Thursday, October 3, 2013


arricade your homes and places of business.  The Football Apocalypse is here.  As it is written in the Book of Football Revelations and the Associated Press, there will come riders from the East.  They will bring with them the Signs of the End of Times: Poisonous Nuts, Terrifying Googly-Eyed Mascots, Satantic I-Dotting Rituals where the I stands for the phrase well-known in demonology: "I intend to do evil things upon your person," A Creepy Geriatric Whose Head is Not His Head, Weird Quasi-Biblical Prose that is not going to make it to the end of this paragraph before Getting Tedious, and other augers of an Intention to Ruin Your Evening.
Gameday is Nigh!

Northwestern football is many things, but I think we can all agree that it is historically a blight upon the noble narrative of college-aged men who wish to smash into each other in a vaguely organized fashion.  Lots of momentous events have occurred in one hundred plus years since Northwestern football players started futilely attempting to score touchdowns.  Most importantly, many of them used to have mustaches and now, very few of them do.

In the 1930s, the term "Great Depression" was coined by a person who had attended more than a dozen Wildcat football games.  Images of Northwestern's offense have been known to turn the stomach of even the most hardened sports beat reporters, even those from Cleveland.  In the late 1970s, Northwestern lost 2,000 consecutive football games to Big Ten foes, non-conference opponents, a resurgent Chicago Dental College that had been nursing a Count of Monte Cristo Revenge plot for nearly 70 years, and carnival rubes who had never played football before but managed to score effortlessly on Wildcat defenders and earn themselves a stuffed gorilla.
Kennedy's moon mission speech initially asked "why does Northwestern play football at all?" after 
his line about Rice playing Texas, but it was scrubbed because Northwestern winning football games 
seemed far less feasible than landing on the moon with only analogue tape machines and short-sleeved 
shirts, but also because the nation was not prepared to hear a Kennedy attempt to say the word "Northwestern"

The world changed in 1995, when Darnell Autrey and Pat Fitzgerald led an 85-man blasphemy against the Touchdown Jesus, the Wildcats went to the Rose Bowl, and they won an almost-unfathomable Big Ten championship.  Other Big Ten football fans may mock Northwestern supporters for investing the year 1995 as such a turning point for thinking about the team, but think about this: in 1995, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory came out, and after that, Steven Seagal's career entered a death spiral that led to the Glimmer Man, Exit Wounds, and a million interchangeable films where he waddles listlessly around Bulgaria. Clearly, 1995 is not just an important point in Northwestern football, but one that marks a significant shift in all of Western civilization.
Actual, latter-day Seagal movies.  First off, kudos to Seagal for appearing in a film 
where the word "belly" features prominently in the title.  Secondly, please enjoy 
this curated list of actual Seagal movies as the titles get progressively more generic: 
Out For a Kill, Mercenary for Justice, Shadow Man, Attack Force, Flight of Fury, 
Urban Justice, Against the Dark, Driven to Kill, Pistol Whipped, and Maximum 
Conviction, which I assume is about a man who, driven by his convictions, begins  
a massive letter-writing campaign to reform City Hall before  successfully running 
for office as a  reform candidate and then karate chopping 600 armed Bulgarians

Even after this resurgence, Northwestern has shifted to imploding in increasingly heart-wrenching ways in big games and especially bowl games.  Somewhere, Big Ten Legend Eric Crouch is polishing his Alamo Bowl MVP trophy.  Jeremy Maclin is still scampering across the Alamodome turf.  And someone has hired that UCLA guy who returned two consecutive onside kicks for touchdowns to head a Department of Northwestern Football Antagonism.

But here we are in 2013.  The 'Cats have exorcised their bowl demons.  They have exuberantly ripped apart a plush monkey doll and paraded its head around at a press conference like the world's least impressive Jim Corbett impersonators.  They are 4-0 again and facing an undefeated Buckeye team at home.  ESPN is in Evanston.  ABC national television is in Evanston.  Approximately 95,000 Ohio State fans are in Evanston to take over the stadium and shame Northwestern on said national television.  The capital of the Greater Football-Land Metropolitan Area is Evanston, Illinois, and this time it is not because they are playing a game in a one-endzone geek show against the Last Days of the Zook Empire.  Stock up on bleach.


