Friday, October 25, 2019

This blog is now about fraudulent bowl games

Yes, Ohio State came lumbering into Evanston and chortled ho ho ho and knocked everyone around for awhile and yes Northwestern is 1-5 and not moving the ball well and no one on TV wants to talk about their Yardage in polite company.
I only wish my DVR had an option to not only delete a game 
but produce a physical copy and bury in the giant pit that they 
supposedly buried all of the E.T. Atari cartridges in

There is nothing to learn or think about from that debacle.  Ohio State fans got the bloodletting they feel entitled to, Northwestern thrilled the crowd with a return to Classic Northwestern Football, and Pat Fitzgerald spent the majority of the game stunned into a slack-jawed reverie.  

For Northwestern's struggling offense, the task does not get any easier against a ferocious Iowa defense.  Iowa, though, as been only slightly less comical on offense than the Wildcats lately.  It is Northwestern's homecoming game and the stands will be as black and yellow as a yellowjacket.  Pat Fitzgerald seems to be falling into the worst season of his career.  There's not a lot of empirical evidence that the Wildcats can pull this off other than the inexplicably deranged psychological hold that Northwestern has over Iowa.

You can consult dozens of football experts, grizzled men with combover ponytails recorded for documentaries in front of bookshelves bulging with Joe Namath autobiographies and they will all unanimously agree that Northwestern consistently beating Iowa in increasingly ridiculous Rube Goldberg overtimes is one of the funniest things to happen in college football in recent memory. 
I wrote this joke before looking anything up just assuming 
that any Broadway Joe autobiography would have at least 
one profoundly risible feature-- you be the judge

Very few people know about it because even the most degenerate college football fans refuse to handle a Northwestern-Iowa game without the heavy smocks and tongs used to manipulate molten steel, but watching Iowa lose to a team that they probably should beat repeatedly because they fumble at the last second or because the quarterback falls down in overtime or because the referee makes a questionable call and then three guys get ejected for objecting like they are lawyers in a John Grisham adaptation is incredible.  It has happened frequently enough that both fanbases halfway expect a Northwestern team that cannot get a first down without notarized permission from at least three Governing Bodies to win just based on either faith in the occult or doom-mongering.  In a topsy-turvy world, Northwestern's half-assed victories over the Hawkeyes in the worst football game  a human being can subject themself to is one of the few things we can count on.


Bowls are largely a pointless scam-- they exist literally as content for ESPN the same way that Netflix buys some forgotten British shows called "The Mr Halcontern Charlton-Swedish Spooky Castle Mysteries" or "Oi the Fuck You Lookin' At with Oliver Hardman" and are left entirely in the hands of local Bowl Committees that exist as standard grasping, two-bit, suspender-thumbed, money skimming graft operations.  As long as ESPN has something to put on television at 4PM for the benefit of people desperate for anything to distract from talking to their in-laws or volatile cable television uncles, no one in charge of anything seems to give a shit about the mustache and tophat guys stuffing their pockets.  It's a lawless wilderness among vultures, although with a sort of old fashioned shamelessness that is almost charming.  That is why I am not at all surprised but completely elated by the Bullshit Bowl Sponsor.

Bowl sponsorships have become their own genre of joke.  There is no company or other sort of concern in America too ludicrous and stupid to sponsor a bowl game; it seems in recent years that bowl games have been purposefully seeking to sell their naming rights to only the silliest fly-by-nite operations.  Entire swaths of American consumer industries can probably be written from bowl sponsors alone-- they can be read like tree rings to pinpoint the exact moment of some particularly dumb trend that would be wiped off the face of the Earth and forgotten within two years. 
The St. Petersburg Bowl was a supernatural lightning rod for the dumbest 
bowl sponsors in the known universe

The New Mexico Bowl lost its bowl sponsor after local reporting revealed that the company sponsoring the bowl game didn't exist.  DreamHouse productions, the sponsor and a supposed production company, does not exist.  One reporter for Enchantment Sports found numerous people willing to go on record and describe the DreamHouse CEO as a conman claiming to be an actor, a boxer, a motivational speaker, and person who constantly photoshops himself into fake movie posters and at least one ad where he threatens to "take on" the Harlem Globetrotters.  

