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Northwestern Mailbag: Getting Respect in the West, Reading Books, and Whether It’s The Year

Descending from on high, our munificent writers take turns answering your dumb questions.

Big Ten Football Media Days

You all are absurd.

One simple Mailbag call, and you were so excited to talk about your favorite team, the Northwestern Wildcats, that we humble NU writers were flooded by a deluge of queries.

Not wanting to take away one of the few sources of joy in what I’m sure is your sad, miserable existences, we’ve tried to answer all twenty of your individual questions, except for whichever of those Boiler3487230 fans asked, like, thirty (in retrospect, no one wanted to parse that bullshit, so we deleted it. Learn how mailbags work, you chumbolone)! And because, like...just too many questions, guys!, we enlisted the help of Noah Coffman, EIC at InsideNU (if you haven’t read his interview with us yet, go do so)!

So you may get an answer from one of us, you may get an answer from all of us.

Either way—you’re welcome.

Northwestern week. After Michigan week.
It’s a mailbag so here’s my question:

LPW: Ask Harbaugh to win his division one of these years. He’s overrated, so he can’t!

MNW: What I really enjoy is reveling in the knowledge that if wisconsin would have won the West last year (lol yeah right with Coan), I would’ve probably put Michigan after wisconsin...because Michigan was better than wisconsin.

But fuck you, I run this place, and I’m DRUNK WITH POWER.

Also possibly just drunk.

Northwestern has been involved in more than its share of stupid, improbable games.
What is your favorite improbable Northwestern moment, and which one still haunts you at night?

LPW: My favorite improbable moment was our comeback victory at Notre Dame, and I’m still haunted by the 2006 Michigan State game when we lost in the biggest comeback in NCAA history.

NC: Last year’s Nebraska win was just on another level. My roommate and I were debating over when he would leave (I was sticking it out until the end regardless) for the entire third quarter and a bit of the fourth, and from the moment we realized Thorson might engineer the impossible comeback until the game-ending kick in OT, we were going absolutely nuts. An incredible feeling.

On the other end of the spectrum, most people remember the inexplicable Illinois State loss from 2016, but I was in the house for the loss to early-in-the-undefeated-season Western Michigan. And from my angle, Thorson’s game-ending fumble looked like a sure touchdown. Instead chaos reigned, and the Wildcats lost to (at the time) another middling MAC squad. Ouch.

MNW: I was on the other side of the equation when Victory Right happened in 2000, so while I sure enjoy it now, I can’t say it’s my “favorite” moment, as my true Northwestern Consciousness started just in 2008 or so. For a favorite moment, give me 2014 Notre Dame.

For a least favorite moment...someone can just find the fucking gif. I drove to Lincoln for that shit.

Northwestern has a reputation for producing smart, capable people.
Name one prominent alum that belies this belief. Go nuts and name several.
--Dead Read

NC: Can’t answer this one honestly for a variety of reasons, unfortunately!

MNW: I think I’ve told this story here before, but I was in Geraldo Cadava’s History of the American West class (amazing class; if you’re an NU undergrad reading this, take it!), specifically a discussion section, with Chester Hanks, son of Tom Hanks, who you might know better as Chet Haze, douchebag “rapper” extraordinaire (the guy who emailed his philosophy class this and was consistently blazed as fuck). It’s amazing that we have athletes who can’t get into Northwestern, and that chud could.

Metra vs. the Purple Line
Pros and cons of going between Evanston and Downtown Chicago? Which do you guys prefer?
Also i’m still sore about Stefan Demos in 2009.

MNW: That 2009 Indiana game was either homecoming or Parents Weekend, and my folks made the trip down from Minnesota for their first-ever game at Ryan Field. They recalled being exhausted by the sheer stupid drama and asked if we did things like come back from being down 28-3 every week.

Ten seasons later, Mom and Dad, I can confidently say we had no fucking clue what we were getting into.

Anywho, the Metra if you can time it out right, unless it’s rush hour, in which case the Purple is a cromulent choice. But I don’t have time for all those stops on the Red Line in my old age.

LPW: my younger colleague is right, if you can time it right the metra is very quick. The purple line is fast too, however it doesn’t run on Saturdays!!

On game days, I usually go with whatever transit option is the closest to me, which would be the red line. Yeah, it takes a while with every damn stop, but you’ll get there eventually.

NC: I never used to take the Metra, but it really is a solid option. The main pro of going up to Evanston from Chicago is that the CTA is one of the best systems of public transit in the country! The con is that takes forever, and, as a Chicago native, the city is just so much more fun that it’s hard to psych yourself up about the trip.


