Friday, November 4, 2016

Week 10: Streaks

Northwestern headed into Ohio State with an overwhelming losing streak in Columbus.  The last time the Wildcats won in Columbus was 1971, when Woody Hayes was at the height of his terrifying powers, able to infiltrate his players' subconscious and force them to do hamburger drills in their dreams.  Since then, Ohio State has remained on a more or less continuous rampage through the Big Ten while Northwestern's football team spent the late 70s and 80s aerating their and their opponents' fields by getting repeatedly pile-driven through them.

Northwestern's success in 1971 came from the 
unorthodox tactic of punting enormous, blimp-sized 
footballs at opponents and then tackling them in the 
ensuing confusion

The Wildcats came into the game as heavy underdogs, but this is not the same team that got the Fatal Doink from Illinois State.  Clayton Thorson seems to grow by leaps and bounds each week.  Justin Jackson remains one of the Big Ten's best backs, and what we get to see each week from Austin Carr is nothing short of astonishing.  They gave the Buckeyes all they could handle and managed to pull level.  Unfortunately, they could not topple Ohio State.  A holding penalty took away an opportunity to tie the game and Fitz settled for a field goal.  I did not watch the game live, so instead I followed the end of the game on the ESPN GameCenter website where I then watched little arrows representing JT Barrett gallivant across my phone over Northwestern's digital defenders while the clock ran down to nothing on every clumsy refresh.  It was an impressive effort, but it was not enough.  The streak was not broken.

A loss is a loss to Ohio State by four or by forty; that’s what it goes by in the books no matter how close the Wildcats came to unleashing a dejected Horseshoe full of Buckeyes unable to fathom what has just happened and a million unhinged message board demands to fire at least one coordinator and send photographic breakdowns of uncalled holding penalties on the next Pioneer satellite so that aliens would have clear understanding of how illegal it is for the guy to have his hand right up in that jersey jesus christ throw the goddamn flag.


The Wisconsin Badgers have not won in Evanston since 1999.  They have not.  They have they have won Big Ten Championships, they have sent waves of running backs and beefy tackles over the prone bodies of Big Ten opponents and they have garlanded themselves in roses and every single time this this century that they have come to Ryan Field they have lost the football game and this is the funniest and strangest streak in all of college sports.

The streak is misleading because Northwestern and Wisconsin have only played four games in Evanston since 1999.  Still, pretty much every year they've played the Badgers have come in ranked higher than Northwestern and with a retinue of red-clad fans streaming in from the city and down I-94 to take over the stadium and with AP rankings and they still manage to lose close games and it is way more fun to crow about sparsely-played win streaks such as a two-game streak over Notre Dame that dates back to 1995 or a dominant streak over the University of Chicago that dates to 1926 although that was the last time they played and since then Chicago disbanded their football program and left the Big Ten and then revived it as a DIII program. You never know if there is an aged Maroon football player so incensed at Northwestern's Chicago's Big Ten Team billboards that he launches a coup against the Chicago administration and secretly brings the team back to Big Ten contention with an army of cloned Maroon greats like Andy "Polyphemus" Wyatt.

"Polyphemus" Wyatt Mk. VII, his mustache now even 
larger and more resplendent, burrows up from the 
earth outside Ryan Field with an army of leather-helmeted 
clones and a crew of painters stationed at key billboard 
locations on the Tri-State Tollway

Wisconsin comes in ranked eight in the country and desperate for revenge after last year's insane game where the Wildcats benefited from delightfully ludicrous officiating.  Paul Chryst, I am sure, would like to win decisively enough where a referee that accidentally ingests psilocybin mushrooms and then fancies himself Crimson Ump, the Taker of Touchdowns will have minimal effect.

Northwestern is somehow a far better team than they were at the beginning of the season. Though Wisconsin is favored, they will still have to figure out how to deal with Thorson and Austin Carr. Still, Wisconsin is an excellent team with designs still on the Western Division. The home win streak, as delightfully bizarre as it is, can't hold out forever, especially now that they play in Evanston every other year.  But, the Wildcats certainly have the team to upset Wisconsin again, and one more win is more than enough to declare some sort of contrived bullshit curse over the whole enterprise.


