Friday, September 2, 2016

Week 1: Bronco News Letter

The barricades are up on Lake Shore Drive, the helicopters are circling, and Ryan Field prepares for the annual pilgrimage of thousands of fans from Chicago hoping to catch a glimpse of their Big Ten team. Last year's Wildcats surged to an unexpected and delightful ten-win season for only the fourth time in school history based entirely on Body Clocks, and now they hope to take their assault on opponents' circadian rhythms to Indianapolis.

The 2015 Wildcats had a simple gameplan-- to smother the opposing offense, run Justin Jackson into the other team, and bury them beneath a merciless hail of punts.  When the strategy worked, the defense erased the other team and the running game wore down the clock in an excruciating exhibition of football brutality.  When that didn't work, they put their fist-claws in the hands of the insane gods of football-- they won a game on a botched two-point conversion, a last-second field goal gifted by incompetent clock management, and brain-disrupting satellites launched into low orbit that subjected the referees to space hypnosis and forced them to continue taking touchdowns away from Wisconsin until they were roused from their stupor by a hail of snowballs.

Alex Erickson's attempts to reason with a referee fall on deaf ears 

Will Northwestern be able to repeat their extraordinary feats of football derring-do?  Bah-humbug football experts say no, based on their fancy statistics, distrust of a football team that wins numerous games by opponents unveiling ludicrous Twilight Zone coaching tactics, and the tendency for Northwestern teams with preseason rankings to become grotesque, avant-garde parodies of football as part of someone's senior thesis. 

"M00N: 100 Yards of Sorrow" captured a jury prize in the Exhibition of Football Nihilism for 
demonstrating "an apt metaphor for the purposelessness of violence"

Yet there are some reasons for optimism.  The 'Cats return several key contributors to last year's dominant defense, including superstar linebacker Anthony Walker.  Quarterback Clayton Thorson has a year of experience under his belt and hopes to improve his passing game to complement his herky-jerky auto lot inflatable running style.  Former running back Solomon Vault and cornerback Marcus McShepard have switched positions to bolster the receiving corps and expose opposing defenses to the terrifying possibility of the forward pass, virtually unknown in the modern game of football.

There is no more pointless pursuit than predicting Northwestern football.  They have to play Ohio State and Michigan State on the road.  Their chief rival is no longer coached by a maniac who came out of a Joseph Conrad novel about football.  The difference between a Northwestern victory or loss usually comes down to a play so ridiculous that it turns into a Wes Anderson version of football where a blank-faced twelve-year-old coach with a false mustache calls a play out of John Dominic's Manual for Foot Ball Aptitude and players dressed in immaculate old-timey football costume are unable to catch a papier-mache football that goes through an intricate series of Rube Goldberg devices involving a hamster wheel, a 1960s style vibrating weight loss belt machine, and a tricycle before the ball crosses the line and a blank-faced referee played by Bill Murray unenthusiastically signals for a touchdown. 

By my statistical formula, devised on a vision quest through the mystical environs of the Greater Chicagloand Metrolitan Area, Northwestern is going to the Rose Bowl.


NFL analysts have spent the last two weeks with their corkboards and pushpins trying to piece together the beguiling series of events that have led to Trevor Siemian starting at quarterback for the defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos.  Peyton Manning retired.  Backup Brock Osweiler left for Houston.  And the main competition for Siemian was journeyman quarterback Mark Sanchez, known mainly for attempting to run through another man's buttocks like he was Wile E. Coyote charging through a tunnel made of paint.

Mark Sanchez with the haunted expression of a man who sees butts every 
time he closes his eyes

Certain maniacs have suggested that Siemian may struggle in the NFL because he put up some of the worst statistics by a Northwestern quarterback in recent memory. These so-called football experts, who spend their summers sorting through index cards in their homes filled with arcane statistics, know nothing about Northwestern football. Do they know, for example, that Siemian spent most of his career as a change of pace co-starter who only came in when it was time to throw like one of those World War I cannons mounted to a railroad car? Or the psychological toll taken on him by the strain from coming in as the “passing quarterback,” which set off a whole series of diabolical mind games about whether he would actually pass or he'd run or he'd pretend to run but still pass or he'd pass anyway or he'd spend the entire offseason disguised as a Western Illinois player named A. Augustus Vermillion only to betray his new teammates in the second game and lead Northwestern to a 24-7 victory?

Siemian should, according to proprietary BYCTOM algorithms, immediately become the greatest quarterback in the NFL because of his expert kneel-down game, Super Bowl experience, and the time he led Northwestern to victory against Notre Dame and created a mass-hysterical event where thousands of Notre Dame football fans attempted citizen firings of Brian Kelly through their most unhinged message boards.  Expect Siemian to blithely swat down all challengers as he rampages through the futile professional defenses of the NFL.

