Friday, September 23, 2016

Week 4: FOOTBALL JUGGERNAUT NORTHWESTERN STEAMS TO POWER FIVE WIN

In 2013, the Wildcats won their first bowl game in more than sixty years and celebrated by violently revenging themselves against a plush monkey doll that Pat Fitzgerald used as a symbol of the bowl drought.  Three years later, Northwestern reversed a moribund two-game losing streak by duct-taping themselves to the Duke Blue Devils and flailing away for sixty minutes until they got a win. 

LOGAN: Jesus Christ, it looks like someone assassinated FAO Schwartz
BRISCOE: (Trenchcoatically) That's one way to get a monkey off your back. 
                         (He order 17 hot dogs from a nearby vendor). With dynamite.
(Script from "Monkey Business, "the ripped from the headlines Gator Bowl 
episode of Law and Order aired Sept. 18, 2013)

Northwestern's first win came against a "Power Five" opponent that may have been the weakest on its non-conference schedule.  The team seemed destined to a season of doom and gloom after losses to Western Michigan and a stunning upset by FCS powerhouse Illinois State.  To be fair, it does not take much to send Northwestern fans spiraling into doom and gloom.  The entire Wildcat football programs sways suspended over a gorge of historical football ineptitude not yet quelled by two decades of competitive and even Big Ten championship-caliber play and pushed at all times by opposing fans who don't believe Northwestern should even be in the conference.

Poster for Northwestern's Doom and Gloom-themed 
1980 Football Season

Northwestern's glorious victory over its equally insufferable quasi-rival relived the terror at the prospect of an 0-12 season.  The Wildcats did not necessarily look like world-beaters, but they did look like a team that defeated a major-conference opponent and put the Big Ten basement teams on notice.

BYCTOM deploys its Purdue Confidence Meter, built to measure how 
confident Northwestern fans are in beating Purdue

Clayton Thorson had a career game, scoring with some impressive strikes against a Duke defense monomanically obsessed with stopping Justin Jackson from ball carriering.  Austin Carr climbed to the top of the Big Ten receiver leaderboards.  A young, injury-ravaged Air Team Secondary rallied in the second half to hold rumored Henry Higgins inspiration Daniel Jones in check.  But the game itself devolved often devolved into a comedy of errors as depicted in this highly technical game analysis:

THE SPORTING MAN'S CURSE 

"Did you hear about Bunto Rawlford-Munch?" I said during lunch one day at the Goose Society Club.  "He's been receiving all sorts of sporting paraphernalia: jodhpurs, pneumatic golf clubs, falconing trousers, football helmets." As soon as I said football, Chompy Stodgeaway-Mopp turned, his face twisting into the look of a man whose oyster dinner had betrayed him and led its foodstuff comrades on a rampage through the intestines. “A bunch of oafish rot if you ask me. You can keep your football and any other configuration of violent human pyramids.” He stomped off, leaving a trail of chicken feathers.

“Poor old Chompy, you won’t hear a good word about football from him for a long time,” said Puffer Festoon.  He explained the odious turn of events that had turned Chompy from a football enthusiast to a man just short of forming a subscription society to ban it.

Chompy, you must understand, has an excess of the sporting blood.  He was nearly chucked out of school for running an exam score wagering ring that fell apart in a scandal of score-lowering where promising students unknowingly had their science textbooks swapped for old alchemical treatises.

Chompy's sporting enthusiasm was not tempered despite his almost clairvoyant ability to pick losers. George Saint-Mutton financed his honeymoon by betting against Chompy every time.  So Old Chompy was prone to touching his friends for a tenner, but having exhausted the largesse of every sharp, horseman, and old school chum within the City, he had to turn to investors of the rougher kind. When Vercingetorix wheezed to seventh in the Bumperton Stakes, Chompy owed no less than 45 quid to Victor Darnton, a man whose associates, the colossal Pumbleswan twins, liked to practice their amateur chriropractics on Darnton's most unfortunate debtors.  

With nowhere else to turn, Chompy trudged into his uncle's office.  His uncle,  Theodore Herodotus Stodgeaway-Mopp, earned a fortune with Pleasant Farms, the country's largest chicken processing concern, which patented the first gizzard-chopping apparatus.  The elder Stodgeaway-Mopp looked down on his nephew's sporting pursuits and their rare encounters tended to end with entreaties to quit the racetrack and enter the chicken business.  It was only when Chompy demonstrated, using a model chicken in his uncle's office, precisely how the Pumbleswan twins would rearrange his beak and redistribute his feathers that his uncle agreed to pay his debt.  But he imposed a condition.  Should Chompy fail once again to pay this loan back, he would join Pleasant Farms from the bottom as an apprentice gizzard-grinder.  Chompy would sooner join a the circus as an apprentice bear-taunter, but he had no choice. He grabbed the notes.  

