It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman writing about Pride and Prejudice on a sports site must be in want of 5,000 “didn’t read!” comments in her comment section. Too bad, Pride and Prejudice is one of the greatest and most hilarious works in English literature, and if you don’t like it, you’re crazy. Don’t @me.
If you’ve never read this gem, the gist is that the story centers on the Bennet family of five daughters and their parents. Mrs. Bennet is motivated by trying to get all five married off advantageously, and Mr. Bennet is motivated by alternately provoking and escaping his annoying wife. A variety of entanglements ensue between the daughters and eligible men and less eligible men, primarily focusing on smart and sassy Elizabeth and her contempt for the extremely proud Mr. Darcy.
It turns out that the Big Ten in 2017 has a lot in common with Regency England. Most obviously, there is plenty of both misplaced pride and
unwarranted prejudice among various fanbases. There is heartbreak. There is unbreakable hope and dreams of fairy tale endings. There are eligible young bachelors with £5,000 a year! (But don’t tell the NCAA.) In short, it’s a weird, insular society that cares far too much about ultimately trivial matters and what its neighbors are doing.
Penn State—George Wickham (#1)
P&P Spirit Quote: “Nobody can tell what I suffer! But it is always so. Those who do not complain are never pitied.”—Mrs. Bennet
For Penn State’s spirit quote, I turned to Mrs. Bennet, rather than the dastardly Wickham himself, as she best encapsulates the daily litany of complaints about “PSU and Franklin h8rs” we are treated to around here. And, she does have a point—how else would we know how much poor Penn State suffers from the mean haterzzzz if they didn’t complain about it? Luckily, we are all now very much in the know.
Happily, George Wickham, the unscrupulous rake who spreads misinformation and complaints to cast himself as a victim of Mr. Darcy and life in general, shares Mrs. Bennet’s philosophy of the necessity of whining. Although Wickham is a charming con man who for a time deceives Elizabeth with his suave manner and general popularity, he eventually reveals his completely shitty character by running off with her sister, Lydia. Even after he has done this, he still professes to have loved only Akron—and the Bennet sisters learn that all pretty women are only another Akron to him.
Ohio State—Lady Catherine de Bourgh (#2)
P&P Spirit Quote: “If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.”—Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Lady Catherine de Bourgh is perhaps my favorite villain in literature. Her weapon is not superior intellect, nor particular brute force—it is rather a mixture of the privileges of rank and great fortune with an unshakable belief in her own superiority. With such gifts, she could today run for President. As OSU’s spirit quote illustrates, the actual level of talent and achievement is far less important than believing yourself the best. Lady Catherine de Bourgh has a vision for the world, with her at the top of it orchestrating events as she sees fit, and for a long time, it never even occurs to her that outcomes may not always conform to her wishes. In fact, it is her great snobbery and sense of untouchability that ultimately brings about the ruin of all of her best-laid plans.
And here we find Ohio State. As any OSU fan will tell you, the Buckeyes should always be at the top of college football’s elite, because, well, they just should be! Pulling in stud recruit after stud recruit is reminiscent of Lady Catherine’s scheme with her late sister to consolidate their husbands’ fortunes through the marriage of their children—because you can never be too rich, after all. When other upstarts like Michigan, PSU, or Wisconsin threaten to topple this hierarchy, Lady Catherine’s famed lament of disgust—”Heaven and earth! Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?”—closely echoes that of OSU fans. And don’t even get them started on the insupportable impertinence of Okies to charge the estate and plant that grubby little flag. Thank goodness the Army still supports the rights of power and wealth!
Wisconsin—Mr. Bennet (#3)
P&P Spirit Quote: “Is not general incivility the very essence of love?”—Elizabeth Bennet, by which we know that Badger fans do indeed love their team very much
I’m sorry to give my favorite character, the sarcastic and witty patriarch of the Bennet clan, to Wisconsin, but it had to be so. Though he has his shortcomings as a husband and, later and consequentially, as a father, he manages to charm readers while annoying his rather simple wife: “Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three and twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character.” It is not a particularly happy marriage.
In spite of his domestic infelicity, Mr. Bennet makes the best of things, leveling sarcastic quips and bon mots at all comers, most of whom are powerless to understand or stop the attacks, let alone respond in kind. So far this year—and for many recent years—this has largely been the experience of Wisconsin football. Though the Badgers lack the quickness and cleverness of Mr. Bennet, the end result of victory over opponents remains a common thread between them, especially in the B1G West. However, there is another big difference—Mr. Bennet “captivated by youth and beauty... had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her.” Wisconsin, who once hired Bret Bielema, could never be accused of such shallowness.