It is fitting that last night’s game took place under the watch of Joe Buck, baseball’s Grim Reaper, determined to remind everyone about the cavalcade of people these flailing teams had seen to the grave during their long championship droughts. A robed Joe Buck presided over Fox’s organ music, over graphics about milk prices and historical events, over an army of grasping, rotted skeletons as his face melted into a flaming skull, his unearthly cackling interrupted only by a quick primer on Jon Lester’s inability to throw to first.
Fox loads another jittering newsreel from Olden Times as Joe Buck cackles 
maniacally over B-roll of coffins, crypts, and cemeteries 

The Cubs had spent the entire playoffs manhandled by Cleveland’s pitching, particularly Corey Kluber, Cody Allen, and Andrew Miller, the loose-limbed lefty who had been so unhittable in the playoffs that the announcers had begun to allude to him like he was some dread scourge from over the hills even though he looks like a scruffy human muppet. Miller and Allen lurked in every game like the monsters from medieval maps, and every team knew that as soon as the Indians had the lead, their bullpen arms would come in and slowly squeeze the outs out of them in the most demoralizing way possible.

The Map of Cubs Playoff Baseball Pitching Creatures includes Kluber, Miller, Allen, Bumgarner, 
Matt Moore, Rich Hall, and Theoretically Clayton Kershaw 

In Game Seven, the Cubs finally got to them: they hammered Kluber, and when the Dread Scourge Andrew Miller came in, the Cubs’ grizzled Mendoza Line catcher who had been violently head-bonked by an errant Lester cutter in the top half of the inning launched a dinger to straight away center. There's something about playoff baseball that does not only involve hitting, pitching, and bullying a nebbishy fan into going into witness protection; if it does not, as we as rational people know, involve communion with some sort of unholy forces, the pressure packed games do everything they can to simulate that feeling. And with these two miserable, exhausted catastrophist fanbases, the forces swirling over Progressive Field appeared to be the baseball equivalent of the green mist from the DeMille Ten Commandments. 

The Cubs, who had seized control of the game from the Cleveland Arm Hydra, seemed about to cruise to victory. Then, things took a turnJoe Posnanski once referred to Tony La Russa as "the Mozart of overmanagers," but Maddon's bullpen theatrics rated at least a Salieri.  He quickly pulled Kyle Hendricks for Lester and then put an overworked Aroldis Chapman on the mound.  Chapman,  shaky and gumby-armed, gave up a dramatic two-run homer to that base-stealing slap hitter Rajai Davis that flew over the fence in left field and then split into subatomic baseball particles to lodge themselves in the panic center of Cubs fans' guts. This was it. The Pandora's Box of Cub Playoff Failures had opened and there were goats and cats and Alex S. Gonzalezes rampaging all over the field preparing to drag the greatest Cubs team we are likely to ever see down out of Progressive Field and into Fox Baseball Tragedy B Roll for future playoff appearances. 

And then it was Cleveland's turn to knot their stomachs and clutch at their Omar Vizquel autobiography, The Institgation of Vigilante Beanballism, and watch the Cubs snag two more runs in the inning. But it was World Series Hero Rajai Davis coming up with another RBI to halve the lead, and the giant rat mascot from the 1908 World Series burrowed up from center field, spitting poison on the thousands of Cubs fans in the stands. Finally, Mike Montgomery induced a ground ball, the Contrived Curse of Someone Named Rocky Covalito We're Really Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel Here roared and the Cubs won the goddamned World Series in an amazing game designed to kill remaining fans of the Cubs and Indians that had not already died of natural causes during their championship droughts.

I can't believe it either 

The result of this ludicrous baseball ordeal is that the Cubs finally won a World Series. Whatever miserable mumbo-jumboism fueled the hysterical Cubs pessimism is gone, the dread accompanying every playoff appearance no longer exists, and the morbid misery accompanying every strikeout and double play grounder and awful only the Cubs could do this error has been banished for at least the next 25 years. Now they are merely a wealthy, well-run team set up to contend for the near future and almost certainly become widely loathed in the process. Thank goodness.


HFG said...

Football season's underway
Well, you'd better get ready for a brand new day
Hey, Northwestern, what do you say?
The 'Cats are gonna win today!

They're singing
Go, 'Cats, Go!
Go, 'Cats, Go!
Hey, Northwestern, what do you say?
The 'Cats are gonna win today!

Go, 'Cats, Go!
Go, 'Cats, Go!
Hey, Northwestern, what do you say?
The 'Cats are gonna win today!

They got the power
They got the speed
To be the best in the Bee One Gee

Well this is the year
And the 'Cats are real
So come on up to Ryan Field!

Go, 'Cats, Go!
Go, 'Cats, Go!
Hey, Northwestern, what do you say?
The 'Cats are gonna win today!

Football time is here again
You can catch it all on BTN
So stamp your feet and clap your hands
The Wildcats got the greatest fans!

Go, 'Cats, Go!
Go, 'Cats, Go!
Hey, Northwestern, what do you say?
The 'Cats are gonna win today!

TC said...

This made me laugh out loud. Tell no one.

Unknown said...

BTW - It's Rocky Colavito... and HFG - I'll see your "Go Cats Go" and raise you a "Someday We'll Go Cats All The Way"...