This is far more embarrassing for the New Mexico Bowl and ESPN than anyone else.  The alleged scammer is the type of person who will always exist.  In an earlier age, this type of guy would have to have a wagon and a tophat and fraudulently claim to be a colonel.  Somehow this person managed to purchase bowl naming rights without anyone checking to see if DreamHouse existed, if it did anything, if the executive had not been dogged by allegations of being a Cohen Brothers character from one of the dozens of people who are insanely angry with him, and if the DreamHouse company could pay actual American currency for naming rights.  Instead what appeared to happen is that everyone involved refused to countenance that anything was wrong with the sort of standoffish corporate pugilism until the dam broke and the entire thing was far too embarrassing for everyone involved.  "The company was announced in 2018 and was set to have its grand opening this past spring, according to its website," announced a website called bizjournals, an ominous note in an otherwise credulous press release.

This whole debacle is pretty funny but also personally devastating for me.  For many years I have offered various bowls the opportunity to partner with me to present the Bringyourchampionstheyreourmeat dot blogpspot dot com Bowl, but none have listened because I have made my proposal by dot @ing them on twitter and because I have admittedly made an aggressive opening bid of $40.00.  Little did I know that all I had to do was claim I had a 25,000 square foot facility, one that can be used for the purposes of Blogging, and photoshop my face into a picture of Harlem Globtetrotters in order to be in business.  

The incredible thing about bowl games is not that the entire enterprise is riddled with corruption and money skimming, it is that it is such a transparent con that no one is even bother of doing the bare minimum to bother trying to make sure things appear on the up and up.  The bowl system is endemic of the type of lazy, denuded corruption that exists now by building something designed to make money through some passive way like TV ratings and putting some doofy company's name on a stupid football game that almost no one would go out of the way to watch and then letting the machine run and print money for a bunch of executives and dignitaries who do nothing but send out barely proofread press releases about how Being Excited To Partner With This Brand; the only person who seems to have broken the slightest amount of sweat is the guy who had to make a fake website for his fake company. Bowl games are just another weird media property that are part of an unaccountable and inexplicable flow of money despite no one asking for them or wanting them.

I will personally be devastated if Northwestern does not qualify for a bowl game this year.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Nebraska and Northwestern are in a Codependent Emotional Death Spiral

Someone has decided that every year Northwestern and Nebraska have to slog at each other for four hours before one group of fans has its insides explode. I don’t know what sort of strange alchemy allows this-- perhaps there is some sort of football cosmology that says there can only be one NU team and so the two are fated to destroy each other emotionally for all time, perhaps there is some sort of chortling football demon involved, or perhaps it is because both teams are both Sort of OKish, but I don’t think that anyone realized when the Corn Huskers joined the Big Ten that they would spend the next decade more or less locked into a devastating Spider-Man pointing meme with Northwestern, and I admit that if I didn’t just watch a walk-on backup safety kick a game-winning field goal in the dying seconds and run a bulldozer over the Wildcats’ season, I would admit that this particular turn of events for Nebraska is incredibly funny.

Northwestern had won the last two contests both, as the team prefers, in overtime. Nebraska won this one with a backbreaking interception, an inexplicably gorgeous throw from a backup quarterback, and said field goal. Nebraska loves to win this game with a backup quarterback. Their most ridiculous win in this mutant rivalry to date remains a hail mary engineered by Ron Kellogg III, such an improbable and heart-breaking finish that I will remember the name Ron Kellogg III to my dying day and I admit I did not even watch that game because I was gambling on jai-alai.

The feeling when Ron Kellogg III hits a hail mary and you miss the Trifecta

The Wildcats started the game with a new quarterback but continued to struggle on offense. It is a hoary cliche for internet football idiots like me to sarcastically joke about the team establishing the run when they are having the same success doing so that Wile E. Coyote has traditionally had in entering a tunnel painted onto the side of a mountain. It is clear that the coaching staff has them devotedly running the ball only because it is not currently legal in football to burrow into the defensive line, wait several weeks, and then burst out of them in a disgusting shower of flesh and football jersey material for a two-yard gain.

