Ah, the pre-fabricated pop group. A venerable institution that’s been a part of the musical landscape since at least the 1950s. While uniformity marked its early years—as well as tidy haircuts and matching, colorful suits—in recent decades, each member of the group was encouraged to adopt a "unique" personality from a list of distinct personalities designed to endear each of them to a certain segment of the pre-teen public. So, you know, not unique at all—but like those who choose to be Purdue fans, 12-year-olds are not often known for their discernment. I remember a summer spent with my friends learning the dance moves to N*SYNC's televised concert on the Disney channel, which we recorded on VHS, rewinding time and time again in order to get those sizzling moves just right. Aw yeah. It was pretty dumb, but then, so is spending Saturdays watching a bunch of young men you don't know run around and hit each other when you stop to think about it.
Anyway, in honor of that slice of pre-teen life, I present this week's Power Poll. Which pop prince is your team? Which team's fans are using bleach for their hair tips and which prefer it as a post-defeat beverage? Flip through the pages of the latest issue of B1G Beat and find out.
1. The Hunk--Ohio State University
Spirit Boy Bander: Nick Carter, Backstreet Boys
Let's face it, this is the best one to be, and everyone knows it. You stand in the center of all the group photos, you've got the bleached tips, the perfectly sculpted butt cut (SFW, you weirdos), and you're the most popular. It's good to be king, and you, sir, are the king. It's pretty tough to lose this crown, although some feel that there are some worrisome signs of a fading star in last week's uninspiring performance against Indiana. But you know, it's unrealistic to expect those jazz fingers to always be on fire and the lip syncing to always be perfect--and ultimately, it doesn't matter, because you'll show up when it counts, and everyone will still love you. But you'd better bring your dancing shoes to Wisconsin all the same, lest things get sad.
2. The Weirdo--Michigan
Spirit Boy Bander: Chris Kirkpatrick, N*SYNC
Given what Michigan did to Rutgers on Saturday, the more accurate type might be The Bully, or The One Who Kicks Puppies, or The One Who Bankrupts Steakhouse Chains--but none of those are on the Approved List of Boy Band Personalities, so The Weirdo it is. And hey, it's not glamorous, but The Weirdo serves an important function in teen fandom, offering those who frequently find themselves misfits a star with whom to identify. Michigan provides just this service to its fans--whatever else their lot in life, they belong to the tribe of the Wolverines, headed by the purposely odd, attention-craving, antics-embracing, madman that is Jim Harbaugh. He's a weirdo, but he's YOUR weirdo, and that's what matters. Just remember, as a Michigan-based rapper once laid down, "Chris Kirkpatrick, you can get your ass kicked, worse than them little Limp Bizkit..." and though Limp Bizkitian ass kickings are unlikely to be a threat for you in the immediate future, the time will come soon enough when sheer weirdness will no longer woo your fans.
3. The One Who Maybe Actually Has Some Talent--Wisconsin
Spirit Boy Bander: Justin Timberlake, N*SYNC? I guess this depends on your opinion of the musical merits of "Dick in a Box."
You've been a surprise, Wisconsin. Last year, you were just some kid with notable blonde hair, a la Justin Timberlake in his "blonde ramen noodles hair" phase, doing some kooky things like going to awards shows dressed in head-to-toe denim with Britney Spears or losing to Iowa by the score of 10-6. This year, you've been taking things surprisingly seriously, winning some unexpected games and holding your own in your only defeat. However, the "big wins" have seen their value lessen in recent weeks, so we're still not really sure if you're pretty good, or just better than the average
boy band B1G West member. Still, you had a week off to prepare for OSU, so if there was ever a time and a good chance for you to wow us all with what you've got, this is sure it.
4. The Boy-Next-Door--Nebraska
Spirit Boy Bander: Brian Littrell, Backstreet Boys
Oh Nebraska. This would have had a far different, and probably funnier, analogy during the Bo Pelini years, but now you're nice and so far, your team is boring. You show up to games, mostly, or at least the last quarter of them. You win them. And now you're a Top Ten team, doing your very best 2015 Iowa impression. It's nice, isn't it? And that's what you're all about--nice. True, it wasn't very polite to crush Illinois' dreams the way you did two weeks ago, but even the boy-next-door has to draw the line somewhere, and apparently, for you, that line is losing to Illinois. Anyway, like Backstreet Boy Brian Littrell, who was such a nice guy he did the decidedly unhip thing and got married--not even drunkenly or in Vegas--while at the zenith of his boy band popularity, you're on your best behavior right now. No one is embarrassed by you, and we'll see if you can keep it that way--because Indiana may well rob your kind and unsuspecting behind if you're not careful.
