The Northwestern "Wildcat" Football team has won a game. Tremble, Big Ten! After two disappointing losses, the 'Cats have taken on a team from the mighty Missouri Valley Conference and triumphed, showing yet another FCS team what it's like to play at the mighty Fortress Ryan Field unless they are that New Hampshire team coached by Chip Kelly. Pat Fitzgerald will stop at nothing to wring every advantage against a team psychologically bolstered by a phalanx of cheerleaders with inspirational placards reading "NECKS."
The Leathernecks ought to bust out their original "Rocky" mascot,
shown here with an alternate mascot entitled "Dog Who Sees All
the Secrets of Time and Space and then is Instantly Mummified"
Not taking any chances on a WIU field goal at the end of a tense first half, Fitz deployed all three timeouts in succession. The 'Cats blocked the kick attempt, which somehow justified it and set Fitz on a course of madness.
"ICE DA KICKAH: FREEZE, FREEZE, WINTER COLD, WINTER ICE
COOL COOL FREEZE FREEZE," Fitz said to the official before
whirring away to halftime on his icemobile.
Northwestern may not have dominated the game, but still came up with a vital win before beginning Big Ten play this weekend against Penn State. While it has been a grim opening to the season, there still may be hope for the Wildcats because the Big Ten is a frigid wasteland of broken dreams, as I wrote about last week in a guest post for Lake the Posts. But Saturday's game is a tall order against an undefeated Penn State team in the jubilant throes of a modern college football team's greatest triumph: an end to NCAA sanctions.
WE WANT FRANKLIN SHUT UP OLD MAN
Northwestern faces off against new Penn State head coach James Franklin. Franklin used to coach at Vanderbilt and led the Commodores to a minor resurgence. This success did not extend to games aginst Northwestern, as the Wildcats beat them in a close-run away game. The next year, Vanderbilt canceled the series, citing the shake-up of SEC schedules thanks to the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M. This sounds perfectly reasonable, and a sound explanation so let's just
WAIT A MINUTE I'M TALKING TO YOU NOW PENN STATE HEAD FOOTBALL COACH JAMES FRANKLIN AND YOU LISTEN GOOD. NOTICE I'M USING THE WRESTLATIVE TENSE, WHICH MEANS THAT I CAN ONLY ADDRESS A PERSON BY THEIR FULL NAME AND GIMMICK FOR EXAMPLE I CAN SAY I'VE GOT SOMETHING TO SAY TO YOU HULK HOGAN AND ALL YOU HULKAMANIACS OUT THERE FROM COAST TO COAST: WILL YOU PLEASE PASS THE GREEN BEANS? SORRY, PARDON MY REACH THERE, GORILLA MONSOON. PENN STATE HEAD FOOTBALL COACH JAMES THE COMMODORE FRANKLIN, YOU CAN'T DUCK US ANYMORE. YOU CAN'T RUN. YOU CAN'T HIDE. THERE'S NO SEC SCHEDULING LOOPHOLES NOW TO SAVE YOU FROM A RAMPAGING, UNSTOPPABLE WILDCAT FORCE EXCEPT FOR YOUR APPARENTLY VERY GOOD FOOTBALL TEAM, HEISMAN-CANDIDATE QUARTERBACK, AND 100,000 FRENZIED FANS OOOH YEAH.
Pioneer of the Wrestlative Tense The Macho
Man Randy Savage shown here in press
materials for the 1988 American Academy of
Rhetoric and Piledrivers conference. Savage's
speech "I've Got Something To Tell You: Modes of
Address, Semiotics, and the Ring, a Structuralist
Reading," is still widely cited in academic papers
and before sending a vice-provost through a
flimsy card table
Northwestern has not beaten Penn State since 2004. Actually, Northwestern has not technically played Penn State since 2004 according the NCAA, who has vacated all five of Penn State's wins since then, so all of those losses occurred in a shadowy alternate universe; perhaps in one Northwestern held their 21-0 lead against Penn State in 2010, perhaps in of them the NCAA negligently allowed players to use both endzones in the Wrigley, perhaps in one of them America has become a brutal future dictatorship run by Ron Zook with the standard greeting being an enthusiastic butt bump and a Gainesville-based resistance movement.
Penn State is 4-0, but has not exactly looked dominant. They beat Akron and UMass, but struggled against Central Florida and Big Ten newcomer Rutgers. The Nittany Lions can be excused for that last game as it is clearly a deadly rivalry game. I can only dream that one day fans of a rival team can hate Northwestern enough to express their disdain via hastily-stenciled sheet. Nevertheless, Penn State are heavy favorites against a Northwestern team that has struggled at times to move the ball. Pat Fitzgerald has assured reporters that the Wildcats will play better because he is doing things like enthusiastically yelling at practices, and a solid effort in Happy Valley will be an encouraging sign for how they can play against other crappy Big Ten teams.
UP IN THE AIR
I've recently been reading Atlantic Fever by Joe Jackson about the 1927 race to be the first to fly the Atlantic. The race, set off by New York hotelier Raymond Orteig's $25,000 prize, led to a confluence of explorers, daredevil aviators, magnates, engineers, and all of the types of people you would imagine would be willing to strap themselves into a flying lawnmower and travel several thousands of miles over the vast, unforgiving expanse of ocean in the name of science, patriotism, and lucrative endorsement opportunities.