Metra or Purple Line?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    (28 votes)
  • 38%
    Purple Line
    (23 votes)
  • 13%
    Bus, as I am a weirdo
    (8 votes)
59 votes total Vote Now

Is Northwestern in for a weird season where they inexplicably fall apart and don’t make a bowl?
--LL Sota

LPW: if that happens I fear for the well-being of our livers. Vaudvillain’s butler will have his work cut out for him. Honestly, I don’t think we’ll have a letdown season.

NC: Maybe! The Wildcats haven’t “lived down” to their consistently outperformed advanced-metric expectations in a long time, and with significant questions at QB and, especially, offensive line and the interior of the defensive line, a few positional collapses could wreak havoc on a team that has always played with a slim margin for error.

MNW: Yes! Or no! That’s the beauty of the Northwestern preseason predictions scene -- you can figure out whatever kind of season you want the ‘Cats to have, work backwards to justify it, and it will probably seem plausible!

What are some good books that I should have read this summer?
--Green 96

LPW: Ha. I recommend Bad Blood, or Red Notice.

NC: If you are into fantasy, I just recently read The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin, and it is unbelievably moving and good. (Her Inheritance trilogy was also awesome.) Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is also a must-read for a bit of history/sociology mixed into a similarly fantastic setting.

For diehard baseball fans, The MVP Machine is a must-read. I don’t agree with everything in it (especially a bit of the Trevor Bauer lionizing), but it is an incredible and fascinating story and gives you behind the scenes info and access to even more knowledge that the average fan just can’t find anywhere else.

MNW: I read a book for fun this summer! That’s a big deal for me. It was Flight by Sherman Alexie because it was free on a table on the side of the road. The last fiction book I read before that was re-reading Poland by James Michener (shut up) on my honeymoon in December (shut up), and before that it had been at least two years.

Oh so close in 2018, it was almost ‘the year’
So what evidence can the erudite purple people give the unedumacated masses that THIS IS THE YEAR?
--anutherguyfrom y-wega

NC: Five stars = good. Northwestern rarely, if ever, has that type of talent in the backfield, and with their two best recruits ever at wide receiver entering the squad alongside Hunter Johnson, an already-deep receiving corps, a capable rusher in Isaiah Bowser and a very impressive bend-but-don’t-break defense, the Wildcats may just need a few breaks to give themselves a shot at the promised land.

MNW: I love you, Noah, but it’s not The Year. It’s never The Year.

Why the hell are we playing University of Massachusetts in the middle of November?
I mean, I know why from a scheduling standpoint (Delany wanted the B1G to play B1G games earlier in the season, pushing non-con games later), but I’m sure there’s really a secret, conspiratorial reason, and I know the crack team at OTE can find out.

--Illegal Use of Hands

NC: University of Massachusetts->UMass->UM ass.

With Minnesota on the schedule for Week 13, Fitz and co. designed an elaborate prank on them in Week 12.

(That’s the best I’ve got.)

MNW: I’m reminded of when Northwestern shut out Northeastern, 27-0, in the 2007 Confusion Bowl and the Huskies disbanded their program the next year. Maybe the Minutemen will do the same, or at least go back down to FCS.

As long as they keep playing on Eleven Sports Network -- Don’t Watch This; Watch That won’t be the same without the Minutemen on Eleven.

What’s the ideal number of fans attending a game (both as percentage of capacity and raw number of people)?
And has Northwestern just gotten too popular in recent years?

LPW: I think there should be at least 35,000 to 40,000 people minimum at Ryan Field. I’d like to see the ratio of Northwestern fans to visitors at 60/40%, best case what it was in the 90s when apparently we sold out purple.

MNW: That’s too full. Forty-thousand? Eighty percent capacity? That might mean I’d have to get to know the people in the seats next to me, and that is not what I’m here for. I love the games of late October and November, when Indiana or Penn State or Minnesota or Purdue (and sometimes even wisconsin, back in like 2009) trudge apathetically into Ryan Field for an 11am kick and there are about 25K in attendance. You get a nice little buzz going, there’s plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy the 2-3 extra beers or flask you’ve smuggled into the stadium, and you can kind of merge groups with the friends in adjacent sections. Really comfortable.

And yes, Northwestern is far too loved. It’s really becoming a shame. Maybe a November game with Morgan State or someone would smooth that out a bit.

The east stands at Ryan Field
Are we all agreed that the entire east stands shall be called “visiting fans”?

NC: Hey! That’s rude. The students, myself included, happen to sit there as well (when school is in session, and most of them really only do so for marquee opponents anyways).

MNW: How many shit questions did we let you ask?

How many seasons will the ‘Cats have to win the West before they are recognized as the new Overlords of the sunset division?

LPW: I think at least three more seasons in a row.

MNW: They never will, and I think you know that. Even if they did, it would perpetually be a fluke, or conversation would quickly shift to Fitz’s latest broadside against millennials taking snapchats instead of watching the fifth consecutive graduate transfer punter kick it away on 4th and 9 from the opponent’s 38, or intensify calls to disband the Big Ten West and replace it with the Detroit Lions.

