress Waldo Stadium (which is perhaps the platonic ideal for a MAC stadium name, with the possible exception of Kelly-Shorts-- much like the Great Fillmore/Arthur Muttonchop Debate, I believe that is best left to the taste of the reader).  Northwestern is expected to prevail here against an inexperienced team whose best days are ahead of it.

It would be a mistake, though, to assume the 'Cats are taking this lightly.  Pat Fitzgerald is more committed to living one game at a time than Vin Diesel is to living one quarter-mile at a time and expressing himself through tank top.  Fitz doesn't care about what happens beyond that; if a government agency were to deploy to his house and tell him that in two weeks, a group of malevolent aliens will invade the Earth and the only way to stop them is by commandeering a spacecraft that can be piloted by high-intensity fist pumps and that Fitz was the only one who could stop the imminent destruction of the planet, I'm fairly sure he would send them away because he wants to take another look at that Western Michigan bunch formation.


I don't know if you've been paying attention, but the Illini had a fairly convincing victory against a Cincinnati team  that had previously laid waste to Purdue University.  This week, they take on a ranked Washington team in Soldier Field.  According to ESPN's Big Ten Blog, "Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas said back in 2011 that he hoped the university would become the 'king of Chicago,'" in the escalating War to Determine Chicago's Big Ten Team.  Jim Phillips then escalated the situation by dressing in regal purple robes in front of a map of the Demesne Kingdom of of Chicagoland with sketches of dragons in Missouri and giants near Peoria.  The desperate attempt of Northwestern and Illinois to capture the Chicago market has been one of the most dramatic turf wars in the Big Ten as they vie against each other and the approximately 99% of Chicagoans who root for the Bears and whatever college they went to.

Meanwhile, Tim Beckman and new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit are planning on extricating themselves from the Big Ten cellar this season.  A win against Washington would not only be a major step in righting the program and establishing the Beck Man Era in Champaign, it would also be a warning shot fired across the bow of Northwestern, a notice that the Beck Men are coming for The Hat.  As we speak, Beckman is doing pull-ups in a dimly-lit corner of the Illini football complex and had #HAT tattooed across both of his sets of knuckles.


"However, when the revolution broke out, he changed his name to Anacharsis Cloots and set himself up as a spokesman for the human race."

That is a pretty good sentence, and it is by Hugh Gough in an essay about the French Revolution's effect on Europe (in his edited volume Ireland and the French Revolution).  He is referring, of course, to the Baron de Cloots, a Dutch-Prussian nobleman who got caught up in the revolutionary fervor of 1789 as a way to promote his ideas about a broader revolutionary world state.  Cloots was a close relative of Cornelius De Pauw, a French philosopher who pushed the idea that the New World degenerated all men and beasts who arrive there.  Americans took umbrage to this.  Even ideological enemies Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton could agree that they did not live in an ecological backwater that stunted growth and had cruddy, inferior wildlife.  Jefferson and Madison exchanged notes on weasel measurements in order to counter claims of degeneracy; Jefferson attempted to counter the claims of the Comte de Buffon, the leading degeneracy advocate, with a process that could best be described as "take a look at this moose-- who is degenerate now, Buffon?" 
Buffon scoffs at the paltry size of American 

Cloots got too wrapped up in the Revolution for his own good.  As the Terror folded back on itself, Cloots was unable to see the Revolution carried into universal human principle.  On the other hand, he left a legacy of inspiring historians to craft spectacular sentences, such as this one by William Doyle in the Oxford History of the French Revolution:

"To substantiate the charge of a foreign plot, a clutch of colorful aliens perished with them too, including Clootz, who bade farewell to his beloved human race in front of the biggest crowd ever to surround the guillotine."


Western Michigan may not be the most daunting opponent on the schedule, but the Broncos have nothing to lose in Evanston.  Fitzgerald will attempt to guide his team to another rejection of Northwestern football as we know it by winning without trying to kill his fans and without accusations of intrigue.  And then he will take the title of Anacharsis Fitz, Spokesman For All Humanity when he declares "Something something, Our Young Men, Winning, Go 'Cats."


Friday, September 6, 2013

BYCTOM Grainy Video Footage Edition

Kain Colter went down in a dazed heap several minutes into the game.  Venric Mark spent a lot of time surveying the field from an exercise bike.  Jared Goff emerged from his football pupa and sprouted wings to the tune of a record passing day.  And somehow, the Wildcats prevailed in Berkeley for their first win the season, Pat Fitzgerald's eighth consecutive opening victory, and further movement down the college football rankings.

Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian dodged Cal defenders and airplane 
attacks as he stepped in for an injured Kain Colter to lead a new Northwestern 
option offense where the only option is passing all over the place

Fans spent all day waiting for the game, which started on the other side of the International Date Line and had managed to wrap up the first quarter by Labor Day.  Fortunately, the time slot garnered the game a lot of attention for late-night East Coast revelers who wanted something on in the background to drown out the sounds of vomiting.

The Northwestern defense looked at times on their heels against the Bear Raid, but were led by linebacker Collin Ellis.  Ellis plucked two passes out of the air and scampered into the endzone, debuting a scoring method known in the NFL as the Chicago Bear Raid.