The race was won by Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis, but Jackson and Bill Bryson, who uses the spring air chase and Lindbergh's nation-wide adulation tour to frame One Summer: America 1927, discuss Lindbergh's colorful rivals. These aviators included René Fonck, the French World War I ace whose attempt in in 1926 ended in a crash. Fonck and his crew overloaded their plane with mahogany chairs, a hide-a-bed, and a fancy table for a victory feast; essentially, they were attempting to transverse the Atlantic in a flying nineteenth-century gentleman's club, missing only an ancient, decrepit man in dozing in the corner with a newspaper clinging perilously to muttonchops and life. Though Fonck survived, three of his crew members perished. Another French team led by WWI ace Charles Nungesser and François Coli attempted the first crossing in 1927 from Paris. Their plane, L'Ousseau Blanc (the White Bird) disappeared over Canada. Frontrunners Noel Davis and Stanton Wooster, Americans fueled by a patriotic desire to beat the French across the ocean, died during a test run of their American Legion. The ill-fated flights cast a somber pall over the race. In all, eighteen people died in 1927 attempting the feat.
Nungesser (l) was ravaged by injuries sustained in the
First World War, and Coli flew with an eye patch. The
two are shown here looking like the platonic ideal of
people who should be flying primitive airplanes
By the time Lindbergh set off, there were three other teams close to beating him. One, led by polar explorer Richard Byrd, crashed before takeoff and was delayed by his financial backer, the spectacularly named Rodman Wanamaker. Wanamaker was greatly moved by the deaths of Nungesser and Coli, and was hesitant to send Byrd and his crew out until he could explore every safeguard possible. The Columbia team became embroiled in a heated contract dispute the day before the flight that led to a legal injunction against the plane's takeoff. Charles Levine, who owned the grounded Columbia and had no flight training before 1927, took off with pilot Clarence Chamberlin and flew to Germany two weeks after Lindbergh landed. Byrd's team eventually made the journey into horrible weather, and was unable to land in a heavy fog surrounding Paris; eventually they crash-landed in the ocean. As Jackson notes, some kind of altercation happened on Byrd's America during the flight, but the events remain shrouded in mystery. According to one account, co-pilot Bert Acosta attempted to hijack the plane and turn it around before Byrd stopped him by hitting him with a flashlight. Another tale involved engineer George Noville and Acosta getting drunk together during the flight's most hopeless moments-- in this version, Byrd knocked them both out with a wrench. A third unconfirmed version had Colonel Mustard pummeling all three of them with a lead pipe.
Other aviation pioneers broke barriers adjacent to the Orteig Prize. One of the most fascinating was Francesco de Pinedo, the "Lord of Distances." De Pinedo flew a seaplane thousands of miles around the world, making numerous stops. He crossed the Atlantic from Buenos Aires on a quest to fly across four continents. De Pinedo faced numerous challenges, but perhaps none were as harrowing as the capricious patronage of Mussolini, who supported him but demanded results. All of his movements were politically charged; an appearance in New York City sparked a riot between anti-fascists and Mussolini supporters. His plane was destroyed in an accident in Arizona, which carried accusations of sabotage from Rome. De Pinedo failed to complete his tour, running out of gas and needing a tow to the Azores. After he returned, Mussolini sent him to a diplomatic post in Buenos Aires. Ruth Elder attempted to be the first woman to fly the Atlantic in October of that year, becoming herself a media sensation. She and co-pilot George Haldeman safely crash landed more than 2500 miles from New York. Frances Grayson, an ardent feminist, attempted the crossing in late December, but her plane vanished before reaching Nova Scotia.
Francesco de Pinedo, Ruth Elder, and Frances Grayson
Both Jackson and Bryson are fascinated not only by the sheer derring-do of the flyers, but also the media frenzy that surrounded them. The Oreteig race blew all of the participants up to daily front-page news, and test flights and appearances brought out thousands of spectators. Lindbergh, who projected a blank slate of monomaniacal determination to fly solo, made him a blank canvas for the media to shape into whatever narrated they wanted. While the flight made Lindbergh rich and unimaginably famous, he found himself haunted by his inability find quiet and outside of the skies. Eventually, Lindbergh transformed his intense desire to be left alone into a geopolitical philosophy, becoming an outspoken voice against American participation in the Second World War. Byrd took solace in the Antarctic, at one point living for months in a frozen hut alone in the tundra.
PENN STATE CLASH
Saturday, Northwestern hopes to set its own season on a course. Perhaps they will manage to upend the favorites. They may take flight against the Nittany Lions, they may crash and burn, or they may get involved in some sort of mysterious altercation involving wrenches and flashlights before being rescued by a friendly lighthouse-keeper. The Big Ten (except for Indiana) (exclamation point) is a laughingstock, but Northwestern will fight to remain in the middle of this particular pile of garbage. It will take courage, heart, and hopefully as many timeouts as humanly possible to ice a kicker and bring about a winter of discontent what killed da dinasawas, de ice age freeze freeze freeze ice pun, I'm sorry it has been 17 years since that movie came out and this is still funny to me.