The Nebraska loss has dropped Northwestern to 1-4 in a game they could have won. Northwestern’s defense appears vicious enough to strike fear in the hearts of the Big Ten West’s meatiest and least ham-handed quarterbacks.  It is impossible to say that Northwestern will not right the ship and find their way to a gnarled moth-eaten bowl game as is their birthright in the Fitzgerald era but it seems like the mythical sixth win and berth in the Col. R. Humpted Bilious Official U.S. Army Surplus Iron Claw For Meat Preparation Bowl continues to fade away like a mirage in the distance.
Meat Claws are a real product. It is unknown whether the United States 
government keeps a list of Known Meat Claw Injuries

And now big, bad Ohio State, the Crimson Scourge, comes steaming into Ryan Field on an insane and unnecessary Friday night game with its fans poised to take over the stadium for a game none of them have any interest in watching.  The Buckeyes are favorites.  The gambling point spread is obscene.  The game has been removed from the FS1 channel and banished to Big Ten Network to ensure it is viewed only by those steeled for hardcore Big Ten Content.  

I have suggested that this year's Northwestern team at 1-4 is in a good position for an upset.  Nobody is watching Northwestern football this season unless they have been arrested for effectively passing and put into a Clockwork Orange device, and so no one understands that the Wildcats' defense is excellent.  The hope has been that the entire enterprise of Northwestern football under Pat Fitzgerald has become so nonsensical and random that the Buckeyes will enter some sort of chaos state where what happens becomes an operatic farce and they are dragged to overtime and eventually madness.  I have submitted this to many gambling preview websites but they have all turned it down. 


If there is one thing that the baseball playoffs have given fans this season it is the startling revelation that Fernando Rodney is here and still pitching.  Rodney, the crooked-hat closer for the Tigers and eventually pretty much every team in Major League Baseball is still popping up in middle relief in his seventeenth year in the majors at the age of 42.  In his first appearance, he gave up a walkoff single to the Twins' Christian Guzman scoring Corey Koskie with Bobby Kielty and A.J. Pierzynski on base, and now he is in the World Series pitching for a team that at the time did not exist. 

An impossibly young Rodney before the Cap Tilt, 
before the Arrow, before the All Star appearances and 
Inexplicable Receipt of Downballot MVP Votes when 
he was striking out various Jose Valentins and Brians Broussard

There is a meditative element to players like Rodney who have been around forever, had prominent moments, and then more or less vanished to anonymous middle relief roles for years at a time, resurfacing from every once in a while startle fans who had no idea he was still in the league.  There's a component of this that I believe runs parallel to the idea of aging especially in the distorted Logan's Run world of professional sports. There is also a weird way that sports figures like Rodney hover around the game like bizarre specters-- at the point where even if you hadn't heard from him in a few years and you expect that he has retired to a life of appearances on extremely local sports radio or eerily stilted commercials for car and truck dealerships, he reappears on a mound in a burst of startled and delighted confusion. But the reason why Rodney is more compelling than all of the other journeyman middle relievers with a shockingly extended run or brief resurrection from the Long Island Ducks or whatever is because he is still shooting the arrow on people.

Fernando Rodney has a signature move, and that is relatively unique for baseball.  Major League baseball polices the expression and movement of players with the severe gruffness of the meanest Soviet ballet instructors, and Rodney has continued to mime shooting the arrow on people for years because he does not seem to care if a purple-necked manager named "Duff" or "Spud" screams at a reporter about him Respecting the Game and also Hat Angle Disgruntlement.  The best thing about Rodney is that he has continued to shoot the arrow even as his role has changed-- he began using this gesture to celebrate saves (this somehow started in 2012 with the Rays in his tenth year in the big leagues), but now shoots the arrow more or less in any situation where he has pitched without allowing 15 runs.  In the 2015 NLDS pitching for the Cubs, he came on in the seventh, recorded two outs and put a man on first, and when Joe Maddon came to take him out he strode to the foul line and shot an arrow to the crowd to the general amazement and understated disgust of the commentators, a job sort of done-ish.  It is one of my favorite things that has ever happened in a Cubs playoff game.