5. The One Who Can’t Wait To Go Solo--Penn State
Spirit Boy Bander: Kevin Richardson, Backstreet Boys. Or maybe this Kevin Richardson, Lion Whisperer, and non-boy band member. Either way though, you're a Kevin Richardson.
Oh Penn State. Generally, you have a pretty good time being a part of the B1G Boy Band, but you can't quite squelch the feeling that you could really be something if you could just leave the rest of these losers behind. I mean,
no talent like yours doesn't just come along every day, and the world deserves to see you shine without the shadow of that stupid Hunk and annoying Weirdo. You dream of the day that like Kevin Richardson, you can thank the Big Ten for the "dream come true" and "move on with the next chapter" of your life. You'll always be friends, of course. And hey, if that solo career doesn't pan out (it probably won't), perhaps you can rejoin in time for the Vegas revival of the old act. Anyway, dreams are wonderful things--enjoy them, because when you play again in two weeks, it's against Ohio State, and The Hunk is probably going to make you sing backup vocals.
6. The Drummer--Indiana
Spirit Boy Bander: Ringo Starr, The Beatles
Recent Boy Bands rarely feature a drummer, or even all that many instruments as high energy choreography instead rules the day, but early formulations of such band always featured a drummer (after all, where else would you put the band's logo, if not on the bass drum?) This is too bad, because the drummer was almost always the coolest--not always the best looking, but the most dangerous, daring, crazy, and probably even a little drug-addled. What better analogy for you, Indiana--Team Chaos? Ringo Starr's drumming prompted one observer to note: "We started to see the drummer as an equal participant in the compositional aspect." This is somewhat true of Indiana's place in the Big Ten as well--after years as a laughingstock and afterthought, Indiana's recent innovation of having a semblance of a defense to go along with their offense has made them an "equal participant" in the Big Ten, or at least nearly so. This weekend, Indiana seeks to build on the nation's most unexpected historical winning record when they play Nebraska for the first time since the Huskers joined the Big Ten in 2011.
7. The Sleazy Manager--Iowa
Spirit Boy Bander: Lou Pearlman
Perhaps you've never heard of Lou Pearlman, but all too often, behind every Boy Band stands him, or one eerily like him. The power behind the blazing-hot-but-short-lived acts that are so many Boy Bands, he milks their popularity and exploits it for his own gain, often becoming very rich in the process. Lou, in particular, created both The Backstreet Boys and N*SYNC, profiting from their success, but eventually being sued by not only them, but every other musical act with whom he had ever worked (minus one), for misrepresentation and fraud. It seemed that the young men doing all of the work for Pearlman were earning next to nothing, while Pearlman, somehow, made millions (and millions and millions) of dollars.
Nice work if you can get it, don't you think, Iowa?
8. The Goofball--Maryland
Spirit Boy Bander: Joey Fatone, N*SYNC
Maryland, you're so silly! Those "Dark Horse of the East" hopes, those clown costumes you call uniforms, and that weird choice to focus on Penn State when there are so many other cooler choices of teams you could hate. What a bunch of goofballs! But maybe that's your thing--many Boy Banders find their niche as the good-natured goofball, charming those who fancy themselves a bit more unique and above favoring the obvious charmers like The Hunk. You're a solid enough option, Maryland, and for now, that's probably good enough. Next up is Minnesota, for an epic Goofball vs. Goofers showdown.
9. The Shy One--Minnesota
Spirit Boy Bander: JC Chasez, N*SYNC
Your underground-tunneling gopher heritage that earns you the title of "The Shy One" on this list. And that's ok! Just as there are plenty of girls out there who identified with quiet, calm JC, plenty of fans identify with your obvious reluctance to play any kind of splashy, attention-grabbing football. Winning conference games might cause an uncomfortable hullaballoo, so you've wisely chosen to maintain a winless conference slate thus far in order that you might preserve your privacy. It's admirable to know thyself and do what you must for self-preservation. But we have to ask--did no one think of the Pig? This will be his second straight year in Iowa, a fate no creature deserves--surely you could have come out of your shell and scored just one more touchdown? Perhaps reflecting on your swine surrender will motivate you to play a bit more boldly this weekend against Maryland.
