How is this possible?
Michigan players dashed into action. They vaulted over benches and spun around sideline personnel. The holder came sliding in like a Beastie Boy navigating a car hood in the Sabotage video. And the kick went up with less than one second preventing a Northwestern Big Ten victory, the longest second that has occurred since human beings invented the idea of measuring time.
Northwestern has had bad seasons. The entire Northwestern experience is wrapped in those bad experiences. Even if you were not alive when the Wildcats lost 267 consecutive games by 800 points apiece, were (possibly apocryphally) defeated by Interstate 94, and began each game by hastily reviewing the rules of football that players had put off learning because of the accelerated pace of midterm exams due to the quarter system, the history of crappy Northwestern football is imbued into your brain as a Northwestern fan. You may not have chanted "we are the worst" or participated in an aquatic grow-a-goalpost experiment, but your collective fan memory has. Northwestern's historical crappiness is the foundation of the Northwestern football narrative. The 'Cats were bad. They were the worst. Dennis Green. Then they were surprisingly good and lost the Rose Bowl. And now they are fine.
But there's a difference between the outright historical futility of Northwestern football and whatever the hell is going on. You could secure a grant, hire a dozen football chaos theoreticians of both bearded and non-bearded variety, put them into a lab with a simulated Ryan Field and moveable Northwestern figurines, and a Pat Fitzgerald action figure with Kung-Fu Fist Pump Action, and 50,000 simulated Nebraska fans, and I'm not quite sure they could invent the ways that Northwestern has lost so far.
Northwestern might win by a field goal or a butterfly flaps its wings on Deering
Meadow and, ah, the other team runs 45 consecutive laterals with no time
remaining and are stopped on the one-yard line, but get the chance to sneak it in
because the referees have discovered a loophole left over from the nineteenth
century that penalizes Fitzgerald for not having a festive boater hat and insulting
the game with his bare-headed impudence and then the game ends and Ryan Field
spontaneously bursts into flames MUST GO FASTER
Northwestern came into this season with so much promise and hype. Then, the season has been derailed by offensive woes and the disappearance of Venric Mark into the Springfield Mystery Spot. There is no joy. There is no hope. Football is despair, misery, and, to be honest, kind of darkly funny at this point because it should not be possible to keep losing games like this unless they are making weekly appearances in inspirational sports movies as the opponents in the last game of the season.
POTENTIAL ANTI-NORTHWESTERN FOOTBALL CONSPIRACIES
Northwestern lost to Michigan in an absurdly heart-breaking manner on Saturday. It is clear at this point that it is not just bad luck and poor late-game coaching and execution that is dooming the 'Cats. Instead, it must be all part of some sort of nefarious anti-Northwestern plot concocted by dark forces beyond our comprehension. A brief survey of potential plotters:
The Soviet Union
Northwestern deployed its America Uniforms in order to America its opponent last Saturday. The mainstream media wants you to believe that the Soviet Union dissolved in late 1991. But its clear that the Soviet government has remained operating in secret since then, plotting Soviet revenge and churning out Soviet documents in a shadowy reverse samizdat process. It's also clear that the Northwestern uniforms from last week were a provocation that could no longer be ignored. Let's be clear: for legal reasons, I am not alleging that the Michigan special teams unit is made up of Soviet sleeper agents who are identified by discreet Ivan Drago tattoos, that they met in secret before the game to sing the Soviet national anthem, and then they unfurled a giant poster of the guy who used to wrestle professionally in Soviet underpants. I'm just asking questions.
The Bohemian Grove
Long thought by conspiracy theorists to be a gathering by various global elites for secret meetings to consolidate their power and perform bizarre rituals, the Bohemian Grove has recently been revealed to be site where global elites gather to destroy Northwestern football. Insider sources tell BYCTOM that the Grove visitors enjoy acting out failed Northwestern offensive remade into light operettas, having hundreds of pizzas delivered to the Fitzgerald residence before big games, and somehow manipulate global economic systems and politics to a pinpoint degree to affect football recruiting, weather conditions, officiating, and the rules of football that will somehow end in a Northwestern loss because of a minor fluctuation in the stock price of a Swiss hedge fund.