The next year, Rodney saved two games for an absolutely putrid Padres team against the Cubs in both ends of a double header.  I do not know if he had ever arrowed a team twice in the same day before, but I was not even mad.

One of the precarious things about having a signature celebration is that at any point, an opposing player can take it and perform it themselves.  Sometimes when this happens the player gets mad.  Here's an article from 2019 about former Charger Shawne Merriman still fuming about the time the New England Patriots sarcastically performed his "Lights Out" dance in 2006.  Merriman would also pen a long article about how the "inverted sack-celebration discourse used by the Patriots had been recontextualized as a mocking burlesque" in The Wagged Finger: A Journal of Sports Celebrations.  This has also happens to Fernando Rodney.  Here from 2014 is a video that someone in Major League Baseball has uploaded with the incredible title "Albert Pujols and Mike Trout get PAYBACK for Fernando Rodney's early bow and arrow celebration."

Fernando Rodney is still doing this.  He is not exactly a high-leverage reliever for the Nationals, not even in their benighted, shambling bullpen.  But he is there.  When it was time to get some mop-up innings in an NLCS Game 3 where the Nationals had thrown the Cardinals into an enormous toilet, Rodney was there. It was 8-1 in the eighth.  He got three outs.  The invisible arrow arced into the October air.


No, thanks.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Football Aesthetics

One of the appeals of college football is that teams are more willing to adapt to unorthodox strategies because in a sport where a handful of teams have their pick of the players who hilariously vanish around, bulldoze, or do some combination of both to their unfortunately normal high school opponents, they need every advantage they can get. In this situation, you can see weird Big 12 future football where somehow everyone, including several members of the band’s saxophone section, are wide receivers, or vestigial 1940s option football that still exists mainly at the military academies where teams are still calling plays named “Col. Samuel N. Victuall’s Original Male Fisticuffs Powder” or “Hand the ball off/For awhile/Watch your scrotum/In the pile/Burma Shave.”

This is not Northwestern football under Pat Fitzgerald. In the early 2000s, Randy Walker helped bring then-new spread offense into a Big Ten where most teams were running out of the Crowbar Formation. Those Northwestern games were obscene touchdown fests where the Wildcats scored as much as humanly possible because they weren’t particularly good at stopping other teams, and they seemingly won every game by having the quarterback run around for 35 seconds and then heave the ball to the endzone. Under Fitzgerald, Northwestern has evolved into a much better defensive team that has introduced new types of players to the Wildcat canon: enormous run-stoppers going toe-to-toe with the Midwest’s beefiest linemen and ball-hawking defensive backs. Almost simultaneously, the ‘Cats have become a bruising ball control offense, still running the spread offense but doing so almost parodically.

This shift from offensive chaos to steady defense has been extremely effective for Northwestern. The team has had an unprecedented run of sustained success under Fitzgerald, the type of run that involves going to and winning bowl games, upsetting genuinely good teams, and forcing several fanbases to do the unthinkable and contemplate losing to Northwestern. But aesthetically it is a major change. To watch Northwestern football now is to revel in a festival of punts and a spectacle of guys leaping around the field with closed fists raised just before the punt.  Pat Fitzgerald and his coaching staff have decided that the way they prefer to move the ball should resemble watching someone angrily try to start a lawnmower for 90 minutes.

This was the story against Wisconsin, where Northwestern's defense shut down superstar running back Jonathan Taylor.  Wisconsin has an excellent defense of their own, and both teams mostly glared and snarled at each other until the Badgers were able to turn a few turnovers into points.  The Wildcats made a comeback in the fourth quarter, but Fitzgerald's aggressive moves to go for two both backfired and prevented them from getting it to a one-score game.  Fitzgerald said the numbers supported his moves and offered to teach a class in analytics that are derived from him sitting up all night in front of a giant chalkboard testing various formulas for point scenarios but the chalkboard is instead filled with imprints from him headbutting it.  