10. The Mysterious One--Northwestern
Spirit Boy Bander: ???????
Ooooo, the mysterious Boy Band member. This is the toughest persona to pull off, what with fine investigative outlets like B1G Beat on the case. And the internet. The trickiest part is coming across as "mysterious," and not "vehemently antisocial." Unfortunately Northwestern, you could use a little course correction on that score, because you're seriously testing the loyalty of your fans this season. Are you truly the terrible team that lost to FCS team Illinois State 9-7? (9-7 guys...) Or are you the team that fought valiantly and mysteriously found a way to 38 points while defeating Iowa? Thing is, no one's really sure. You seem pretty bad, but maybe you're getting better? One thing's for sure--you keep everyone, including your fans, guessing. This weekend, you take your mystery schtick to East Lansing for a game that promises to be painfully offense-free.
11. The Bad Boy--Michigan State
Spirit Boy Bander: Justin Bieber
You know, time was when this was an obvious choice--"the Bad Boy" and "Thugtans" tired old jokes almost wrote themselves. But six weeks into the season, "the Bad Boy" fits MSU for an entirely different reason--because they are bad. Not bad ass, or anything cool like that, just... bad. The past three seasons have been a magical time to be a Spartan--the All-Galaxy Defense, competent quarterbacks, hilariously improbable wins over Michigan--but for this year at least, it's all come to a screeching halt. Reactions to this change in fortune range from unbridled glee (Michigan fans) to the demanding of many heads (certain MSU fans). Unfortunately, the Spartans' problems seem almost as wide-ranging as these reactions, and unless Dantonio's got a lot more magic up his sleeve, MSU is going to be the bad kind of "Bad Boy" for the rest of the season. Luckily for them this weekend, Northwestern is also pretty bad.
12. The Guy Who Left Before The Band Made It Big--Purdue
Spirit Boy Bander: Pete Best, original Beatles drummer
You just know that if Purdue was in a Boy Band, he'd be in a famous one, and he'd leave to go "pursue (purdue?) other projects" before they hit the big time, leaving him a sad, lonely shell of himself answering a lifetime of questions about how he feels about his former bandmates' astronomical success. It's just the type of thing that would happen to Purdue. But this week, we're happy for you, Purdue, because for once, it's not quite so bad to be you! You won a game! True, it was against Illinois, and you got there following a doinked field goal brought about by Darrell Hazell's innovative coaching strategy of "icing the kicker," but you actually won a conference game! And, what's better news for you--Illinois is so bad they probably don't qualify as Purdue Harbor, so that's still on the table! Can you carry forward that momentum into your game with Iowa this weekend and win a literally unprecedented second game in a row? Success may hinge on saving all of your timeouts in case of another icing scenario.
13. The Cutie Pie--Illinois
Spirit Boy Bander: Zac Hanson, Hanson
Aw, Illinois. You're kind of adorable and we want to like you, but frankly, you make us kind of uncomfortable. It might be because, like Zac Hanson, you're the B1G's equivalent of a 12-year-old in a pop act and we all kind of feel a little weird about that. You're not even a teenager, you know? What are you doing up there maintaining a full-time performance schedule? What kind of parents would let this happen to you? As we have recently seen, it all seems to be a little much for you, because you lost to Purdue, and that is never a sign of a healthy emotional life. Beat Rutgers this weekend, go 1 for 2 on beating terrible teams, and get yourself into some therapy sessions, STAT.
14. Overly Enthusiastic Fangirl Weeping in the Audience--Rutgers
Spirit Boy Bander: Any number of highly enthusiastic pre-teens capable of being moved to tears by The Beatles/N*SYNC/One Direction
Oh Rutgers. First, the good news. The rest of the boy bands wouldn't exist without you--the screaming, obsessive fandom of a teenage girl enables mediocre pop acts to sell millions of albums, and somewhat similarly, none of the Big Ten teams would be playing football if Rutgers hadn't invented it. (#thebirthplace) So, silly though you may seem, we have to thank you in spite of ourselves. But now, the bad news: you're ridiculous and you're embarrassing yourself and someday, you're going to look back on this period of your life with deep shame and regret. Your best chance at salvaging some self-respect comes against Illinois this weekend, so seize this opportunity.