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July 4th and the Big Ten: What is Your School’s Independence Day Spirit Animal?

Let’s Drop into July 4th with Style.

Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

As the celebration of our nation’s independence draws near, in conjunction with the fact that real football is still two months away, it’s time to determine which July 4th ‘staple’ appropriately represents each respective Big Ten football program. The following is an exercise in complete nonsense, and very rarely delves into anything that could be considered a rational thought. There is probably no better way for me, personally, to dive into the OTE-verse, because if you guys think I can compose anything even closely resembling actual football analysis, prepare to be disappointed. Enjoy!

Illinois-The Late Evening Crisis

It is July 4th and the sun sits low in the sky, you’ve had six local crafty bois, five bud lights and a shot of Fireball (because it’s a party!). What once was a solid afternoon buzz has now devolved into a dull headache, and your casual euphoria has been replaced by an overt dread of having to face July 5th. The impending doom of tomorrow’s workday crashes over you like a wave and you begin to regret every beer you reached for throughout the day. The realization that the nagging pleas of your wife to stop drinking after you urinated in the kitchen sink were perhaps justified sets in, stabbing you like a knife. You grow angry at the thought of tomorrow morning’s grueling routine, being greeted by your manager’s shallow smile and feeble attempts at small talk. Yes Tom, the weather is unpredictable! The man’s egregious incompetence never ceases to amaze you, day-after-day, season-after-season, but yet, he maintains his employment. Before you know it, it is 10:00 PM, the fifth of cinnamon whiskey sits half-empty on an old card table in the front yard collecting dew, you pop a few Advil and cry yourself to sleep.

Football at Illinois is not something anyone should look forward to; the season is more of a burden than anything else. Perhaps during the summer you fool yourself into thinking you want football, because baseball is boring and the White Sox are terrible (That is the only team in Illinois, right?), but once the season arrives you realize those desires were foolish. Listen, as a Maryland fan, there are two Big Ten programs I can look at and say, “hey, at least we aren’t those guys,” and y’all are one of them. How in the world is Lovie Smith still your head coach? Someone give me a reason, because I honestly do not know.

Indiana-Folding Camp Chair

So, as you are soon to find out, when I developed this I had solidly mediocre ideas for about five schools, the other nine are reaches varying from “meh, not that much of a reach”, to “what the hell is this guy talking about?”. Welcome to reach number one. This is obviously a nod to a particularly infamous moment carried out by a particularly well known Indiana Hoosiers head basketball coach. Just imagine the distance Bobby Knight could get, folding the chair into its compact form and employing it as a javelin. He’d be impaling referees weekly.

How is this at all relatable to Indiana football? I don’t know. Camp chairs are weak, flimsy and easily broken, much like the Hoosier defense in 2018. Boom, roasted, moving on!

Iowa-Coors Original

Oh yes, the banquet beer. The oft forgotten, slightly heavier, but undeniably superior brother to the silver bullet. Many times it is easy, and certainly permissible, to forget that Coors Original even exists, but then someone shows up to a gathering with a case of those mustard yellow cans and you are reminded that, hey, these things aren’t all that bad. Whether you’re off to see the fireworks, or just generally hanging out, any occasion is a good occasion for a banquet, and Coors Original will get the job done.

Much like Coors Original, Iowa football is generally, consistently okay. Do they sit atop the college football mountain with the elite? No, not really, but you can generally count on Iowa being a solid football team. A team, being an elite resident of the Eastern Time Zone, that I frequently forget about.

Maryland-Black Cat Fireworks

Imagine, you are a young child eagerly awaiting to celebrate your great nations independence when your father busts through the front door and proudly exclaims, “This year I bought fireworks for the fourth of July!” Imagine the jolt of jubilation you get from this simple statement. The excitement builds and the hype intensives as the day of explosive light shows draws near. Finally!, the moment comes, your dad lights his match and walks towards...what appears to be a tin of Folgers coffee… the skepticism in you grows, but you quickly brush this aside as you are confident in your fathers ability to do AMERICA right! The fuse grows smaller, and finally the show begins! ….You are left in a stunned silence as the device sitting on your driveway vomits out a few sparklers and, as quickly as it groaned to life, it dies with a pathetic whimper. You build a resentment for your father that will persist until the day he dies.

This essentially sums up Maryland sports; the one’s that matter at least, which to y’all is one sport. The potential is there, the hype is there (particularly in regards to stupid basketball), but when it comes time to perform in actual games, the results are more than underwhelming. We advertise flash and color on the outside, but inside we are all cold and dead. I hate all of you.

Michigan-Actual Fireworks.

