Part I: Writer’s Block
I hate Ryan Field, and whatever as-yet-undiscovered Fermilab side effects lead to UW consistently playing terribly there. But the “fans-dressed-as-bleachers” jokes have been done to death and, really, NW fans don’t even really defend the place.
I want to hate Pat Fitzgerald, and being a pre-maturely 60 year-old union buster is a pretty good start, but I’m old enough to remember Gary Barnett—a truly execrable person—so Fitz is more an irritant than anything.
So let’s roll with an analogy.
Do you remember when Steph Curry put out a line of shoes that everybody made fun of?
There were some great memes from that:
It really works as a stand-in for NW football. Defiantly uncool, regardless of accomplishments.
Just the way Coach Fitzgerald wants it.
Most of you
read clicked on the offensive preview. There were multiple intelligent NW fans in the comment section, and it turned into a discussion of Chicago traffic routes! How can you expect anybody else to hate NW when the sentiment among fans is: “Yep, our offense is so hideous, I’d rather discuss driving in Chicago.”
NW has broken B1G football.
They’ve demonstrated that you can field a single elite unit and still have success, no matter how shitty (the offense) and/or mediocre (the special teams) the other units are.
It’s as if B1G football were a beloved toy—say a frisbee*—but at some point the frisbee cracked and now flies erratically. Still, we all will play with the frisbee every chance we get because the front yard is heavily fenced in (NW D) and there’s some weird force field that makes us shit our pants if we try to wander off (this metaphor is off the rails, but if you cheer for a B1G West school, I know it makes sense to you).
*Not ultimate, though. Fitzgerald would suspend anybody playing that hippie game. Just a nice, casual frisbee throw in the front yard while he grills up the hot dogs.
NW is who cracked our fucking frisbee.
2019 was like a trip to see our cool uncle on our Mom’s side of the family in the big city. NW went 3-9 and we stopped even giving a shit about that frisbee, but then we came home, and couldn’t travel anywhere in 2020, and it was back to just throwing a stupid fucking frisbee that wouldn’t even fly straight, pretending it was fun.
Lord willing the stupidity that has plagued the B1G West the last few years left Evanston with Mike Hankwitz, but that’s probably too much to hope for.
I dunno. This isn’t working...
Part II: A Comparison that Could Work
Northwestern is to B1G football what Wisconsin is to B1G basketball. And I mean Dick Bennett-era UW; not Bo Ryan.
You all know I’m right. If you remember Dick Benett at the helm, you remember a slooooow pace, UGLY offense, and a defense that was as offensive to the eyes as it was effective.
But how many people really hated it? I know most of you hated Bo Ryan, but I don’t recall pure hatred for Dick Bennett’s Badger crew. And, frankly, the 2000 Final Four run is at least as inexplicable as a division title + winless non-conference schedule. And Dick Bennett is one of the few B1G figures who was even crustier than Fitz.
So, congrats, NW, on being as aesthetically unpleasing as a Bennett (the original) basketball outfit. You’re a stain on modernity.
Still, though, we have the problem of it being hard to muster up hate for NW...
Part III: It’s Our Fault NW is Insufficiently Hated
Recently, I had a conversation with a NW alum,* who pointed out to me that, despite what a lot of people think, nationalism was a consequence of the creation of nation-states, rather than a cause of their formation. To make people think of themselves as French or Italian rather than Burgundian or Neapolitan, the central authority instilled linguistic standardization and state education. [This is the boiled-down version of a famous argument by Ernest Gellner.]
*I’m lying. I knew this already and didn’t need some fucking elitist Northwestern grad to explain it to me.
And I realized that THAT is how we need to approach Northwestern hate.
Yes, NW has historically been hot garbage, so I get that you might be lulled into thinking there’s something borderline lovable about lil’ ol’ NW punching above their weight. But it makes about as much sense as treating Pete Carril’s Princeton teams as some sort of fucking underdog.
Oh, sure, you run backdoor cuts regularly and the team photo looks like Gene Hackman should be your coach. Fuck your sepia tones. You’re still a bunch of assholes who can’t wait to take over dad’s business and start firing people.
That’s NW football, except it’s even stupider. And we need to form true NW hate in response.
The Big Ten is a conference full of excellent public schools, many of which actually have deep, abiding connections to their state.
And there’s also NW.
“Oh, NW is different. The alumni base is diffused. People move everywhere after they graduate. And it’s a smaller school to begin with. You can’t expect it to be the same.”
Translation: You’re a bunch of fucking tourists who feel no necessary connection to the B1G footprint. You might stay in Chicago since it means not having to rub elbows with the common clay. But, really, you could be happy wherever you end up. (As long as it’s a major city.) The football team? Oh, right. If flying to Durham fits your itinerary better, that can be the NW game you hit this year. Sure, you might make some self-effacing joke to paper over the fact that tailgating at Duke is basically looking in a mirror, but we know better.
So, fuck you NW. We’re going to do this Gellner-styler and CREATE the hatred based on NW’s modern identity as a competent, yet disgraceful, football team.
Fans of B1G West teams (everybody else is invited too, of course), we must join together. Iowa and Wisconsin, you both have reasons to hate NW. Minnesota: you have to know what Fitz really thinks of Peej. Nebraska, you want to be the only NU, right? Purdue, doesn’t that season-opener from 2018 still gall you?
I’m not asking you to forget about your existing hatreds. The Quadrangle can still be the Quadrangle. I know Indiana will still top the list for Purdue. I get it.
But we must decide, together, to hate Northwestern. And we have to mean it. They’ve gotten off way too easy for far too long.
There’s no reason not to hate NW. The time is now. We just need a leader; a catalyst. Ideally, it would be somebody who’s very essence might piss off Fitz and/or somebody connected to a natural rival of NW.
I know just the man:
The time is now! You can’t spell hate without HAT!
Fuck Northwestern. Fuck purple. Fuck your stupid font. Fuck the 1995 team for making a doddering Charlton Heston ubiquitous for a couple of months. And for all the Mitch Albom-lite bullshit that every NW-adjacent journalist cranked out about the meaningfulness of NW winning the B1G. And for not having a clue how to defend Keyshawn Johnson.
And fuck Northwestern basketball. Great, you made the tournament in 2017 coached by a fucking Dookie. And you beat Vandy. It’s small, private school elites everywhere you look with NW.
Fuck it all. I’m glad you’re back to being a B1G doormat in hoops. And I’m looking forward to the day—and it’s coming—when the same happens in football.
B1G West brethren, unite!!! You have nothing to lose but your chains.