But when Chompy stopped by the track for one quick race, he found an opportunity so golden that it it only existed in fairy stories guarded by some noxious giants who go about walloping people with tree trunks.  A great, purple faced man with a walrus mustache was holding forth about his sporting prowess to everyone who would listen. Chompy quickly saw that this gentleman did not have the benefit of his full faculties.  To be honest, this fellow appeared so pickled that he seemed to be keeping himself upright through the wind power from his own voice.  

Everything he picks comes up a winner, he boasted to the small group of punters assembled around him.  He grabbed a sporting newspaper and announced his infallible picks.  "The Mad Vicar in the seventh," he said, jabbing with a wobbly sausage finger. "Blowtorch Jack Blonnett over Ironknuckle Kitchen by knockout," he cried as the sporting paper fell apart into component pages, leaving him squinting at the most obscure matches on the last page, which was the only one he managed to hold onto.  "Wildcats versus, what’s this?  Blue Devils?  Gentlemen," he said, "I am not a religious man, but I will simply not allow for blasphemy in the…what sport is this?  Football, you say?  Well these impertinent devil-worshipers should be banished to whatever lightning-stricken mansion they perform their rites in." That is when Chompy perked up.

You see, during his brief adventures hiding away from the Pumbleswan Twins, Chompy had become so desperate for sporting action that he sought out increasingly obscure papers for games he could not even follow.  In the course of his researches, Chompy came across an article, a small blurb more accurately, that deprecated the footballing prowess of these very same Wildcats.  According to the article, they had comported themselves in their first two contests like an old dandy so riddled with rheumatism that he can barely shake a cane when a gang of exuberant youths comes by on a hat grabbing expedition.

Chompy knew that he possessed solid scientific information, as mathematically sound as anything that Euclid chap came up with.  It was as if a beam of light emanated from the heavens into the Turf Club and offered the solution to his problems in a single bet.  “I say,” Chompy said, as the gesticulating punter spun about trying to honed in on Chompy.  "This tenner says these Devil chaps will thump those Wildcats into a carton of mince-meats.”  “Is that so?” the tout replied, his sidewhiskers flaring up like a startled lizard.  “I am so confident that these sinister lucifers will be driven underground that I will spot you five, what do they call them?  Points?”  

“Suits, me,” Chompy said. 

"Dash it, I certainly won’t allow that sort of impudent devil-worship in this sacred house,” the portly bettor hiccuped at Chompy.  “I’ll give you seven points.”  

Now, Chompy will swarm to a sure thing like a shark to a bleeding sea lion, but he was raised as a proper gentleman who never lets a fellow sportsman get more than ankle-deep in the soup if he can help it.  “I think we’ve already settled on a bally good wager,” he said, but his magnanimous gesture only further agitated the tout, who turned an even deeper shade of purple.  “My Whatsitcats will roll your Satanic blackguards into the very hell where they presumably reside," he bellowed.  "Eight points!"  

Chompy attaches the greatest honor to the noble art of bookmaking, but even he has his limits, and he was not about to be buffeted about the Turf Club by some grandiose eggplant. “Well, then, if you're so confident, give me nine and I’ll pay out double,” he said.  The tout roared and lurched towards him, only kept off the carpet by a graceful lunge onto a sturdy chair.  “You coarse hare!  Ten!" he said. "But you'd better be prepared to pay out triple.”  

That sealed it.  Chompy handed three tenners for safekeeping to Old Grousey, the head valet who assiduously kept these sorts of arrangements amongst gentlemen.  For a split second, Chompy thought he saw a glint in his opponent’s eye, but the man quickly collapsed into a heap of guttural snores, and Chompy was so excited he forgot to place a small one on Quagmire, which (it turns out) came up lame in the first turn.

The day of the match, Chompy arrived at the club resplendent in ties the color of his favorite football club, the Duke Blue Devils.  He arranged updates via telegraph and we brayed like agitated hyenas every time another footman came in breathless with a new update.  His face fell when the Wildcats took a quick lead, but he improvised a jig when his side tied it up.

Two footmen barreled in with news.  Northwestern had missed a three-point goal, the first said, and Chompy spun his devil-topped walking stick with vaudevillian √©lan.  Then his face fell as the second man told him that a Duke player had roughed up the kicker to in excess of the violent standard of the sport, and the Wildcats would get a closer try. “How can you get a penalty for running into a person when the whole bloody enterprise depends on running into people?" Chompy said, his gesticulations knocking the decanter out of Gulpo Yarrow-Mawp’s always sweating palms. “For all I know they're out there swinging billyclubs and blackjacks at each other.”  Just then, a cab pulled up with a third footman. “Out with it, already,” said Chompy. He read the telegram and Chompy beamed. “He missed.”