Michigan—Fitzwilliam Darcy (#4)
P&P Spirit Quote: “We all know him to be a proud, unpleasant sort of man; but this would be nothing if you really liked him.”—Mr. Bennet, about Mr. Darcy
You may read this and think “BRT! Hold up! How does Michigan get to be the sexy dreamboat of every woman’s dreams? That’s just wrong!” Well yes, that would be wrong. But here’s the secret to Mr. Darcy’s enduring appeal—it’s that he grows in broad-mindedness throughout the novel, and proves his conversion by going to extreme lengths to save the day for his lady love, marking his transformation as a character. When the novel begins, he’s actually kind of a dick.
It is this early, unreconstructed Darcy 1.0 then, where we draw our comparison for Michigan. Mr. Darcy’s initial appearance into the main circle of characters is met with excitement:
The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity.
Ah, there it is! Acting like an awkward weirdo will bite you in the ass every time, won’t it, Jim? Then too, there is the pride—the pride in being a Michigan Man, of bringing Michigan BACK—but as they say, pride goeth before a fall, and instead of getting shot down by a witty woman after denigrating her awful family during a proposal, you’re far more likely to take your fall via the unreliable arm of Wilton Speight and company.
Maryland—The Gardiners (#5)
P&P Spirit Quote: “What excellent boiled potatoes. It's been many years since I had such an exemplary vegetable.”—Mr. Collins
I’m sorry to say it Maryland, but you might be the potatoes in your spirit quote. No one expects much of you, and then BAM! You beat Texas! And TOWSON! You are truly an exemplary vegetable, and we are proud of you.*
The Gardiners, for most of the story, exist as fringe characters, a favorite aunt and uncle of Elizabeth and Jane, beloved for their intelligence, relative sanity, and lack of embarrassing antics or manners. When stupid Lydia runs off with the worthless Wickham, Mr. Gardiner exerts considerable effort to resolve the affair and save the family’s reputation, and everyone is surprised at his apparent success at achieving this. But is everything as it seems, or is Mr. Gardiner merely a front for the real power behind the scandal’s resolution? This is much like you, Maryland, looking good after a surprise win at Texas. But is that the whole story for you? Your commitment to this narrative will be tested this week against Northwestern.
*Yes, yes, this line isn’t in the novel, it’s from the 2005 movie. But it absolutely cracks me up every time. The delivery is perfect and the sentence delightfully absurd.
Iowa—Charlotte Lucas (#6)
“Mr. Collins to be sure was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment to her must be imaginary. But still he would be her husband.”
Charlotte Lucas is a spinster. A dowdy, plain 27-year-old past her prime, she is a target of derision from others (chiefly Mrs. Bennet) and acutely aware of her limited prospects to escape her fate. So when Elizabeth rejects the overtures of the officious and insufferable stuffed-shirt, Mr. Collins, Charlotte’s practical side kicks in, and she wins herself the dubious honor of becoming Mrs. Collins and a lifetime of unmitigated tedium.
It’s easy to see why this is a character hits the right note for Iowa fans. The lark of 2015 aside, they don’t generally believe in fairy tales. “I’m not romantic, you know,” Charlotte tells her friend Elizabeth. “I never was.” Charlotte seals her fate as the wife of a wretchedly boring man because she is afraid of what will happen if she doesn’t. Iowa too, has opted for reliability over sex appeal and true love in its long relationship with Kirk Ferentz and his highly unsexy game plans. If there are times that they regret this, they handle it quietly and stoically, as does Charlotte: “Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object... This preservative she had now obtained; and at the age of twenty-seven, without having ever been handsome, she felt all the good luck of it.” And so Charlotte began her life with Mr. Collins, with a 20-year, $50 million dollar buyout contract, and the promise of all the underwhelming offense and magnificent punting her heart might desire.
Minnesota—Mr. Collins (#7)
P&P Spirit Quote: “We are all fools in love”—Charlotte Lucas, and Gopher fans
In a novel filled with fatuous and vain characters, Mr. Collins still manages to shine among the pack. A pompous windbag of the highest order, Mr. Collins excels at offering insincere compliments, tired maxims, and a healthy dose of social awkwardness. His opinion of himself is high, though there is no actual reason for it to be so. Says Austen: “(He) was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society... the subjection in which his father had brought him up had given him originally great humility of manner, but it was now a good deal counteracted by the self-conceit of a weak head... and the consequential feelings of early and unexpected prosperity.”