Former Head Basketball Coach Bill Carmody
Carmody attempted to take the 'Cats to the dance for more than a decade. Earlier this year, he saw the football team's ignominious bowl record shattered in a glorious Gator Bowl victory. A few months later, he was fired. Shortly after, Carmody disappeared. Some say he has moved on from Northwestern as a sought-after guru of the Princeton Offense. Others say he has moved into the tunnel system underneath the university, wearing a mask for some reason, and is determined to never let the football team steal his glory again. Carmody and his shadowy operatives drawn from the former Yugoslavia have furtively followed the football team, they've divulged the meaning of those weird offense signal signs to opposing defensive coordinators, greased Northwestern footballs, and replaced one of the referees for the Ohio State game with a man named "Milos Fourthdownavic."
Calves' Head Club
A secret society devoted to mocking the death of Charles I through various food items: a cod's head to symbolize the beheaded king, a pike representing tyranny, boars' heads because Charles preyed on his subjects, and calves' heads representing Charles and his supporters. Maybe it's my twenty-first century manners poking through, but that dinner is really heavy on heads. The Calves' Head Club was broken up by an angry mob in 1734. Now, they meet to make fun of Northwestern's terrible season. They eat tiny frankfurters cut into four by one inch pieces to commemorate the Ohio State game, a bowl of corn flakes to celebrate the hail mary by Ron Kellogg III, and then they rub themselves in pig entrails to represent the Michigan game.
Tim Beck Man, Head Coach, University of Illinois Football
Sometimes, you make an elaborate cork board to trace the various ways that various shadowy organizations have it in for the Wildcats. And sometimes you think about who benefits the most and all becomes clear. Tim Beckman is sabotaging Northwestern football because he wants the Hat. Last year, the 'Cats humiliated his Illini and left him miserable and hatless in the cold. This year, he has pulled no punches. I am confident that Beckman has assembled a coterie of the nation's most deranged Lincoln impersonators to help him pull a series of daring wrecking operations to destroy Northwestern's morale before the Hat Game by convincing them that the Hat should be closer to Springfield. Beckman has stopped at nothing. He has disguised himself as Northwestern equipment managers and long-snappers, infiltrated the Wildcat video room, and replaced Big Ten chain gangs with clean-shaven Lincoln impersonators whose lack of beard allows them to roam amongst us undetected. Sure, this has not helped the Illini this season. They are equally winless in the Big Ten and Beckman nearly attacked his own offensive coordinator last week. But Tim Beckman doesn't think in terms of wins and losses or titles. He thinks in terms of hats and no hats, he has no sense of right and wrong, and he is determined to win the hat at all costs.
MICHIGAN STATE IS THIS WEEKEND
The grim season marches on as Northwestern is forced by some arcane, awful rule to play another football game on Saturday. Sure, it might be wearying to think of insane Rube Goldberg scenarios where Northwestern can let another one slip away. Instead, though, this is a significant opportunity. Michigan State are in the driver's seat of the LEGENDS Division, and no one on the planet think Northwestern can come out on top here. But this is just the opportunity for an improbable and absurd win. I fully expect Northwestern to hang in there all game and then, on the last possession, throw one victory right pass followed by 15 Reverse Victory Right backward passes and then weave their way to the endzone for America.
Keep the faith, 'Cats fans. Sometimes you win games, sometimes you lose games, and sometimes you lose games despite the fact that it should be impossible to lose them because of things like the physical laws of the universe. No matter what, the Wildcats continue to suit up and smash into other teams. The odds are against Northwestern. Clearly, unknown shadowy forces are against Northwestern. The Michigan State Spartans are definitely against Northwestern. As fans, though, we can do nothing less than support their effort, cheer on the seniors, and possibly die from emotional trauma.