Entertainment impresario Carl Denham cautions against allowing a 
rampaging Siemian to climb to mile high heights

The Trevor Siemian Era of Broncos football begins now.  I can't believe it either.


Northwestern faces the Western Michigan Broncos Saturday at Ryan Field.  Coach P.J. fleck, a wide-eyed football evangelist who has out-recruited the Big Ten basement, led the Broncos to an 8-5 record last year, knocking on the door of perennial MAC bullies Northern Illinois. SBNation's Bill Connelly graded them higher than Northwestern last season, using his mysterious S&P+ rankings.  Though Northwestern is favored, this is no easy contest to ease into the football season; the Broncos play in the Eastern time zone and have therefore fortified their body clocks against the dangerous football disruptions caused by Central Time.

P.J. Fleck will bring his exciting “Row The Boat” catchphrase back for yet another season. Sometimes I wonder whether Fleck ever gets tired of his performative rowboating, like he’s at a pep rally and the band’s about to break into Western Michigan’s disappointingly non-maritime fight song and Fleck is just staring at the crowd who are all wearing row the boat shirts and some are hoisting oars and maybe one or two students is dressed up like a Gorton’s Fisherman and they’re all waiting to explode into an orgy of rowboat pantomime and he just can’t do it anymore, he’s out of it, the boat in his mind just sitting dead still in the center of a pond, but then the booster comes in, a Colonel Tom Parker type, and he’s staring at him through dead, flinty eyes, and he says Jesus Christ Fleck these people paid their damn money to see you row the GODdamn boat so why don’t you just get some pep in your step and give ‘em a show, who the fuck do you think you are, Bear Bryant? are these folks here to watch you diagram a sumbitching OFFtackle play? no they aren’t, he says, and so Fleck goes out there and when the klieg lights hit him and the trombonists start waggling their instruments around you’d have no idea about any of this, the doubts, the desperation, the nights spent with a chalkboard where he’s written and erased “drive the car” and “pedal the bike” and even “hang the glide” and the smile is there and the jaw squares around that football chin, and the eyes sparkle with conviction. “Row the boat,” Fleck says, and the cheers engulf him and his team streaming out onto the stage in padless jerseys.

Or maybe he just really likes to say row the boat

Western Michigan, like most college football teams, holds a precarious spot in the football ecosystem.  Fleck's recruiting prowess has elevated them to a MAC championship contender. With each victory, though, Fleck becomes a more tempting target for a powerhouse team to poach in the offseason, wined and dined in the stately dining cars of the Power Five's suspender-thumbing boosterati.  Regardless of Fleck's future, the Broncos hope to make a statement by coming into the most intimidating stadium in the Big Ten and come away with a win.  The 'Cats have no choice but to row them to hell.

Western Michigan returns to Kalamazoo across the Lake Michigan


The lines are painted, the field is green, the tarps are set, and the Northwestern Wildcats hope to prove that last season was not a fluke.  We have absolutely no idea.  It is a fool's errand to predict football, where a fraction of a second can change a triumphant march to Indianapolis into a desperate fight to qualify for the Amalgamated Anvil and Anvil Lubricants Bowl in some god-forsaken Rust Belt thunderdome.  Even the Alabamas, Ohio States, and Oklahomas will at some point this season have to hold onto their butts.  Northwestern will probably lose some game they should win and author a heroic upset that causes the cry of UNACCEPTABLE to echo across the college sports internet.

It is unlikely that Northwestern will benefit from as many weird bounces and space-hypnosis referee decisions as last year.  But they could also be better. They could somehow replace the rain of punts with a hail of airborne passes, discovered by offensive coordinator Mick McCall as an exotic punt that potentially allows you to retain possession.  Trevor Siemian is the starting quarterback for the defending Super Bowl champions.  Anything can happen.


Michael T. “Billy” Squier said...

I've been reading your posts for the past couple years, thanks to Brian Cook of MGoBlog for pointing me this way. Today, for the first time since the invention of the crying face laughing emoji, it was literally, actually accurate in reference to how hard I laughed reading this. Well done, sir.

Michael T. “Billy” Squier said...

I've been reading your posts for the past couple years, thanks to Brian Cook of MGoBlog for pointing me this way. Today, for the first time since the invention of the crying face laughing emoji, it was literally, actually accurate in reference to how hard I laughed reading this. Well done, sir.

Michael T. “Billy” Squier said...

/shows up
//double posts

BYCTOM said...