Saturday, November 3, 2018


Yes, there may be a person, huddled in a shack somewhere or in one of those vans that are full of computers where people karate chop keyboards and scream that they’re being hacked by an animated ASCII skull, who has analyzed the film and advanced data that can tell you credibly what the hell is going on with Northwestern football this season, but you can stop right there because I can tell you that it is because the entire program has been subsumed into an overtime cult.

Last year, the Northwestern Wildcats were exposed to three consecutive overtimes; they emerged victorious but forever changed from a mid-tier Big Ten West team to an organization based entirely on the concept of overtime, the suspension of normal time into an infinite dimension where time itself falls away into a worthless abstraction, where football can continue indefinitely to a period of never-ending Perfect Overtime stretching into infinity and also (it goes without saying) everyone gets a really cool cape.

Once you understand the idea of Northwestern as a twisted overtime cult, their season makes far more sense: once the Wildcats, clearly an unstoppable force in Big Ten football, have staked out numerous imposing leads over teams in the first half, Pat Fitzgerald gathers the team in the locker room, puts on the Overtime Crown (a gigantic, bejeweled flat top that fits on top his normal flat top), assembles the Overtime Implements, and implores the team to let their opponent take them into overtime in the way that a river carries silt through its tributaries into the ocean.  Yet, even a team like the Northwestern Wildcats cannot always achieve overtime without the co-operaion of the other squad, and Northwestern has been forced to hang on to win against Purdue, to blow the lead to Michigan, to lose to Akron through a series of ludicrous misfortunes that can only be explained as the machinations of a football cult, or to do whatever it is occurred at the end of the Rutgers game that led to an impossible, blasphemous five point lead.

Only once this year, did the Wildcats manage to successfully go to overtime on a ludicrous 99 yard drive.  There, with the sideline and the crowd chanting in a hideous dead language, their fists curled into claws, and with Pat Fizgerald foaming at the mouth from a psilocybin protein powder, the Wildcats achieved their aim, a single overtime period.
Northwestern performs the Ritual of the Pump├ęd Fist upon achieving Over Time

Ask anyone about installing a secret overtime cult at a major college football program and they will tell you that it is harder than it looks.  For one, overtime did not exist in college football before 1996.  All noted overtime cults beforehand had been conspiracies to bring about the existence of overtime itself: the Society of the Skinned Hog, the Hearty Touchdown Lads known for sporting cravats (to display their disdain for ties), and the Grackle's Call Syndicate whose writings were easily dismissed as forgeries written decades later by the famed hoax specialist A. Quintet Pumnt (undone, in the end, by attempting to fake a trove of heretofore undiscovered James Joyce love letters, the infamous "I am also into pee" series).

Many people underestimate the logistics involved in developing an overtime cult.  The selection of Implements alone can sometimes take years.  Because of the layers of secrecy involved in the Northwestern football program (it is a private school shielded from FOIA requests; Fitzgerald uses a series of arcane codes to disguise his injury reports) this blog is unable to give a full report.  Several credible accounts point to a juddering countdown clock, a live falcon named Lance Moses, a music box that only plays unearthly cackling noises, and thousands of jodhpurs whose use has never been explained.  Furthermore, Northwestern's new quarter-billion dollar practice facilities contain at least two ziggurats to be used for blaring horrid music from a compact disc entitled "royalty free music for cults and public access breathing programs."

This week Notre Dame will visit Ryan Field with their playoff ranking and their legions of Chicago-area fans and their medium-rare coach, and they think they will be playing a football game.  Notre Dame makes its first visit to Evanston since 1976.  They play after Northwestern unexpectedly beat them on the way to the Rose Bowl and then they stopped playing for nineteen years, exactly long enough for Northwestern to return to South Bend and beat them as part of an elaborate prank.  

These teams do not play nearly enough for this game to have meaning, but it does.  They mirror each other.  Notre Dame has a large nationwide fanbase that is the closest thing that Chicago has to a college football team; Northwestern has billboards.  Notre Dame celebrated national titles in the twentieth century while Northwestern fans ripped down the goalposts after breaking a record for futility.  This meeting will the be the fifth time these teams play in 25 years but for some reason the rivalry has a wikipedia page

But Northwestern no longer cares about victory.  They are here to drag the Fighting Irish to overtime, to extend the game beyond the boundaries of time and space, to dwell in Evanston in overtime as the universe is destroyed and reborn over ageless eons.  The last time Northwestern played them, Brian Kelly's brain became warped and twisted by the promise of overtime, and he kept trying to go for two unsuccessfully until he found himself in overtime and at the mercy of the Wildcats and their Baseball Kicker. 

We already live in an insane world ravaged by the ripple effect of overtimes.  The Northwestern Wildcats currently sit in first place in the Big Ten West-- this game against Notre Dame has far less import for them than the three remaining games against Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois after another stirring Northwestern win against Wisconsin at Ryan Field, a reliable abattoir for Wisconsin title hopes.  The Wildcats can literally win the Big Ten West.  They can arrive, with their buses and their trucks and their secret unmarked vans carrying Mick McCall's overtime cowl and conjuring lanterns, in Indianapolis where they can unleash upon the dome an overtime heretofore unseen by college football spanning days, months, and eons, the whole time yelling and fistpumping and trying to figure out which configuration of emojis translates to "Beauty and the Beast" or "There Will Be Blood."  All Notre Dame is trying to do make the college football playoff.   


MB said...

Every now and then a piece of writing changes the way you see EVERYthing and this column is that thing. You continue to produce the finest college football writing in the whole dang universe and the lack of comments left here should not dissuade you from keeping this enterprise going. And no, I am not your mother. I am however a robot although made me say I wasn't in order to post this comment.

HFG said...

I fear your pace is slowing ...