“I don’t know, it’s a Friday at 3:30. Do you really think we should try to take 94 down through the city?”
The sweat beading on my forehead, the condensation gathering in my mouth, I stole one of the few glances I could muster across the minivan at my quiz bowl co-captain.
“Dude, Lake Shore would’ve been totally locked up right now! This is faster, I swear!”
I glance at the van’s clock. Oh God, it’s 4:45 now. We had that conversation an hour ago as we were leaving Evanston. What have I been doing? We’ve only gone 10 miles in over an hour...surely we stopped somewhere?
Start. Stop. Start—BRAKE! Fucking traffic.
The car starts to spin.
I look out the window: U.S. Cellular Field. Oh God, we’re only to the South Side.
Like an electric kettle starting to boil, my stomach switches on a dime—from calm to rumbling.
Last week at SBNation was “Jersey Week”. I was excited when I learned about this! We not only have fourteen teams in this conference, all with jerseys (I think most of them wear jerseys at least; I can’t be assed to watch a Purdue football game), but one of them is even IN New Jersey!
What could be more perfect than that?
Unfortunately, wherever these things get decided, we don’t seem to be on the mailing list.
I mean, generally, that’s fine! It turns out this week is “Marvel Week”, and that’s about #4912 on the list of “bullshit ideas I don’t care about”. So bullet dodged, I guess?
But ranking jerseys...that would’ve been fun.
Point is, OTE already struggles to make ends meet as it is, and we could’ve used the slight boost in revenues that will keep me out of trouble for another week until I am inevitably furloughed to make room for a younger, hungrier, click-baitier savant of the Big Ten sportsblogyelling world.
My solution? Fun, relatable THEME WEEKS!
For the next
month week probably just today, each OTE writer maybe Boilerman and I probably just I will be writing a personal essay or “web log”, if you will, capturing one of the great moments in Big Ten history that we were a part of. And, hell, let’s even say that SBNation is on board with this! We’re hip, we’re relatable, and we’re ready for some great storytelling that will surely drive clicks and content.
That’s why we’re pleased to announce...
Off Tackle Empire and SBNation* Present**:
Places I’ve Puked Week!
I put down my sandwich in Plex East. The clock reads 2:45. Shit. I’ve got to get back to North Mid-Quads, shower, and try to be somewhat put-together when the team’s Van Pool van rolls up at the pick-up point.
I’d woken up an hour ago, laid in a sweaty, hungover mass on my bed—no class this Friday, I didn’t think (or maybe I skipped a discussion section)—another night of marching band partying through, this one having really knocked me out, for whatever reason.
I needed to eat something. Goddamnit, why are we going to Ohio State?
Right. Quiz Bowl tournament. Shit.
The sandwich is too dry, and the fries just aren’t hitting the spot. I swig down what I can of my pop, toss my food in the garbage, stuff a couple of cookies in my sweatshirt, and pray it passes. Oh God.
“Dude, we needed to take Lake Shore. This is fucking awful. Could you not have made up your lab a little earlier so we could get out of here?” I barely get the words out before I have to close my eyes again.
“I told you—I can’t change that lab around. And we’re fine; this would’ve taken even longer on the side streets or Lake Shore—shit, dude, close the window!”
A brisk November day on Lake Michigan means crisp, sub-40° air mixed with diesel fumes are rolling into the car as I crack my window. Sweet, fresh air. Sweet, fresh diesel. If just for a moment, the urge subsides. I can open my eyes again.
“DUDE—SHUT THE FUCKING WINDOW!”
I comply, least of all because he’s the captain and club president and I don’t need this seven-hour car ride—oh God, will it really be seven hours of this?—to be any more unpleasant than it is.
Dan pipes up from the backseat, volunteering to read packets of old questions.
We’re a couple questions in. Down goes my window again. Roll—press the gas pedal—BRAKE!
Oh God. I press the “Down” button.
“DUDE—SHUT THE FUCKING WIND—”
My captain’s exhortation is met with what I can only assume, to him, was an otherworldly HURRRRRRRK.
Out went the sandwich. Out went the fries. Out went the root beer and the chips I’d eaten in the car to settle my stomach and the water I’d so gingerly sipped to keep everything at bay. “GO!” I scream.
The car rolls a few feet ahead, leaving a streak of God-knows-what on I-94. I look up—a trucker smirks, surely full well knowing what’s just happened. I look past him—those ungodly firework towers. Fuck the White Sox. I’m never drinking again. Dear God, why?
We roll into Columbus around 12:15am, well behind schedule. I’ve been pulled over for speeding through Madison County, Ohio, caught as I tried to sneak off I-70 in the name of “getting gas,” then claiming I was lost, then begging a state trooper not to cite me for the University giving me a van with expired insurance.
I have driven us to the wrong Days Inn.
We acquit ourselves decently the following day, losing to the Michigans and Chicagos of the Great Lakes quizbowling world but finishing in a respectable second-bracket place. I am the lowest scorer on our three-man team.
I do not drive at all on the way back to Evanston.
I sit in the front seat and I think about what I’ve done.