Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Kudos to whatever maniac dreamed up the Pinstripe Bowl, a football game played in a baseball stadium in a city that on a late December afternoon could be overrun by snow, ice, polar winds, and complex societies of hibernating bleacher creatures who spend the winter deep in the bowels of the stadium while composing new clap clap clapclapclap cheers for the springtime and occasionally clashing over whether or not A-Rod is a true Yankee and marching to battle in their souvenir sundae batting helmets.  The game drew a healthy contingent of blanket-swaddled fans and surely a massive television audience of people at gyms, muted bar televisions, and people stuck at work forced to stream the game into their cubicle joined by their ergonomic back pillows and a staple remover with googly eyes named "Bite Golic."

ESPN went all out and scrambled all available Golics

Northwestern came into the Pinstripe Bowl as underdogs against a confident Pitt team disappointed to be slumming it with Northwestern in a low-status bowl within the incomprehensible Great Hierarchy of Bowls. Pitt's turbocharged offense managed to march down the field repeatedly but had trouble crossing the goalline.  Anthony Walker ripped star running back James Conner from a one-yard score and Godwin Iguibuike came up with an endzone interception.  On the other side, Justin Jackson slithered, danced, juked, and stiff-armed his way to 224 yards, three touchdowns, and a slew of prone Pittsburgh defenders laid to rest in an armtackle graveyard.

Justin Jackson temporary stops the rotation of the Earth on its axis for his second touchdown

Pat Fitzgerald coached like he had nothing to lose.  An earlier post discussed Fitzgerald's more aggressive playcalling this season on fourth down.  The ESPN commentators made it seem like this was part of the Fitzgerald package, as he recklessly calls for fourth down conversions like a child emperor demanding that courtiers get kicked by exotic animals for his amusement because they haven't seen the thousands of times that the Wildcats have tried to kneel down for entire quarters, or sent out the punt unit in situations that even Kirk Ferentz would find excessive, and asked Northwestern's kickers to kick into howling squalls where the only way to get a ball through the uprights would be to speak some sort of ancient phrase in a dead language.  Fitzgerald trusted his offense and they converted all four times on fourth down after watching similar attempts falter this season by cruel inches.

Pat Fitzgerald goes all in on fourth downs

Northwestern drew inspiration from some ESPN personality who picked Northwestern to lose the Pinstripe Bowl on television to the point that Fitzgerald called him out twice: immediately after the game and at the postgame press conference.  Fitzgerald made sure the clip of an ESPN blowhard was the last thing that Northwestern players saw before taking the baseball field and this is easily the second funniest aspect of the Pinstripe Bowl except for the existence of the Pinstripe Bowl.  One can only imagine how far the Wildcats could go if someone informed Stephen A. Smith of their existence.

If it were me, I would not have kicked it to Jeremy Maclin. I would 
have said I'm gonna drill a hole in the dome and I want you to punt 
into the real Alamo which is PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE but a 
MOTIVATIONAL EFFECT. I would have put everyone on the endzone 
against RON KELLOGG the THIRD and the FIRST and SECOND for 
GOOD MEASURE. I would have called a PLAY against MICHIGAN 
where it is PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE for Siemian to fall on his butt. 
I would have REMOVED HIS BUTT. I would not have lost 34 consecutive 

football games. I would not become embroiled in a basketball 
point-shaving scandal instead I would say y'all aren't shaving a TENTH
of a POINT until we at least make the NCAA TOURNAMENT

The Pinstripe Bowl provided a solid bowl experience.  It featured wild lead changes, huge plays, a swashbuckling coach who kept going for it on fourth down, controversial unflagged hits that knocked out Pitts' quarterback and inspirational superstar running back, Joe Girardi, a low number of hamfisted baseball references which is good but also slightly disappointing like Al Pacino's performance in Insomnia which was excellent but I spent the entire time waiting for a sleep-deprived Pacino to bug out his eyes and scream at someone like an unhinged maniac which is like the first thing you'd expect to see in a movie about a Pacino character who hasn't slept in days but he's barely even irate, and an upset for an incredibly rare Northwestern bowl victory.


One of the most enjoyable things about bowl season is that the college football discourse, already a roiling pot of text-spittle, becomes given over to its favorite topic: whether a conference is bad.  Any rational person knows that a small series of one-off games often decided by a few plays tells us relatively nothing about the entire conference; it is hard to imagine a rational person sitting through more than 35 seconds of discussion about college football which consists of either a person screaming at Paul Finebaum while wearing a single-strap unitard or a person who sprays um actuallys around the internet like a sprinkler hooked up to a sewage line.