While P.J. Fleck is in the nature of his affectation hardly the stuffed shirt that Mr. Collins is, they have in common the trait of trying very, very, VERY hard to put on a good show and make a strong impression on those they meet. Many P&P characters see through Mr. Collins’ facade, but those who are inclined to believe his flattery generally do. In another parallel, there are those who find P.J. Fleck a “cult of personality” or a “snake oil salesman,” which only brings about wild denunciations from True Believers, who yell back “THERE IS NO GOD BUT FLECK. GLORY TO HE, YOU ARE INDEED WRONG.” Wow. Flattery, man. It really will get people to swallow anything.
Purdue—Mr. Bingley (#8)
P&P Spirit Quote: “I have not the pleasure of understanding you. Of what are you talking?”—Mr. Bennet
Of what are we talking? Miraculously, we’re talking of Purdue at #8 in our Power Poll. I agree with Mr. Bennet, it is difficult to understand, but here we are. You know what else we learned this week? One, Purdue appears to be kind of decent at football this season, a big development after years of being positively abysmal at football. The other thing we learned? That most of us are kind of happy for Purdue. Apart from Indiana fans (contractually obligated to dislike Purdue), Rutgers fans (annoyed that someone is getting a trip out of the cellar and is generally not subjected to the same level of disdain they are), and PSU fans (annoyed when anyone else is praised besides PSU), there are an awful lot of non-Purdue fans aboard this particular train. Which in this conference... is pretty odd.
That’s why you’re the Mr. Bingley of the Big Ten, Boilermakers. Mr. Bingley is generally a swell guy. He does some regrettable things in the story—namely, running away from his love Jane Bennet because his mean sister turned the screws on him—but in the end, we’re convinced he acted more from a place of ignorance rather than malice. He was foolish, but forgivable. And he’s just darn charming and likable. And I guess, Purdue, you’re that too. (That abomination of a mascot though... that’s a different story.)
Michigan State—Mrs. Bennet (#9)
P&P Spirit Quote: “A girl likes to be crossed a little in love now and then. It is something to think of, and gives her a sort of distinction among her companions.”—Mr. Bennet
I submit to you your spirit quote in case any of you have any lingering bad feelings about last year’s 3-9 campaign. Take Mr. Bennet’s advice, and wear that sucker as a badge of honor. It is a distinction, of sorts, among your companions. And, more bright side, even if you only win six games this season, it’s still going to look like a major improvement.
But why make you be the silly, flighty, vapid Mrs. Bennet? That is, after all, the exact opposite of scowling, stern, and growling Mark Dantonio. Walk with me. First, in a fit of histrionics, she uttered the phrase that every last MSU fan screamed at their TV at least once last season: “You take delight in vexing me! You have no compassion on my poor nerves!” (MSU fans perhaps paraphrased.) Second, Mrs. Bennet is one single-minded sister—she has one goal in life, and that is getting all of those daughters married off. While MSU’s goal is less matrimonial in nature, it is equally single-minded: Beat Michigan. Will MSU’s dreams be fulfilled as wonderfully as Mrs. Bennet’s?
Indiana—Mary Bennet (#10)
P&P Spirit Quote: “Mary wished to say something sensible, but knew not how.”
Oh Indiana. You can certainly relate to our girl, Mary. The pain of wishing so very hard to shine, to dazzle... and to know not how. Kind of feels like that old familiar OSU-and-Michigan hump, doesn’t it?
Mary Bennet is extraordinarily unlucky. Not only is she the only plain girl among her four beautiful sisters, she also lacks wit, intelligence, or vivaciousness. Nothing came easily to this poor girl: “Mary, who having, in consequence of being the only plain one in the family, worked hard for knowledge and accomplishments, was always impatient for display.” And that’s you too, Indiana! Foisted in the Big Ten East, which, I am told, is basically an NFL division and Rutgers, you’ve had to battle for notice and achievement with pretty and popular OSU, UM, and PSU. That’s tough sledding. Unfortunately for Mary, things never really go her way in the novel either—she just can’t get over the hump, alas.
