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Game of Thrones: The Long Night - Big Ten Edition

New fan theory: Game of Thrones writers drew inspiration from watching Big Ten football!

You know that Chris Ash wishes he could do this during Rutgers’ football “battles.”

As you’ve probably heard unless you live under some kind of internet-free rock, there was a highly anticipated battle royale on Sunday night between the dead and undead of Westeros. Mostly, it was a total shitshow, punctuated by moments of total badassery. As you’ve probably guessed by now, this reminded us A LOT of any given Big Ten football season, which also tend to be total shitshows, punctuated by moments of... competence.

In fact, there were so many similarities, it made us wonder... could the Game of Thrones writers secretly be Big Ten football fans? Could the entire fate of Westeros be derived from some stupid Minnesota-Indiana football game of yore? Is there more than just a wink and a nudge to popular culture to be found in the Big Ten Conference commercial that’s been hanging around since 2014?

makes u think

Whether there’s anything to this theory or not, we’re here to shamelessly exploit this pop culture moment once again before we go bonkers trying to create content during this annoyingly boring portion of the off-season. So let’s take a look at all the ways in which Sunday’s big battle episode, “The Long Night,” creepily mirrored our football teams last season.

(Also, there are obviously spoilers in this, if you haven’t watched the episode yet. Which you should do, because the internet isn’t going to wait forever for you, you know.)

Spoilers = Pat Fitzgerald and his Galaxy-Brain Offensive Secrecy

Speaking of SPOILERS, MNW’s impression is that people’s loudly broadcast attempts to avoid spoilers on the very social media they should be avoiding if they actually wished to avoid spoilers is eerily reminiscent of Pat Fitzgerald’s Week 1 attempts to be VERY SNEAKY and deceive mighty Purdue about the identity of his starting quarterback. (Spoiler: It was Clayton Thorson, it was always going to be Clayton Thorson, and everyone knew it was going to be Clayton Thorson.) People say they want to be surprised, but in this week there was still a certain inevitability about it—lots of people were going to die, things would go badly for Our Heroes, and the only question was which particular cocktail of characters would end up going not gently into that horrifying night.

So, Theon dying to protect a Stark? Every bit as inevitable and predictable as Fitz being 1000% less surprising and clever as he pretends to be.

Who’s lining up behind center? Could it be...? Is it...? By gawd, it’s Clayton Thorson! Long-presumed starter at QB! Tricky Fitzy.

Hey, speaking of that protected Stark... surprise! It’s Rutgers.

When something has the pop culture cache that Game of Thrones currently does, one of the joys of it is not just the show itself, but the inevitable onslaught of memery that follows immediately on the show’s heels. And this week, the internet absolutely lost it over allegedly super-powerful Bran Stark’s riveting performance of doing abso-freaking-lutely nothing as un-dead chaos crashed around him.

For numerous seasons, it’s been assumed that Bran would play a decisive, important role in the end game of this show due to his magical eye-rolling powers that let him turn into an all-seeing bird or whatever. And for numerous seasons, Rutgers has been sold by its fans and the B1G brass as a secret key to NYC TV sets, as a Very Important Sleeping Giant that would awaken to football greatness at the opportune moment.

Instead, recent seasons of Rutgers football have included Rutgers doing... nothing. No, literally. I mean nothing. Remember 2016?

  • Rutgers vs. OSU: 0-58
  • Rutgers vs. Michigan: 0-78 (this game created a budgetary nightmare for a steakhouse, an event which has no analogue to Game of Thrones, but that I feel is always worth mentioning.)
  • Rutgers vs. Michigan State: 0-49
  • Rutgers vs. Penn State: 0-39

If Rutgers’ level of epic inactivity wasn’t memorable enough (and it was), the fine folks at GoT decided to memorialize it on a global scale through the instantly legendary uselessness of Bran Stark. Way to go, Rutgers! You’ve finally gotten the internet’s attention.

Sideline video or on-field action of a Rutgers game? You decide!

Dantonio... or Dothraki?

In the early moments of “The Long Night,” we saw some of the few glimmers of hope and glimmers of light that the episode was to afford for the next 60 minutes or so. Melisandre, Moderately Useful Priestess of Disrobing and Stuff, performs an incantation that sets the Dothraki forces curvy sword things alight. It’s a powerful visual, and as the charge sets off, it’s quite a sight to behold. Maybe, our heroes think, all that fire will give us a chance!

Assembled Dothraki, or Coachella.

It doesn’t.

In the space of about 30 seconds once they meet the wall of the undead, every last torchlight (and probably Ghost! sob) is extinguished.

This kind of offensive ineptitude could only be inspired by one thing—MSU’s playbook. Game after game last season, in spite of having a reasonably good defensive strategy, the Spartans could not put together an offensive drive to save their lives, or several of their games. Possession after possession, they’d charge forward with hope and optimism... only to see it quickly extinguished, with only the occasional stray field goal (translated beautifully into a miraculously returning Jorah Mormont for show purposes) to underscore how truly screwed they were.