Ah yes, an Independence Day tradition as old as time. Everyone knows going to see the local professionally done fireworks show is going to be a good time. No one is going to complain about seeing the same spectacle year in and year out, it is a safe bet to entertain the whole family. Maybe rival town Shelbyville has a better fireworks show, but that would require additional drive time. There may be other, newer, fancier ways to celebrate July Fourth, but tradition is good, and change is scary.

Michigan football, the most predictable goddamn program in these great United States. Good, not great, and you can never beat Ohio State. Since that unintentionally rhymes, perhaps you should adopt that as your official team motto…plate. Ten wins a year leaving fans mildly content, but perhaps yearning for more. You know you are going to get a good team with Michigan, but you know you are not getting the best team. At least you get to watch professor khaki pants storm get a little explosive on the sidelines each Saturday afternoon, and that in itself, is worth the price of admission.

Michigan State-Greasy Cheese Pizza

Served to you on a paper plate with nary the structural integrity to support the atmosphere above it. This over-sized slice of American ingenuity is so grotesque, but kind of easy to shove into your face at an alarming rate at the same time. No worries, if you just sop up some of the extra grease with a cheap brown paper towel, provided to you at the table by the roll, everything will turn out a-okay. Cut to six hours later, your on the toilet, the sweat dripping from your forehead stings your eyes. The half digested pizza sits in your large intestine, an impregnable wall that no over-the-counter drug could possibly defeat.

Remember when I mentioned that scale, with one end of the spectrum capped at, “what the hell is this guy talking about”…we’ve just stepped into that realm. So you see, I hear that Michigan State’s defense is markedly better than their offense...and the poop is representative of the defense, but at the end of the day, its still poop?...You get it. I’ll give my efforts here a D+.

Minnesota-Your Grandfather’s Fishing Boat

In the 60s, your grandfather’s ‘Misty Fox 2309 Wave Humper’ was a pristine aquatic vessel that feared the threats of no seas. Now it leans against some distant relatives shed in the back yard collecting rust. Every year someone in the family proposes the ole gal get refurbished, perhaps with some hard work and old fashioned elbow grease, she can once again proudly sail the oceans wide, everyone will be able to row that boat again. Eventually though, summer passes and this proposal is ignored, and your grandfather’s fishing boat once again fades into obscurity. She remains leaning, rusting, a cruel monument to what once was.

Listen, PJ Fleck’s ‘war cry’ is hilariously dumb and it deserves to be mocked at each and every opportunity. Much like Maryland, Minnesota’s football program peaked at a time that no one cares about anymore. Screw you boomer readers. Wooooo, you made consecutive Rose Bowls when Eisenhower was in office. Since then it’s been mostly clinging onto hope that maybe the Gophers win eight games.

Nebraska-Corn on the Cob

Now that is just lazy writing right there. Corn on the cob, maize in its purist form, a July 4th cookout tradition almost everyone has had the pleasure to participate in. Everyone likes corn, everyone thinks it is pretty solid, but perhaps it is beginning to be overlooked by more innovative and modern picnicking items. Kale wrapped buffalo quinoa and cauliflower frittatas anyone? Some people, however, like corn on the cob so much that their appetite for it is insatiable. Nine, even ten pieces of corn on the cob each year is not good enough for some people. These corn mongers got too greedy though, and now they only get to enjoy 4 or 5 cobs per year.

Oh Nebraska fans, what a stubborn breed. Most still mentally living in the Tom Osborne era and will never admit that firing Bo Pellini was probably a mistake....maybe. Every summer talks of a Cornhusker National Championship linger in the warm July air, and then those hopes are abruptly torn down by mid-September.


Kinda neat, the spectacle is often short lived however, and sparklers will truly never come close to being in a league with actual fireworks. A good way to distract children, but most grown adults know that they are just fancy matches.

Yea I don’t know. Northwestern is probably the Big Ten school I think about the least. Ya Ivy League wannabes! You’ve had two ten win seasons in the past four years, cool? I don’t remember this, but I am sure fans of the team do. Please tell me that screaming girl has graduated. I prefer not muting my television when Terps hoops is putting on road conference beat downs, they don’t do it often, but you guys are pretty consistent in letting us do so, so thanks!