Northwestern—Caroline Bingley (#11)
P&P Spirit Quote: “Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can.”—Elizabeth Bennet
This quote has less to do with Caroline Bingley, who sadly lacks wit and instead provides comedic relief in the novel by being super terrible at flirting with Mr. Darcy, and instead relates to the fact that Northwestern went from getting walloped 41-17 by Duke in Week 2 to walloping Bowling Green 49-7 in Week 3. Whims and inconsistencies, indeed! Are you exceedingly diverted, Wildcats?
But on to Caroline Bingley, the snobby sister of good-natured Mr. Bingley. Austen describes Caroline and her superfluous sister as “very fine ladies, not deficient in good humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of being agreeable where they chose it; but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank; and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others.” The sisters employed a retinue of butlers, and reputedly, after Elizabeth stole “her” man, Caroline spiraled into a Malort-induced haze for some weeks.
Nebraska—Sir William Lucas (#12)
P&P Spirit Quote: “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”—Mr. Bennet
Nebraska’s spirit quote has nothing to do with Sir William Lucas, but I assume my reasons for picking it for Nebraska are evident nonetheless. You are welcome, neighbors, for the primo sport-making opportunities the Huskers are currently providing you.
Sir William Lucas is a nice man who was once knighted and who has spent the ensuing years reminiscing fondly about that honor. He is a kind and courteous fellow, but having once achieved this pinnacle of honor, exerts himself no further. “The distinction (of knighthood) had perhaps been felt too strongly,” notes Austen. “It had given him a disgust to his business and to his residence in a small market town; and quitting them both, he had removed with his family...to think with pleasure of his own importance.” His go-to conversation with those of high rank is to immediately drop a mention of his own honor at St. James’ Place, never quite realizing that having once achieved knighthood does not truly place you as a member of the aristocracy. As the clever Elizabeth Bennet notes, she had known his absurdities too long— “he could tell her nothing new of the wonders of his five national championships and knighthood; and his civilities were worn out like his information.”
P&P Spirit Quote: “‘What an excellent father you have, girls!' said she, when the door was shut. 'Such joys are scarce since the good Lord saw fit to close the gates of Hell and doom the dead to walk amongst us.’”—Mrs. Bennet
Once upon a time, there was a brief era in which Illinois roamed the land of the living, a live and breathing football team itself. This halcyon period was known as “Week 1” and “Week 2” of the football season. It is said that initially, it can be difficult to tell recently turned zombies apart from their living counterparts, but helpfully, Illinois dispensed with any ambiguity and showed the decomposition openly by losing 47-23 to a team that although solid, had not practiced in a week. After a bye week to do... whatever zombies do during bye weeks, Illinois has a chance to turn Nebraska, and two weeks after that, Rutgers. But they’d better feast while they can, because in the rest of the games, their opponents aren’t likely to go quietly.
Rutgers—Lydia Bennet (#14)
P&P Spirit Quote: “That will do extremely well, child. You have delighted us long enough. Let the other young ladies have time to exhibit.”—Mr. Bennet
Alright, this quote was actually directed to Mary Bennet by her father after she’d embarrassed herself and her family with an ill-judged and poor musical performance at a ball. Poor Mary was rather proud of her performance, and didn’t understand why her family wasn’t more supportive. Which sounds a lot like Rutgers and its “big win” over FCS Morgan State.
However, in general, Rutgers’ trajectory has more in common with another Bennet sister—the youngest of the brood, the ignominious and thoughtless Lydia. Throughout the novel, she is an impetuous flirt, chasing after Army officers with little regard for the spectacle she creates. Disaster strikes when she runs off with George Wickham, not bothering to marry him first, hiding out with him in disgrace for some time. Eventually, through the largesse of Mr. Darcy, the scandal is papered over and Lydia and her new husband are allowed back into the family. Nearly every member of the Bennet family is aware of the magnitude of Lydia’s disgrace, and endure deep shame because of it, but the lady herself is unconcerned, viewing her degeneracy as an exciting lark. In fact, it never once crosses her mind to be sorry for the embarrassment she’s caused her family, nor to fear that they might shun her forever.
If this behavior sounds familiar, it should, because it is scarily parallel to Rutgers’ athletics since joining the Big Ten. Sure, you beat Morgan State and everything worked out ok last week... but you’re really kind of missing the big picture of why everyone is mad at you.
What is your opinion of Pride and Prejudice?
This poll is closed
It’s one of the gems in the English literary canon
I don’t like it, because I hate laughing and probably puppies