Like Stabbing an Undead Giant in the Eye—Rondale of House Purdue

Alright, we’ll just get this out there—incredible of an athlete as he is, Rondale Moore still probably wishes he was as badass as Lyanna Mormont, because honestly, who doesn’t? Yet we can see how the writers were inspired to create this instantly iconic David and Goliath scene from Purdue’s heroic game against OSU last season. Pint-sized Lyanna Mormont, refusing to hide in the crypt, single-handedly decided to face down a zombie giant. Sickeningly crushed in the giant’s fist, our plucky heroine gathered her strength...and dealt the monster a fatal stab directly into his sinister eyeball. She knew she would die, but went down as a hero to all of the good people in the land.

Come at me, Buckeyes!

Purdue, last season, dealt Ohio State a similarly shocking fate, as they murdered the Buckeyes 49-20 in one of the most memorable games of 2018. It was an important victory, but not one without a cost—a few short games later, Purdue would be violently and horrifyingly crushed to death in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (thank goodness the writers had the good sense to improve the names in their “fictional” world) to the tune of 63-14.

Jon Snow is a Cheesehead

Oh Jon Snow. Kind of an appealing everyman type, he had you believing he might get this sitch figured out. I mean, he’s the chosen one, right? But it turned out he was pretty terrible at driving a dragon through a snow storm, and his repeated attempts to charge the Night King or the extra scary dragon were either too slow (seriously, our boy has some pacing issues—did you love how he gave the Night King like ten minutes to reanimate the dead army?) or just tactically stupid. At the end, he was lucky just to be alive.

Of course, the Game of Thrones team stole this storyline shamelessly from 2018 Wisconsin—the Chosen Prince of the West, there was to be no other real alternative for the title. It was, it seems... destiny. But sometimes your dragon crashes. And sometimes, your quarterback is left handed.

Showdown in the Godswood Corral

One of the most important settings in this episode, the Weirwood Tree of Winterfell saw a number of game-changing moments, including Arya’s unforgettable moment of saving humanity. Unfortunately, that seems to be something that the writers came up with on their own, as the Big Ten has offered little in the way of that kind of inspiration.

But to other things, like Theon’s doomed Bran babysitting job. In some ways, Theon’s bravery echoed Indiana’s playing style—capable of great ballsiness (well, I guess that wasn’t Theon-inspired) and chutzpah, but ultimately doomed, and you know it from the moment of kickoff. The Hoosiers are always down to make a fight interesting, but there’s never any chance they’ll seal the deal, and we all know it. (Sorry Candystripes).

Speaking of the Night King, the writers unfortunately (for him) gave him the twisted tactical mind of Kirk Ferentz. Says Creighton:

Iowa was the Night King seeing Bran all alone in the Godswood and instead of running up and chopping his head off he was like “I’ll waste time meandering over there what’s the worst that could happen?”

Best on-screen entrance ever.

That. That’s the worst thing that can happen. An 18-year-old wielding the one weapon that can kill you permeating your defenses and stabbing you in the heart.

Iowa usually survives, unfortunately, but Creighton’s correct—the needless tarrying is unwise, and 1000% Kirk, and it cost the Night King big time.

Illinois—The Writers’ Muse

While all of these teams contributed in obvious ways to the epic episode that was “The Long Night,” none had the obvious and dramatic impact that Illinois clearly had on the writers—as two scenes seem to directly reference the Illini.

First, we have the scene in the crypt. Women, Varys, and Tyrion were shunted down there to wait out the battle and hope for survivors. Numerous internet commentators clued into the fact last week that the “safe crypt” was probably anything but when you’re dealing with a zombie overlord whose entire army is literally created out of corpses he has reanimated. Oops. It’s easy to think that with the shock value of this one, it can have no real-life counterpart, but that just shows you don’t know much about Illinois football. People hanging around in a place filled with decay and sadness just waiting to die is the EXACT state of being an Illinois football fan right now, or so I hear from my colleague, Thump.

Pictured: Thump at a Illini tailgate last year.

Creighton thinks Illinois also loaned its likeness to the scene where Daenerys unwisely lands her dragon in a field of wights and then sits there panicking as they begin to climb all over stabbing Drogon.

You’re going to get hop ons.

This, the discerning observer will note, is Illinois’ game plan most Saturdays.


What did you think? Feel free to comment below, particularly if you don’t watch Game of Thrones and want everyone to know it. But otherwise, we’d love to hear where else you saw the Big Ten in Sunday’s episode! It’s quite an honor for the conference, really.


Favorite moment from Sunday’s episode?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Lyanna stabbing that giant right in the eyeball
    (34 votes)
  • 3%
    Theon’s redemptive moment
    (8 votes)
  • 4%
    Sansa & Tyrion, sittin’ in the crypt, k-i-s-s-i-n-g
    (9 votes)
  • 5%
    Dragon fights
    (12 votes)
  • 39%
    Slaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay Arya!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    (84 votes)
  • 31%
    Lol, Rutgers.
    (67 votes)
214 votes total Vote Now