Northwestern plays Nebraska in one of their baffling annual contests.  The Huskers have also struggled this season and are coming off an ESPN Gameday dismantling at the hands of Ohio State.  Nebraska brought in Scott Frost to revolutionize their offense and bring about a new era of high-flying Huker football away from people demanding a return to the option and screaming "let's go 'shirts" blissfully unaware that all of the players are wearing shirts.  The Wildcats will attempt to smother them on defense and take them to overtime.  


Approximately one week after the Chicago Bulls fired bland VHS enthusiast Fred Hoiberg and replaced him with windsprint maniac Jim Boylen, I wrote that the Bulls had fallen into a pattern of replacing a Hair Guy with a Bald Asshole. Boylen came in, started emphasizing toughness, led the Bulls to their worst home defeat in the history of the team, pulled his starters in order to subject them to a ludicrously tough practice, and spurned a revolt. Bulls players reportedly began contemplating a minor industrial action to no-show the practice. The Bulls became the laughing-stock of the National Basketball Association. The Sacramento Kings, a burbling cauldron of organizational dysfunction in their own right, beat the Bulls, and their players mocked them by yelling at them to enjoy their windsprints. After Bulls players formed a Leadership Council because they were so concerned about their coach’s Last Chance U tactics and general unhinged vice principal aesthetic, Boylen responded that he was “jacked up and juiced.”
When you are jacked up and juiced

It is time for me to eat some crow. I was wrong about Jim Boylen. He is not a rigorous taskmaster who models his life and fashion choices after the aircraft carrier commander in Top Gun. Or, more accurately, he is not just that. His constant emphasis on players’ awesome souls and kick-ass spirits has revealed him as reaching a new level of coaching derangement: he is a New Age Meathead. 

This not necessarily a novel phenomenon. There has long been a crossover between professional athletes, who are attempting to push the limits of human possibility at the physical level, and all sorts of wacky wellness cures. And given the shifting ambiguity around nutrition, exercise practices throughout the years, there have always been quackery and strange practices to fill in the gaps. These involve muttonchop guys going around with tonics advertised with 2,300 word leaflets and people who wrote books about about how you cannot eat legumes or you will angry up the bean gland.  

The greatest trend of the twentieth century weird new-agey health stuff infiltrating sports were a brief run of baseball pitchers wearing phiten necklaces with titanium-infused magnets.  NYU's Scienceline got an explanation on how this all was supposed to work: "According to the company, the necklaces and bracelets work by stabilizing the electric flow that nerves use to communicate actions to the body. 'All of the messages in your body travel through electricity, so if you’re tired or just pitched nine innings, the electricity isn’t flowing as smoothly as it can,' said Joe Furuhata, a Phiten spokesman. 'Our products smooth out those signals.'” 

If you were to ask me who would be the most apt endorsement 
of the magical titanium magnet-necklace, I would say Josh Beckett
 before you even finished talking although please do not search 
my internet history to see if I have searches like "was travis hafner a phiten guy"

Those necklaces, combined with late '00s-decade baseball fashions like MMA shirts and disgusting, elongated soul patches, were part of a certain type of baseball pitcher's arsenal before fading away because they didn't do anything and they did not come free with the purchase of a Puddle of Mud box set.

Jim Boylen, to me, is an anthropomorphic phiten necklace, a strange confluence of weird pseudoscience and new-age quackery wrapped in the packaging of a classic toughguy sports asshole.  This means that he is tearfully screaming about how much he admires Wendell Carter's life essence after he breaks his ankle in a hamburger drill.  It is Boylen talking about his vision quest when explains why he played Ryan Arcidiacono 38 minutes.  One can imagine him putting his forehead through drywall after excoriating the team for being soft after losing by 25 instead of 13 and then being unable to sleep because he has just heard of chakras and is trying to see if Cristiano Felicio has them.  He is unknowable and bizarre and weird and is likely going to be the difference between the bulls winning 18 games or somehow scrapping for an eight seed in the putrid Eastern Conference and I am fascinated by what he is going to do all of the time.


