And welcome back to Rivalry Fridays, where we depart from analytical to instead focus on the cultural clashes that define college football. As this is Northwestern Week and someone on SBN did coin the term JNW, I assumed that Hayden Fry's Moustache Ride (HFMR) from BHGP would make a compelling Friday guest. Enjoy the potatoes and Pat Fitzgerald images which will never leave your brain. My thanks to HFMR for his contributions.
I don't want to be writing this. I really don't. I mean, there's no doubt that I hate Northwestern. I really fucking hate ‘em. But the truth, is it's embarrassing to hate Northwestern. A lot of people hate USC and Florida and there's no shame in that. Those teams are usually good, so it makes sense. Like the super-hot popular girl in high school, who is also a total bitch. It's ok to hate her. The problem is: I hate the ugly girl with bad teeth who has no friends. I guess it just feels mean.
And before we really get the ball rolling....let’s get our semantics straight. Just because I’m an Iowa fan and I hate Northwestern doesn’t mean it’s a rivalry. I also hate John Mayer, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that we’re rivals. He doesn’t even know my name. If Purdue beats Ohio State again this year that doesn’t somehow qualify them as rivals. There'll be a little more hate there, but that's it. The loser hates the winner. That’s called sports.
Shitty teams don’t typically have true rivalries. They have teams that beat them every year. Good rivalries take decades to build and in order for the hate to be mutual, both teams need to do their fair share of winning. Northwestern is one of the worst college football programs in the history of the solar system, which means they haven’t done their share of winning.
And don’t be fooled by their minor success as of late. They’re that girl that only looks good from 50 feet away, and mostly because you haven't gotten laid in 3 years. If you drink enough booze they look like they’re 8-4, but when you wake up in the morning they’re still 3-9.
Keep in mind that even though this is the greatest 15 years of Northwestern football ever, they've still only managed 6 winning seasons during that stretch. You can’t polish a turd, folks.
Their marginal success in the last decade-and-a-half is all the more impressive considering how long it’s been since they’ve matched it. They had 3 seasons during the aughts with 8 or more wins. Just three. That’s nothing earth-shattering or anything, but prior to 1995 they hadn’t done that since 1905. Seriously. Theodore fucking Roosevelt was president. If nothing, at least they were consistent.
Every conference has a runt. The ACC has Duke. The SEC has Vanderbilt. The Big Ten has justNorthwestern. Northwestern is the proud owner of the smallest football (and basketball) venue in the Big Ten. Ryan Field is the only football 'stadium' in the conference without the word "stadium" in the title. No sense in sugar-coating it, I guess. I'm pretty sure I played peewee football at a place called Ryan Field in 5th grade when the kids just ran in circles and nobody gave a shit, but parents came because they had to. How appropriate.
And it’s no secret that their attendance is laughable, but I feel like I should give them a pass on this one because I don’t think they purposefully avoid going to the games because they lack faith in their below-average team. They simply have other things to do. Saturdays are good for picking up their suits at the dry-cleaners, buying new leather briefcases, or shouting at the landscaping crew they hired to mow their lawn. Football is the last thing on their mind. It could be mid-October before they even realize the season is underway. For the most part, they just don’t care.
That is, until they beat you. Then all of a sudden they pop out of their holes like a miniature army of Armani-wearing turtleheads:
Yes I am Preston, like the brightest star in the night sky, I am Sirius
Preston, I’m confused. Are we the same person?
LOLLERSKATES! What do you mean?
Well, I don’t think people were too happy about that article you did for ESPN the Magazine where you described what it was like to cheer for a losing team…."
OMG, I didn’t think anyone would even read that. Hey, did you guys know the Wildcats totally won this weekend?"
By the way, don't give me this "who cares about attendance, it's about winning football games" stuff. College football is the one sport where fans actually have an impact on their team's postseason. The simple fact is, bowl games don't want teams with apathetic fanbases. Complain if you like, but that's how it is. They want people watching, traveling and spending money. Stay at home and wax your Beamer if you like, but don't complain when your team gets jumped for a bowl.
If you still can’t find it in your heart to hate Northwestern, let’s not forget Pat Fitzgerald. Seriously, fuck that guy. He’s not a savior. He’s not a genius. He’s a big yelling asshole. And not in a funny sort of way like Bill Lynch, either. It’s more of a "hey look at what a huge angry dickbag that guy is" sort of way.
The greatest coaching maneuver that he ever made was his decision to use a giant magical baked potato to beat Iowa last year. Oh wait, you didn't know that? Well that's what happened.
Here’s how it went down:
Coach Fitzgerald sits in his office, eating his lunch. With a mouth full of salad he shouts:
Corey, next to myself you’re my favorite player in Northwestern history. You know that, right?
Yes sir, you've told me that on several occasions.
It’s true. That’s why I let you wear number 99. That was my number when I played.
I’m pretty sure you were 51.
This isn't a goddam math quiz, now listen up. We need to talk about the upcoming Iowa game.
Absolutely, coach, I’m really pumped up and I think that I can really turn my seas...
Yeah, I don’t think so. Listen Corey, we’re pretty much fucked here. They’re a far better team in every aspect of the game. Clearly our only option is to eliminate Ricky Stanzi. I’m going to need you to break one and/or both of his legs.
That’s not legal, coach
I mean…no, it’s fine.
But coach, the rule is clearly defined in Section XXIV, paragraph 3 of the NCAA…
Dammit. Now we’re well and truly fucked. And I still haven't finished my lunch. Who will help me destroy Ricky Stanzi?
What did you say, baked potato?
Do you really think that will work?
That’s better than anything I can think of. I’ll get my hat and wand.
Supercali Fragilistic ExpiDarnell Autry
So the Evil Wizgerald cast a spell over the baked potato to bring it to life. He immediately locked it in a deep, dark dungeon. Each night he would visit the baked potato wearing a Ricky Stanzi mask. He played "God Bless the USA" on repeat for 72 hours while shouting at the potato and torturing it mercilessly.
I am Ricky Stanzi! I hate you and America hates you.
On the day of the game, The Evil Wizgerald tied up the baked potato and stuffed him into the cage normally reserved for the Northwestern cheerleaders. He left the potato in a utility closet for fear that the pink visitor’s locker room at Kinnick would soothe his anger. With the score 10-0 and the Hawkeyes threatening to put together a 99-yard scoring drive, The Evil Wizgerald knew that defeat was imminent. He brought the baked potato out of the tunnel.
Look there, baked potato! There is Ricki Stanzi! He is the one who tortured you. He is your nemesis. You must destroy him!
Am I right, assistant coach John Kreese?
Do you have a problem with that?
An enemy deserves no mercy
1700 fans were injured in the collision. Sadly, none were from Northwestern.
In summary, Northwestern can go and get facefucked. But seriously, no hard feelings.