Unfortunately, the victory was marred by accusations of gamesmanship, chicanery, and cheatfulness.  Sonny Dykes, who nearly broke the Heston Scale of Incredulity, accused Fitzgerald and the coaching staff of instructing the 'Cats to feign injury in order to gain precious seconds of rest and slow the fast-paced Cal offense. 
An angry Sonny Dykes demands a giant globe to place on his 
shoulders so he can demonstrate that, like Atlas, he has to carry 
the burden of alleged timeclock tampering by the Northwestern 

A few points about the fake injury allegations that we are not going to shy away from as we Embrace Debate:

1. Cal fans are angry, upset, and offended by what they see as a clear case of false injuries.  RING THE CHURCH BELLS, LIGHT OFF FIREWORKS, CALL YOUR GRANDMOTHERS!  You know you have arrived as a football program when opposing fans are accusing your team of cheating, when opposing coaches allegedly claim that your coach has made a mockery of the sport, and when people on the internet call the team gutless, disgraceful, and other words that professional wrestlers use to disparage other professional wrestlers.  Sonny Dykes is sitting in a dark room right now that he has painted purple, hoisting a goblet full of grape soda, and plotting elaborate revenge fantasies against Northwestern.  Northwestern!  Tim Beckman just sent him a Northwestern-hating starter kit from his warehouse full of Northwestern-hating starter kits that have been collecting dust in an unidentified Champaign-area grain silo.

2. If the allegations are true, we may be witnessing a transition to Evil Pat Fitzgerald.  That would mean that he lets his hair grow unkempt by moving up a notch on the crew cut safety guard,  and instead of butt bumps and fist pumps, he spends the duration of the game cackling at the opposition like a villain from Mike Tyson's Punch-Out.  Soon, Fitz will replace the team with His Young Men, who shockingly take it two or even three games at a time.  He will refuse to talk to beat reporters unless they refer to him as Fist Pumpgerald.  He will change the team motto to "Whatever is Nefarious."
Evil Fitz performs villainy outside Ross-Ade Stadium

Unfortunately for Northwestern fans, there is only one way a program led by Evil Pat Fitzgerald program will develop: he inevitably threatens the Prime Minister of New Zealand, absconds with her on his hydrofoil yacht, and provokes a war between the United States and the British Commonwealth of Nations that ends when America is invaded and grateful citizens celebrate their long-awaited return to the bosom of empire.  With the exception of an Evil Pat Fitzgerald, those are all things that happened in former New Zealand Prime Minister Julius Vogel's 1889 novel Anno Domini 2000, or, Woman's Destiny which presciently predicted several technologies on the horizon but failed to anticipate that Victorian mustache twirling would no longer be in vogue at the dawn of the twenty-first century

3. Dykes's post-game handshake/admonishment with Fitzgerald was greatly disappointing.  Instead of glaring at him, Dykes should have registered his disgust by hitting the turf, clutching his hamstrings, and then rolling around on the ground, much like how Australian comedians protested World Cup diving at the Italian Consulate.

4. No one wants to see injury-faking, diving, flopping, or what FIFA refers to as "simulation" become a major part of college football.  Soccer fans have been complaining about it for years; the NBA has attempted to identify, fine, and publicly shame floppers.  But while I wish players would conform to the letter of the law in all sports, I can't deny that I secretly enjoy flopping in the NBA because instead of pretending they are merely injured, players react like they are Western stuntmen perched precariously on a balcony.

The Assassination of Chris Bosh by the Coward Carlos Boozer

5. Earlier today, ex-Chicago Bear Brian Urlacher revealed that the Bears had a fake injury program where a designated player would go down when a member of the coaching staff pantomimed Olympic diving motions.  No former offensive player has yet come out of the woodwork to report the signal used to let a defensive player charge unmolested into Jay Cutler's solar plexus.

6.  I hope that further Wildcat triumphs are free from controversy unless it is comfortably in the realm of ridiculous, such as by successfully convincing an opposing coach that the forward pass has been outlawed by having students haunt his room dressed as a Christmas Carole version of Walter Camp.


Last year, Northwestern traveled to the Syracuse and required a gutsy drive from on-demand folk hero Trevor Siemian to pull out a win.  Things have changed.  The Orange are without head coach Doug Marrone, quarterback Ryan Nassib, and the musty, fetid Carrier Dome which is defended by a moat made of sweat.  The schools have played enough to cultivate a decent non-conference rivalry beyond ESPN personalities that want us to care where they went to journalism school.  Syracuse lost to Penn State in the opener, and playing two Big Ten teams in the preseason has made them an Official Unofficial Associate Honorary Big Ten Member as the Big Ten Network prepares its retrospective on Big Ten Legend Jim Brown. 

Syracuse should test the Northwestern run defense as they return backs Jerome Smith and Pierre-Tyson Gulley.  Kain Colter plans to play, but his status is uncertain.  Venric Mark remains day-to-day with unspecified injuries. Syracuse fans will nonetheless be unexcited to see Siemian.  Some claim that he embellished a late hit that helped keep the final drive alive.  It is also entirely possible that Marrone, who remains in the upstate New York area, will be secretly coaching the game from a windowless Buffalo Bills facility and unknown mustachioed walk-on quarterback "Bryan Bassin" will unexpectedly show up in the second half to fling passes at the depleted Wildcat secondary.     


With all of the hoopla surrounding the Northwestern-Cal game, I should only hope that no one can accuse the 'Cats of trickery in a win against Syracuse.  In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and hope that no one in the upcoming contest gets hurt, injured, or shaken up.  The Northwestern Wildcats should win the old fashioned way: with the sudden realization that the opposing quarterback this whole time has been a cleverly-disguised Kain Colter only at the precise moment when he lofts a pass into the arms of Ibraheim Campbell, removes his wig, and disappears into the cheering purple throng at Ryan Field.