Baseball season has come to its autumn climax, and as the tension mounts in do-or-die playoff games involving the game's greatest players, I am thinking about Todd Frazier.  Frazier, an aged power hitter for the New York Mets who is from New Jersey enough to use Frank Sinatra as his walkup music, comes across as a relatively placid personality.  He played his best ball on those early 2010s Reds teams.  I am thinking about Todd Frazier because Adam Eaton is up for the Washington Nationals and got into a fight with Frazier earlier this year, which revealed the two of them despise each other since they were teammates on the almost operatically bizarre 2016 White Sox.

The 2016 White Sox became a swirling morass of insanity.  As the crosstown rival Cubs went into the season as World Series favorites and somehow rent a hole in the space-time continuum that has plunged the world into chaos, the South Siders completely lost their minds.  The major issue was that left-handed platoon DH Adam LaRoche wanted to have his son Drake spend the entire season with the team as a sort of junior player soaking up the exciting and intellectually challenging atmosphere of a major league locker room.  Other players reportedly did not want a 14 year-old around all of the time, the team asked LaRoche not to bring his son into the locker room, and LaRoche retired instead.  This split the White Sox into pro- and anti-LaRoche factions, with Eaton calling the teenaged Drake a "leader in the clubhouse" and other teammates putting up LaRoche jerseys in solidarity.  Adam LaRoche then went in retirement to the natural path of extremely bizarre Christian sting operations in overseas brothels. 

LaRoche jerseys hang defiantly in the White Sox clubhouse like medieval pennants

Can we be sure that the Eaton/Frazier split was about the LaRoche controversy? No.  Their falling out could be about all sorts of normal baseball disagreements such as sunflower seed disputes or whether to play Creed or P.O.D. in the locker room or whether Bigfoot or Gravedigger was a better monster truck.  But given that the LaRoche spectacle hung over the clubhouse and that Frazier was a newcomer to the White Sox that season it seems likely that it's the case and also it is extremely funny to imagine a bloodfeud between Frazier and Eaton that involves multiple generations of LaRoche.  

Also that year pitcher Chris Sale completely flipped out and reportedly sliced up a bunch of throwback uniforms because he refused to wear them.

Frazier's fracas with his former teammate was not his only incident.  Somehow, Frazier got involved in something with Jake Arrieta that broke my brain and still continues to haunt me to this day.  In early July, Arrieta hit Frazier with a pitch and Frazier took exception.  The video shows him making disgusted remarks to the umpire and catcher and then yelling at Arrieta as he made his way to first before being ejected from the game and in a hilarious baseball pantomime of yelling and aggressive pointing at the officials.  After the game, Arrieta told the media that if he was still angry "he can come see me and I'll put a dent in his skull."  

This is an insanely violent thing to say about another person even in the context of baseball macho posturing, but it is not this bit of midseason baseball aggression that has broken me, it is the headlines.  Here is a headline from the Sporting News that is likely going to stay in my brain until I die:
Todd Frazier responds to Jake Arrieta Skull threat.  It is Todd Frazier responding. To a threat. So far so good. What kind of threat, you ask? A skull threat.  Just your everyday, ordinary skull threat, the two words that everyone knows when you put them together.  I have been thinking about this combination of words for months and they are just rattling around my head slowly causing me to go insane.

It's not just the Sporting News that had trouble with this.  Here is an ESPN headline describing the same incident:

I think that what is happening here is that our headline writers are completely unable to handle the concept of a baseball player threatening to dent another's skull.  Because that is the most colorful word in the exchange, they want to get it into the headline, but there's no precedent for players specifically threatening skull harm, so the reader is left completely baffled.  What is a skull threat?  Does that mean, as Arrieta did, specific attacks on Frazier's skull? Or does it mean Arrieta will threaten him by using skulls to scare Frazier with a grim Halloween aesthetic.  And anything can be a skull remark.  A reader could assume that Arrieta was possibly mocking Frazier's skull with the skill of a Mean Phrenologist. 

There is one other figure in sports who I would trust to have a handle on such pressing, confusing issues, and it's Jim Boylen, who I believe could easily explain why he loves Chandler Hutchinson's "awesome skull."