It continued in that vein for hours in a flurry of telegrams.  Chompy had no idea what was going on, but managed to follow the movement of the score and the ten points that separated him from an unthinkable consignment to his uncle's dashed chicken prison.  Both sides kept approaching a scoring position only to carelessly discard the ball like a pair of soiled spats.  Time after time, the Duke team appeared to have the Wildcats about to relinquish the ball before committing some confoundingly illegal action.  At one point, a forlorn footman came under a hail of dinner rolls after he solemnly announced that a Blue Devil had lashed out at a Wildcat and been forced from the premises.  “Here I was told that this was a rough-and-tumble game for vigorous roustabouts and you’re telling me a chap’s been chucked because he gave them all a free spot of pugilism?” Chompy said, before aiming a dinner roll at a the valet, hidden behind a tray he kept around for precisely these circumstances. 

Chompy’s celebration turned morose after Northwestern went up by seventeen when, according to a telegram, the Duke defenders had abandoned a Northwestern player like Robinson Crusoe in the middle of the field.  He peevishly dismissed a footman who he sent away and told him to fetch a catalog for chicken-resistant outerwear.  But the footman refused to move, insisting that Chompy would want to see his latest despatch.  Chompy read the message and he let out a pretty good elephant bellow.  “They’ve scored!” he yelled. His beloved Blue Devils, with no hope of winning the game, still managed a ripping series of football maneuvers toward the end-zone.  All he needed was a nearly automatic extra point to get him to ten points, get his money that would keep him safe from his uncle’s diabolical chicken facility, and keep him in the sporting life until at least the Hamwattle Stakes.  He caroused about, striking a number of what he believed might be football postures.  “Sir,” the last footman wheezed, grabbing at his cramped abdomen. “A final telegram has arrived.”

THIS SUBTITLE HAS A CORN PUN

Northwestern has a serious challenge ahead when it begins Big Ten play for all intents and purposes on the road against Nebraska.  The Huskers are undefeated, coming off an impressive Reverse Body Clock win at Oregon, and look to have exorcised themselves of their propensity for ludicrous close losses last season where they lost, by my recollection, 17 games by a row by a hail mary hook and lateral combination designed by the Sinbad character from Necessary Roughness.  Northwestern has historically played the Huskers close; last year's narrow victory in Lincoln came from Nebraska's inept, Tecmo Bowl-style tackling attempts on Clayton Thorson as he triumphantly gallumphed through their secondary, which is something I will treasure for the rest of my life.


This year's Nebraska team looks like it could be the class of the Big Ten West and brings with it the traditional swarm of Nebraska fans to Ryan Field.  All Big Ten opponents that are not currently too depressed to handle football take over Ryan Field because there's twice as many of them in every class as Northwestern's total enrollment and the Wildcats have essentially no casual fans except for people who I've buttonholed at social gatherings and yelled at about Northwestern football until they pretend to care.  The vast majority of these visiting fans are friendly and nice and hilariously distraught on the occasions when Northwestern upsets them.  But it's still frustrating to go to a home game knowing that Northwestern will probably have to go to a silent snap count.

This site, like many members of the Blogspot Family, is a fount of ideas, and throughout the years of Nebraska Crisis I've proposed numerous sane and normal solutions to the visiting fan problem: enforcing a strict purple dress code with doormen recruited from the finer clubs who have Crimean War experience, a Voight-Kampf Test for Ohio State partisans, constructing a Potemkin Evanston a mile north of the city complete with a cardboard stadium to lure opposing fans away from Ryan Field.  The Northwestern Athletic Department, however, refuses to take action on these reasonable and practical solutions and will therefore expose me and hundreds of other Wildcat fans to the psychologically damaging high-fives and fist-bumpery in my own section.  To any Nebraska fan who happens upon this blog while searching for football fan fiction on the internet know this: I will be mildly disappointed if the Wildcats lose this game.

3 comments:

Staniel said...

All excellent ideas regarding how to dissuade opposing fans. I am particular to the Potemkin Evanston, that one has legs.

I propose an alternative course of action that is arguably less logistically challenging. I say we rename the team "Bye Week" so that opponents and their fans will be tricked into staying home and presumably reading a tome from their favorite Fireside Poet. Sitting at 1-2 with crossover opponents OSU and MSU demands such skulduggery.

BYCTOM said...

This is a good idea.

BYCTOM said...

Why did I just have to click on a bunch of pictures of boats in order to comment on my own blog, I demand to see a manager.