Ohio State-Craft Beer

We all know that craft beer is the best. You may have an old school Uncle from Lansing that only drinks Hamms because that’s all he has drank for 40 years and, “those fancy Indiana Pale Ales are for pansies!”. Or, perhaps, a hipster cousin from Altoona who only drinks Steel Reserve for their pure organic malts. Or an Aunt who’s eternally dieting, but never loses any weight that refuses to drink anything but Michelob Ultras. But at the end of the day when someone rolls up to the party with a cooler full of Founders, they all want to dip their hands in the cookie jar. Deep down they know it is the best. They hate that it is the best because it makes them fat, destroys their livers and leaves them feeling like shit in one way or another eventually, but they have all accepted the reality that it is, indeed, superior.

I hate to inform everyone, but Ohio State is pretty damn good at this whole football thing. I am curious to see how the post Urban Meyer era goes, but I have to imagine that Ohio State will maintain being pretty damn good at the whole football thing.

Purdue-Slightly Over-Grilled Chicken Breast

Who got Perdue jokes? We got Perdue jokes! It isn’t grandma’s famous fried chicken, but throw a little Sweet Baby Ray’s on this slightly charred piece of meat and you have yourself a reasonable protein. It’s a vast improvement over the old days, when Uncle Darrell would always roll up to the family potluck with a tub of his Cheez-It encrusted chicken tar-tar. At least this mediocre attempt in grilling won’t leave everyone with a stomach virus brutal enough to ruin entire Autumns.

Does Brohm have Purdue back baby?!? Does Purdue really have a place to get back to?!? Are the Boilermakers finally back to the 8-win glory days of Joe Tiller and Drew Brees?!? I say probably not, enjoy your 1-2 OOC record, and most importantly, enjoy your six wins. Your team is better than raw chicken though, probably.

Penn State-Relish

Relish, the most controversial hot-dog condiment. People that like relish think everyone likes relish, or at the very least, think everyone should like relish. Relish fanatics will try to shove the word of relish down your throat as if it is gospel, but it closer resembles a pickle cult. People that like relish are in a dwindling minority, and are completely unaware that their half-witted attempts to defend relish are irrational, outlandish and delusional. They are ignorant to the fact that almost everyone carries an unbridled hatred for relish, the green slime that dares to invade an otherwise homely July 4th cookout. At its peak, relish is still, at best, the third most acceptable hot-dog condiment, trailing far behind ketchup and mustard. Relish pines to be mustard and ketchup, but it never will be. If you see someone putting relish on their hot-dog this July 4th, maintain eye-contact, back away slowly as to not aggravate the individual, and call the police.

Is this what subtlety is? My personal biases aside, I think most people hold Ohio State and Michigan in a higher regard than Penn State, and I don’t think that those people would be wrong. Penn State has been a consistent team under James Franklin, I guess. Bringing biased back to the table, I hope Penn State wins zero games for the rest of ever.

Rutgers-The Beer Cooler the Next Day

It’s the day after July 4th and you arise in a haze around noon. The daunting task of cleaning up after yesterday’s festivities stares you down with a mocking gaze. As you stumble about the yard, picking up half drunken Milwaukee’s Best Ices, something catches your eye. There it sits, the old beat-up Igloo cooler that has been abused at one too many drunken functions. You open it up, the lid slides to the ground as the hinges on it broke decades ago, in it you find half a dozen Busch Lights floating in a pool of piping hot, dirty water. The very thought of the near boiling brew residing in those twelve-ounce aluminum cans brings you within inches of expelling the contents of your stomach all over the lawn. This cooler, once a passable vessel to store some ice cold beers, now useless, dirty, a musty void that will ruin anything that you put into it. You back away, defeated, hoping that by tomorrow through some miracle of physics and the fabric of inter-dimensional space-time that the cooler simply ceases to be, so you no longer have to be burdened by its mere existence.

Sorry Rutgers, but it isn’t my fault that you horribly fail in almost every endeavor into athletics. I am not sure whether to be grateful for your overt ineptitude, since it takes some of the attention away from Maryland’s football shortcomings, or to be angry because we seemed to be lumped together since we ruined everyone’s precious Big Ten Conference at the same time. Anyway, y’all are bad, always have been, and likely always will be. At least you get to live in New Jersey though.

Wisconsin-A Fireman’s Parade

Last, but certainly, maybe, not least, Wisconsin. I more-or-less did this in alphabetical order, so here I am scraping the bottom of my creative barrel. It is one tiny ass barrel mind you. Hey, that is what you get for not living in Bisconsin. Why am I associating Wisconsin football with Fireman’s Parade, I don’t know, you tell me in the comments below. Buncha big red a white things closin’ down lanes and shit, there ya go!

I suppose Wisconsin should have been something beer related, since the state of Wisconsin is just one big drunken mess, but I did not want to score the beer hat trick.

tl:dr: I am just a bitter Maryland fan looking for an excuse to dump on everyone else.