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Northwestern Potluck #1: “Eh, good enough.”

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Grab a plate and get ready to choke down some Wildcat.

One purple cat is as good as another.
Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So here we are. It’s MONDAY! Not only that, but I’ve been blessed with throwing together a potluck for Northwestern this week. While I’d normally put as much effort into putting out a wonderful buffet of hot dogs (no ketchup, you monsters) and pizza that looks like a poorly made pie to celebrate Chicago’s team as I do into shaving during a pandemic, this week feels different. I think it’s the combination of existential dread that revolves around having to discuss Northwestern while it’s still 2020. But let’s not hold this exercise in futility and pain against 2020.

Let’s get started, shall we? While everyone else in the B1G West seems to be (to varying degrees) ambitious in their efforts to be the best in a division that’s anyones for the taking, Northwestern is…not. Pat Fitzgerald is perfectly content being Pat Fitzgerald. You know, hero alumni LB turned head coach for a team that’s going to run the ball, play infuriating defense, and be that uncle that traps you in the corner of the garage and shouts about how unions destroyed America.

Is that good enough in 2020? Is staying the course for Northwestern a good enough course of action when (nearly) everyone else is changing and evolving?

LPW: No, staying the course is not good enough for Northwestern. After last year’s debacle , Fitz finally got rid of much-derided OC Mick McCall and replaced him with Tim Bajakian from Boston College. I hope that, along with a QB duel and Isiah Bowser potentially returning to health will be enough. I don’t need to worry about Mike Hankwitz’s defense.

pkloa: Not every school can be a football powerhouse. As long as you have success in other major sports, you can get away with having only modest success on the gridiron. The Wildcats decided long ago to hang their hats on the success of their [references Wikipedia] …

Oh.

MNW: I mean...probably. Unless Illinois, Purdue, and Nebraska all suddenly have their shit together, and Minnesota’s model is sustainable (I require more than one year of proof if that’s “just OK” with you), Northwestern will just...be there.

And I think that’s probably good enough to be a relatively consistent bowl team, assuming the bottom doesn’t just completely fall out of one side of the ball (which it did with the offense in 2019 in historic ways—which is saying something, given the 2015 Wildcats). And you know what? For as much as you can ask the question “Is staying the course good enough?” of Northwestern, you’d have to ask the same of wisconsin and Iowa, inarguably the 1a and 1b of the West for the last five years. Those two are working with more resources and fewer limitations than Northwestern, but it’s not as if everyone else is suddenly playing 12D chess while Pat Fitzgerald is playing ball-in-a-cup; his buddies Paul and Kirk aren’t exactly innovators.

Jesse: Yeah, I’m of the belief that Northwestern is less “staying the course” so much as “playing a razor-thin margin of good/awful”. Now, I’m not exactly a huge fan of Northwestern Football, and last year was proof that shit can go awry really fast if you don’t have a semblance of a passing game. But, that’s sort of just how things go for them. You could - as MNW has mentioned - see something similar at Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, etc. If one small part goes awfully wrong, there isn’t really a backup plan. See: QB play, defensive approach, running game being awful for no apparent reason, etc. The West is getting better, and I think Northwestern - especially as you look at differences in recruiting overall - needs to decide what it really wants to be eventually, but those razor-thin margins work sometimes and if you’re the Wildcats, isn’t that okay?

Zuzu: Northwestern needs to keep doing what they’re doing, but pretending the 2019 season doesn’t exist. Whenever I think of 2018 Nebraska, I literally say, “WOW.” So hey just do that again. I don’t know how exactly, but I mean they’re only 2 years removed from it, how different can things be? ...heh

Bman31: It’s really hard to gauge if 2019 was a one-off or not. I mean, Northwestern did lose to Purdue’s 4th string QB, so fans and butlers do have reason to be concerned. There’s plenty of precedence for what Pat is doing. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have as much of a margin for error as those who came before him.

Beez: Pat Fitzgerald is a top 10 worst offensive coach in the college game currently, and has been for several years. His defenses are great, and his conference, particularly the division, is weak enough that he can steal games every now and then, but his offenses are comically bad. Is that “good enough” for Northwestern? Maybe! It’s all about fan expectation and experience, and it seems like lost of NW fans are perfectly fine with the recent history of Northwestern. If I’m a NW fan, I’m reassured that even a slight offensive upgrade takes the school from “remember that one time we won the division” to “everybody circles us a game you probably need to win to win the division.”

Stew: It’s good enough for jNW, if not for any fans unfortunate enough to be watching their games. While MNW uses his whataboutism to deflect the ennui of his preferred team’s current state, Fatty Pitz will be over there, banging his head into the wall.