All of the carnival hoopla surrounding this game can only mask the fact that Northwestern has to play Ohio State.  Two weeks ago, Ohio State demolished Florida A&M by a score of 222-0.  At the same time, the Wildcats sputtered against an unacceptably frisky Maine team, only pulling away in the second half.  One of the problems of increased expectations for Northwestern is a concern about how it beats teams.  While Wildcat fans would traditionally take any win against any opponent, even if it came weeks later on a technicality due to some bureaucratic error that mislabeled the score, now fans are concerned that they are not pummeling FCS opponents enough. 

Meanwhile, Ohio State has maintained its position at the top of the Big Ten pecking order.  They defeated Wisconsin handily without having to resort to any clock-confusing wizardry.  Superstar quarterback Braxton Miller missed two games and his replacement, Kenny Guiton, threw dozens of touchdowns against nonconference opponents without a second thought. Miller is expected to be the quarterback against Northwestern because Urban Meyer has not realized the winning football strategy of using as many quarterbacks as humanly possible all of the time.

Historically, Northwestern has faltered against Ohio State.  They've beaten them once since 1971, when Brett Basanez and Noah Herron led a stirring overtime comeback.  This game has led to the importance of the number 33 in Wildcat numerology: Herron, wearing #33, scored the games decisive 33rd point with his 33rd carry, and I also saw a drunken bar patron menace close to 33 people with a bar stool after the game was over.
Noah Herron temporarily ends the Buckeyes' reign of terror against Northwestern football

The 'Cats open this game as home underdogs.  In a spot of good news, Venric Mark will play for the first time since a brief cameo in the opener.  The addition of a dynamic playmaker will only help the offense, which struggled against Maine. Nevertheless, Northwestern faces hurdles.  The pass defense will be tested.  They will need to take advantage of turnovers.  And they should possibly look into some type of subterfuge such as convincing the Buckeye coaching staff that the Wrigley Rules are still in effect from Gameday and they are barred from any use of the south endzone for any reason including touchdowns, touchdown dances, safeties, touchbacks, team-building exercises, and general Big Ten expansion talks.


In the meantime, you have from now until Saturday evening to prepare yourself for the momentous, exhilarating, terrifying prospect of a football apocalypse.  The United States government has shut down in preparation.  There are no longer any laws in the United States.  You can go to Columbus with a crew of several thousand and crane equipment, steal Buckeye Stadium, remove it to a vacant lot, and leave threatening messages on Brutus Buckeye's voicemail account because there is no one left to stop you.  The Big Ten can add as many teams as it likes without consequence and no one can prevent Jim Delany from walking around with a cape.  The game will have no referees except for the angry fake Mayan guys from Legends of the Hidden Temple who will pop out of the locker room and attempt to startle players in false start situations.

Stock up on canned goods, water, and Wildcat Hats.  Gameday is coming.  And, on Sunday, when the dust has cleared from Ryan Field, when nothing remains of the braying fans, when expired sausage products disintegrate in the parking lot, Northwestern will have won or lost a football game, and this means something. 


danwhite77 said...

By referencing NU football rather than Rice, Jack Kennedy would have needed to alter the rest of his speech to "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are im-freaking-possible . . ." and I'm sure Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. advised him that such a turn of phrase would not 'pop' in the history books.

Purple Flag On Saturday said...

I appreciate that you waited until today (well, yesterday, actually, but I just read it now) to create the emotional frenzy that I am now experiencing in anticipation of NU v tOSU. While other writers went to the whip ten or more days ago and left readers spent and panting by the time last Saturday's absence of contest occurred, you demonstrated remarkable restraint and characteristic wisdom in holding back your much appreciated emotional jolt. As we are not attending tomorrow in person, Mimsy and I will be holding a pep rally in the rec room at 6:30 tomorrow, at which time we and the dog anticipate rising to a still greater fervor. Props to you for another grand offering.