But really, it just won’t ever happen. Sorry.


How many seasons would it take?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    (0 votes)
  • 11%
    (10 votes)
  • 13%
    (12 votes)
  • 18%
    (16 votes)
  • 56%
    It would still never happen.
    (50 votes)
88 votes total Vote Now

My question is twofold. While I don’t predict yet that either of these will be proven wrong, because NU...
1. Why is Fields automatically one of the best QBs in B1G and HuJo is like 9th, with nearly identical credentials, and
2. Why are so many people picking 4 teams NU beat to finish ahead of them this season?

NC: No clue about the Johnson thing. As for the picking, the advanced stats and the eye test just don’t favor the ‘Cats, as NU diehards know. Fitz and co. often find a way to win, though.

MNW: A few more questions like this, and I’m close to shifting my assessment of Northwestern as “Purple Iowa” to that of “Purple Sparty.”

Look, it’s not an attack of you, phatcat, but I’m getting concerned about this Rodney Dangerfield routine we’re picking up on again. It’s fine if we’re doing as Leslie Knope and talking about the geese in Ramsett Park, but the moment you start to actually take the world of polls and clickbait ESPN listicles seriously, the ‘Cats finally appear on them and go 5-7 and I fight a bush before the Ohio State game. Is that what you want?

Herr Phatcat, it is not.

Instead, enjoy the soft bigotry of low expectations and leave little breadcrumbs out for people so that you can be insufferable about “I told you so” without being THAT FAN who, every year, predicts Northwestern to go 11-1. Could Hunter Johnson be the Second Coming of Kustok? Perhaps! But it’s more fun when teams realize that, oh fuck, Dan Persa is actually good, rather than mock Unstoppable Throw God Trevor Siemian or Perfectly Adequate Clayton Thorson.

Why are the visiting street urchins who sully our beloved Evanston on autumnal Saturdays so filthy?

LPW: sadly, there are not enough of us Northwestern fans, so we need to hold our noses and let these visiting urchins help fund the athletic department. Pat Ryan can’t foot the bill for everything around here.

NC: The purified, rarified Evanstonian air will, sadly, never have any positive effects on such heathens as represent the “fanbases” of the other 13 Big Ten athletic programs.

Who makes the best Italian beef sandwich?
Bonus question since I already know the answer: is Northwestern really Chicago’s Big Ten Team? If they aren’t (they’re not), who is?

NC: Al’s. Get the juice on the side. As for the second part of the question, no comment.

LPW: I’m a huge fan of getting Italian beefs from Portillos.

MNW: Big Chicago State Cougars guy, myself. I have the Emil and Patricia Jones Convocation Center (an arena name I typed from memory and will not fact-check) on my bucket list of “Places to go and wonder why I am there.”

What are the qualities one should look for in a good butler?
And, will the B1G ever find a good buttger?

LPW: A gentleman’s gentleman is prized for his discretion, resourcefulness, industriousness, timeliness, and a sixth sense of when to bring us the finest spirits and beers at the right time.

MNW: Discretion, and no.

Why are there so many red teams in the B1G?
--3rd Floor East stacks

NC: Because all of those rural folks are so gosh-darn unoriginal. (Yes, Columbus counts as rural to me as a member of the Northwestern elite.)

MNW: When we ranked the Reds of the Big Ten a couple months ago (FUCK IT HAS BEEN A LONG OFFSEASON), it struck me that (1) I’ll probably never be able to appreciate the full spectrum of reds in the Big Ten because I am colorblind and have no intention of having one of those bullshit feel-good moments where I put on glasses and see colors different from the ones I see now, and (2) it’s made worse by how reliant wisconsin and Nebraska are on their shitty reds. Now Indiana and Minnesota -- those deep reds move the needle.

MNW: This is an excellent if improbable hypothetical. I’d rather play the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl. The College Football Playoff holds no nostalgia for me as it stands, though maybe I’d change my tune if this scenario actually came to be.

No, I’m all about taking a wildly inconvenient trip to Pasadena for New Year’s, probably driving to make a point about flights or something stupid, crashing on the floor of a friend’s apartment, and making a drunken fool out of myself. Because Rose Bowl.

But we all know that when it finally happens and Northwestern goes to the Rose Bowl, it’ll be a year where the Rose Bowl is the CFP Semifinal and we’ll play for all the Tostitos or something stupid. God, I hate college football so much.

Northwestern: B1G West Champions. Really?


MNW: How silly that, in retrospect, Rutgers and Nebraska are the two teams who came closest to preventing this plague from descending across our land. The rest of you? It’s all your fault.


Rose Bowl or College Football Playoff?

This poll is closed

  • 69%
    Rose Bowl
    (51 votes)
  • 30%
    (22 votes)
73 votes total Vote Now