Friday, September 13, 2019

Here, under protest, is Body Clocks

It is a cliche to explore all of the ways that paying attention to sports has changed in the twenty-first century except to add that they have added a bevy of new and gut-wrenching ways for a sufficiently damaged person to be neurotic about sporting events. 

For much of the existence of modern sports fandom, people have wanted to know: what is the dang score? And people have come up with ways to get it, whether it is by having small children screaming it on corners with newspapers or radio broadcasts, or even those insane live scoreboards that they showed on Ken Burns Baseball where 58,000 people are screaming at some guy who is moving around little baseball guys and none of the people realized they would be set to a mournful rendition of the national anthem and a voiceover from a 1980s newspaper columnist living in a madman's library.

In the twenty-first century, we got even more options all of which I have used to follow a Northwestern game: radio broadcasts over the internet, pirated streams filled with the types of computer viruses that announce themselves with animatronic cackling skulls and can only be defeated by typing very fast, and those little internet scoreboxes that show an arrow moving across a field. 

But one of the stranger innovations that we have is an attempt to not figure out the dang score because the game is being recorded.  This first became possible with VCRs and their semi-complicated recording settings that baffled an entire generation of standup comedians.  But avoiding the score is a particularly twenty-first century peccadillo because all of us are armed with devices that are shrieking at us at all times and require a person who wants to be absolutely certain of watching a sporting event unfold has to be prepared to vanquish all sorts of squawking internet distraction to try to avoid any unwanted information.  The solution to this could be to simply not care but anyone who has attempted watching a sporting event where they already know the score but not what happened knows that is its own sort of neurotic hell, like watching a movie where the trailer has already revealed that Arnold Schwarzenegger will at some point emerge from a body of water holding the barrel of a tank in each hand and saying "Tanks for nothing" but having no idea what the context is.
The moment in Eraser when Arnold Schwarzenegger kills 
a computer generated alligator and says "you're luggage" is 
the greatest dumb Arnold one-liner I've ever seen only because 
it seems excessive to quip at an animal that has no access to human language

I recorded the Stanford game and turned it on at 11:30 at night only to be greeted with a new feature from the cable company that automatically shows where the commercial breaks are.  This is intended to be useful so that if you record an episode of Welcome Back Kotter you can fast forward through a commercial for fraudulent dental accessory class action lawsuit and not miss a single Sweathog insult, but in the context of a football game is maddening.  Here were little orange lines signaling a commercial break but also forming a hieroglyphic of breaks in play that could be anything-- turnovers, punts, touchdowns, Pat Fitzgerald going into a crew-cut reverie from an uncalled holding penalty and having to be shot with multiple tranquilizer darts to prevent him from going on a frenzied spree of linebacking across the Bay Area.  It was watching football with a manically flawed oracle at the bottom of the screen explaining in no uncertain terms that something unspecified but significant was about to happen.  This is no way to watch football.  I ended up using my arm to physically block out the bottom of the screen whenever daring to fast forward like a sane and rational person.

The other bizarre effect of recorded football is a shift in time itself.  I like to fast forward through everything but the plays, because I don't necessarily enjoy watching guys huddle up and announcers describing that #43 right there is making football plays because he is part football that's right Tim I think one of his parents was an actual football what we are seeing is a horrible abomination but gosh dang it can this kid tackle, but doing so always involves moving slightly past the action.  What that meant for me is that when Northwestern got the ball back with 30 seconds left, I fast forwarded enough to see a referee raise his arms to signal a touchdown and thought that it could only mean that Northwestern had managed to pull off an insane victory right play to salvage a fairly miserable game only to see that what had happened is that the Stanford defense viciously strip sacked and scored an insult to injury touchdown.

The opening game for Northwestern was bad.  The offense sputtered.  The team suffered numerous injuries.  Several Northwestern tacklers fell victim to Wile E. Coyote physics.  The encouraging thing is that at no point until the final minute in this hideous abomination of a football game were the Wildcats not in it against a ranked team on the road.

I have given up getting concerned over the non-conference schedule.  It is clear after last year that the non-conference games don't seem to matter and Pat Fitzgerald is solely concerned with taking Big Ten teams into overtime or at the very least punting 75 times before scoring a touchdown somehow and winning 13-10.  Stanford was at least a decent team, and it was a road game; the Wildcats are very content to lose to any team at any time in the nonconference schedule whether it is a ranked Pac 12 team or a defunct college team from the 1940s fielding a team of octogenarians.  In the past few years, Northwestern has lost to an FCS team at home and then won a bowl game and lost to a team that has literally never defeated a Big Ten team and then played in the conference championship game.  All this loss has done is probably eliminate Northwestern from the Playoff that they were unlikely to make and if somehow they actually get close we can just blame the whole thing on Body Clocks.


The Wildcats will open the home season against the University of Nevada Las Vegas and expect all of Ryan Field operate at maximum revelry: the Emaciated Wildcat Tunnel, the throbbing AC/DC music, and the single red firework that they shoot during the rocket's red glare part of the National Anthem while more often than not there is someone parachuting in with a gigantic American flag and sometimes it is terrifying because you are screaming "oh no oh no there's parachute guys  up there" but then the rocket harmlessly red glares itself past all paratroopers.

I cannot claim to pretend to know anything about UNLV football other than they do not go by the "Runnin' Rebels" except in basketball and the entire team is unexpectedly Confederate.  They are 1-1 with a comfortable victory over Southern Utah and a crushing loss to the Sun Belt's Alabama State.  Northwestern has already had a bye week and will be back in Chicago's Big Ten Time Zone. 

But what point is in trying to figure things like this out? Pat Fitzgerald's vintage of Northwestern is less of a football team than a variety of avant-garde football projects designed to undermine the concept of rational thought and projection.  In my brain, Fitzgerald is so angry at statistics and math that he has become a sort of Steakhead Foucauldian, casting football statistics as an exercise of a power structure and attempting to subvert it by losing to FCS teams at home while sinking to his knees and grass-staining his official Wildcat Coaching Shorts.  While it is clear and obvious that Fitzgerald operates as the head of a bizarre Overtime Cult, it may also be true that his secondary objective is to ridicule and dismiss the concept of S&P+ rankings.  This makes for a bizarre and stressful situation as a fan but given that the general expectation for Northwestern any given year is to get more or less rampaged upon, it is perhaps by continuously doing the unexpected such as losing games in which they are favored by double digits that allows them to inexplicably get to the Conference Championship game and irritate everyone.  This is the third goal of Northwestern Football, and my favorite.

This blog is going on vacation and will return after the Michigan State game

1 comment:

Nate said...

1000x this. Watching sports on a time delay is the only reason I subscribe to a pay-TV service, and yet each one I've tried has found a new way to ruin the experience. The latest: on YouTube TV if you hit the down key one more time than intended it will helpfully show you the final score. Leave it to Google to build the sim-to-sad-drinking feature you never knew you wanted. Though to be fair YouTube TV is otherwise the best service I've found -- being able to record every game and then quickly enjoy any emergent SpartyNo! moments is great.