Welcome Back Northwestern; It's For The Best

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

You already know what I'm going to say, and you know I'm right.

You woke up this morning and yesterday's loss to Sharty is barely weighing on your mind. You're back in your sweet spot: you can take pride in your team's overall accomplishments without seeming too sweaty in calling attention to it.

I get it, making the playoff is a big deal, even (maybe) in a year like this. PSU hasn't done it. UW hasn't done it. Michigan hasn't done it (might need to recalibrate the comparisons used for dramatic effect...). And I *KNOW* the news that OSU is perilously close to losing eligibility got your hopes up, even if you did your level best to distance yourself from such grubbiness (good practice for those McKinsey reports, I'm sure).

Yes, yes, what could be MORE Northwestern than winning the conference without having to play the top dog (see 1995, 1996). But that may still be in play! And without the playoff as an option, you're spared "the narrative" the press would've seized on. One that could be ESPN'd up into the punchy drama of a former player who's now the coach sharing his life lessons (1. Cell phones are evil. 2. So are unions. 3. Clouds exist to be yelled at.) with the next generation. [Maybe a closing shot of Paddy Driscoll looking quizzically, but with some interest, at the whistle on Coach Fitzgerald's desk, "2045?" appearing on the screen as we fade to black.]



It's clear that at least half the fun of being a Northwestern fan is being able to pretend like it's no big deal. You get to sit back and smirk every time OSU shits the bed in a big game. UW has another turnover orgy at Ryan Field? NW fan: "Interesting. And they seem to take it so seriously too." Beat Maryland by 40? "Do you know how much their coach makes?" [They only exception is older NW fans who remember Hayden Fry's condescension. Then the mask slips a bit.]

So, yesterday you got what you know you secretly wanted. You're still in position to win the West. You can lord it over the in-state rival. You can content yourself knowing that you get to stick it to the entire Quadrangle. You can buy a division champs t-shirt. You know, if you're the type to do that sort of thing. Ironically. Of course.

And best of all, you're no longer implicated in anything. The Big Ten standings look like what you'd see in the Grapefruit League after the first week of spring training. Everybody knows this is bullshit and now you can go back to your detachment. [Plus, it's basketball season. There are books to be read.] You can observe OSU's desperation in trying to justify playing next Saturday knowing the books will be cooked in some way. You can watch established programs squirm. You can treat Saturdays as a chance to drop in and see what the plebes are up to. Good for you.

And since the Rose Bowl is a CFP semifinal this year, the rest of us can feel relief knowing that even if NW were to sneak past Indiana and win the conference, the season will no longer end in Pasadena. After all, last time that happened, it meant that for a month Charlton fucking Heston was unavoidable anytime Northwestern football was mentioned.

We're all better off this way.

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