The Big Ten lost a bunch of bowl games and now it is bad.  Ohio State, which grabbed a controversial playoff spot despite not playing in the Big Ten Championship, got annihilated by Clemson.  Penn State lost a ludicrous quarterback duel by a last-second field goal.  Michigan lost because of a delightfully insane series of invents involving an effectively flummoxed kick returner and an interception that featured a potential missed offsides call that has led to the endowment of the Barrett Chair in Drawing Arrows on Pictures of Football.  Only Big Ten West powers Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Unstoppable Wildcat of Northwestern managed to win their relatively lowly bowl games.

Michigan scientists analyze the interception in the brand-new Offside and Spot Center

The Big Ten's bowl season flop remains completely meaningless.  For one, it is incredibly satisfying to watch the bullies of the Big Ten beaten in bowl games.  Conference pride is incomprehensible; why should I root for the very teams that sweep into the stadium every year with their legions of fans and more often than not bludgeon Northwestern?  There are few things in college football more satisfying than watching Ohio State get towed out of the Glendale stadium like one of its detachable grass fields with the possible exception of watching Jim Harbaugh explode into a million Harbaugh particles, each of them spitefully calling a meaningless timeout in the dying seconds of the Orange Bowl.

Second, the Conference Argument Industry takes place in a bizarre, lofty space that has nothing to do with the experience of college football fans.  While the big teams and the arbitrary playoff committee or BCS or whatever rudimentary scapulimancies used to divine the national champion before then take up all the air in the room, the vast majority of college football teams are either scraping for a bowl in whatever pizza city may take them or having fans argue about firing their coaches on the internet, or doing both at the same time. There are approximately three teams in each conference that  determine whether the whole thing is good or bad, and Northwestern has absolutely nothing to do with any of it.  The only thing that matters are Hats and bowl games, and the bloviations of various windbags obsessed with which team will lose to Alabama remains as ancillary to most teams' experience of college football as the seeding in the strongman competition where the giant Scandinavians are forced to scuttle around while strapped into economy cars.

Mr. Bay, I'm here to audition for the transformer. Yes, I'm ready, here it 
goes: Reet rot roat. Shit let me try that again


The last time Northwestern won a bowl game, the players participated in a horrifying ritual disembowelment of a plush monkey toy representing the Wildcats' bowl drought.  Now, they've won two.  Northwestern's bowl losing streak came down mainly to the relative paucity of bowl games and the team's historical football ineptitude.  Then, when the walls opened up and flooded these United States with a cornucopia of bowl spectacles, Northwestern ran into what appeared to be a universe determined to shut them out.  They played in all manner of bowls against big teams, against small teams, in Pasadena, in Detroit, and in every available venue in the state of Texas and they could not win their final game whether they were matched up against an SEC juggernaut or a cresting MAC team. They lost in overtime.  They lost on an overtime fake field goal.  They had NCAA officials stop games and invent novel overtimes and special teams scenarios for the Wildcats to falter.  

Brandon Breazell has spent the last 11 years returning Northwestern's 
onside kicks for touchdowns

The Pinstripe Victory was not as satisfying as that emotional, drought-wrecking Gator Bowl against Mississippi State.  That was a ranked Northwestern team in a New Year's Day bowl that had all the pomp you would exepct from a Mid Status Bowl Game: the sun-dappled Jacksonville coast, a guy in a knight suit threatening tax code with medieval weaponry, numerous cuts to an interview with a race car driver.  

No sports victory could possibly be more enjoyable than a long-awaited win after losing for decades and decades.  Those games, the ones that require the shredding of a stuffed animal monkey and brutal display of its plush carcass in post-game press conferences as a warning to FAO Schwartz, come once in a lifetime.  That does not diminish the Pinstripe Bowl, which featured a heavy underdog Northwestern team wearing officially licensed hats in triumph with their third winter victory in program history.  I hope there are many more crappy bowl game trophies to come. 

Until then, the only thing to do is sit and wait for the next great impossible victory: become one the 68 best basketball teams in the country.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Stephen A smith caption is an all time great. Best NU blog past present and future. Thanks for continuing to write.