WSR: But it’ll be a gritty banging his head against the wall! Bless MNW’s cold, purple heart for believing that swapping out Mick McCall for some other random jabroni OC and pointing at Nebraska and Illinois as an example of why Northwestern will be fine, but that’s not a good way to live your life. Pointing at the Rutgerses of the West and beating your chest and saying “YEAH, WE’RE OKER THAN THEM!” is a bit like being Rand Paul. Sooner or later you’re going to get your ass beat (potentially involving a leaf blower) and everyone else is going to point and laugh. The Wildcats really haven’t done anything to change their identity, even though they’re running a style that was stale 15 years ago. The only way to you point to Iowa and wisconsin and say “BUT BEING BORING WORKS FOR THEM!” is a) if you hire your racist son to be OC and b) You’re wisconsin and you’ve established your system and don’t have very many down years thanks to whatever deal with Satan was invoked by Barry Alvarez and his son involving that parrot. Northwestern needs to start changing with the times or they’re going to go back to being the Northwestern I knew and loved growing up.


In the spirit of “Eh, good enough,” every campus (and hometown, if we’re honest) has a restaurant that’s “just OK.” It’s not great, it’s not bad, it’s just...there. And you’re going to have someone around you that absolutely loves it and NEEDS to go there. Per MNW, it’s the 24-hour Burger King across the street from the Graduate School that, according to urban legend, is the “Highest grossing BK in nation,” which is something they apparently brag about on campus tours. Go Cats (tinny growl)?

Where every Medill grad should be employed.

What’s the place, in your opinion, that’s “just OK”?

Bonus: What’s something you cook/bake/prepare/make that’s “just OK?”

pkloa: Canyon Pizza fits this bill, at least while sober. My rice and tuna recipe does as well. Sure, the oil gives it some texture, and I will throw in some spices and maybe a steam bag of veggies, but it’s the definition of meh.

MNW: My goodness, the number of times I went to BK. I assume it was the definition of “just OK,” because I was never sober enough to actually judge its product fairly. What a bizarre place that BK is.

Much like Northwestern football, I have never been able to hit the sweet spot when preparing margaritas for a group. It’s either weak and sugary, or potent to the point that 4 of my 7 siblings/wife/significant others vomited later.

Either you win the Big Ten West, or you go 3-9. There can be no in between.

Jesse: So uh, have you all been to Taco Johns? Because holy shit people love Taco Johns. It’s fine. You can get a six pack and a pound, but like… whyyyyyy? It’s not good.

Anyhow, for me, my special ‘just ok’ dish is pancakes. For the life of me I can’t make them good or bad. They just sorta are. I don’t use a mix which is probably even more damning in my approach, but yeah, pancakes are not my jam.

Zuzu: At Rutgers the “just ok” restaurants are the zillions of pizzerias that line Easton Ave. From Nuebies, to Giovanelli’s, to Knight Express. Each student has a favorite and a justification as to why. And each is ultimately mediocre and good enough as late night college student dinner, but none are stellar. Pizza, gyros, subs, milkshakes, wings, fries. How excellent do these need to be really? Just okay gets the job done. Oh how I miss those soggy gyros from Nuebies.

I’ll flex that I’m a naturally good cook and don’t make “just ok” food when I put even just a modicum of effort into it. With that said, when I’m hungry and lazy I make a very efficient, but boring and not special elbow macaroni and canned/pouched tuna/salmon pasta salad.

BMan31: It’s been so long since I’ve eaten on campus, I couldn’t even tell you what exists and doesn’t anymore. When it comes to restaurants that are “just ok”, I’m going with Hardees. It’s not great fast food, it’s not terrible fast food but it does the job in a pinch.

Beez: I’m with BMan in not knowing anything about campus food anymore. Instead I’ll say 95% of takeout or delivery Chinese food restaurants are “just ok.” I’m excited to get them every now and then, I take 3-25 bites, and I remember that it’s more meh than anything else. And it’s all capped off by the just okayest “dessert” ever: a fortune cookie.

Stew: I’m generally enthusiastic about the dining options in Iowa City, however, I will say that 30Hop, I think, is a bit overrated for what it is. The tap list is good, but it’s mostly just big, not great. There are better tap lists in town with local brews. The food is pretty good, but it’s trying to be good gastro pub food, but it’s trying too hard and it ends up with too much going on. It’s fine, but not in my top few choices.

WSR: GREAT NEWS! Everything that stunningly mediocre yet charming around the University of Minnesota campus has been ripped down and replaced with an apartment building that has some sort of fast casual crap in the 1st floor. But there is one thing left that sticks out to me that may well draw some real ire from my fellow Minnesotans: Annie’s Parlour. Yeah, yeah. It’s got great shakes. But there were so many better food choices around, so why not go to one of those instead and get a shake on the way home?

And as for my cooking, it’s got to be chocolate chip cookies. I keep fiddling around with the recipes and ingredients and the process, but it’s always just OK. Maybe I’ll get it right by the time the pandemic’s over?

Poll

Which "just OK" food sounds the OKest right now?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Margaritas
    (24 votes)
  • 34%
    Pancakes
    (26 votes)
  • 10%
    Pasta salad with tuna/salmon
    (8 votes)
  • 23%
    Chocolate chip cookies
    (18 votes)
76 votes total Vote Now