When it comes to sports-related blogs there are quite a few best in class. However, one blog is so unique, so different, so irreverent it clearly stands out above all others. It happens to be a Northwestern blog as well. No, it’s not this one. It’s not InsideNU either. It is the mysterious and hilarious Bring Your Champions, They’re Our Meat. In case you’re wondering the name of the blog is a hat tip to an actual phrase from Northwestern’s old fight song.
BYCTOM, as he’s known in shorthand, is the blogosphere’s version of the Dos Equis guy. He’s the most interesting blogger in the sports world. Not too many sports bloggers will mix medieval metaphors with college football and there is only one mixing inane historical tidbits with Wildcat football while making most of us reach for the dictionary and thesaurus. I’ve been begging BYCTOM to write more because, well, there isn’t anything else out there quite like it. I’ve been harassing him for years as you can tell by this 2011 interview. Today, he makes my season by joining us with a guest post. BYCTOM…take it away…
– by BYCTOM
I am blogging about football and, as an expert football blogger, let’s blog some high-level football talk here: Northwestern has not played football particularly well so far.
It was not encouraging when the depleted Wildcats came out flat against Cal. It was even less encouraging when they ended their lifetime undefeated streak against a good Northern Illinois team as swarming Husky partisans took over Ryan Field and chanted “this is our house” in the waning seconds. Every time Northwestern thought they had NIU stopped, they would change quarterbacks like how the last bad guy in a Nintendo game would turn into a larger and more aggressive form that shot different types of fireballs at you in an unsporting manner. Northwestern even had the right wristbands this time.
In short, it has been a dispiriting start to the season that leaves precious little room for error in the quest to make an unheralded bowl game that will be watched by millions of rapt football fans who are sort of glancing at the game on the TV and trying to figure out what “NWU” stands for as they decide which beer to order. But at least we are not alone.
Northwestern may be 0-2, but the team is still very much alive in the Big Ten because the Big Ten has comported itself on television with the stolid dignity of man being hit in the crotch by a football. This is not a surprise. For years, the only writing about the Big Ten has been elegiac. Big Ten football has already had dozens of funerals; this season has been like setting the casket on fire and watching it drift off to sea only to be snatched away and devoured by a sea monster that only eats flaming coffins.
As fans of a team that plays in the Big Ten, I guess we’re supposed to be embarrassed and chagrined that our conference has slightly performed better than if we put them all on a cricket oval and asked them to play non-conference games against Australian Rules football teams and all of a sudden they are wearing small shorts and having people jump on their heads. But I don’t mind. The Fall of the Big Ten may not be bad for the Wildcats this year.
Conference pride makes ostensible sense in college football where rankings, championships, and now playoff berths continue to be shaped by perception. The opinions of the press have tangible consequences; the playoff panel will certainly be forced to decide on teams’ fates with the capricious arm wave of a tyrant. Ambitious teams would probably prefer to play in a conference that is not performing like a guy in the first panel of a Charles Atlas advertisement. On the other hand, the Fall of the Big Ten narrative is fueled by the satisfying experience of watching hated Big Ten teams implode game after game, and if you can’t take solace in the anguished wailings of dumbstruck Buckeyes and internet Michigan Men than you may prefer to watch a sport that is fueled less by animus and spite such as medieval blood feuds.
In this dilapidated Big Ten maybe Northwestern’s bowl dreams remain undashed. Maybe the conference’s difficulties in non-conference play augur well for a miraculous run to the top of the Big Ten West. Maybe I should grow an unruly beard and prophesy Northwestern ascendance via sandwich board outside of the Big Ten’s Rosemont offices.
The Wildcats may rebound. Fitzgerald reportedly had the team running around in the rain, presumably in a slow-motion montage that has been scientifically proven to be the only way for ailing sports teams to quickly improve. Even if they don’t, we can expect another exciting season of Northwestern football where leads can be gained and lost in an instant, where touchdowns can strike in any direction, and where the laws of space and time may no longer apply in the dreaded fourth quarter.
It appears likely that Northwestern will miss its second consecutive bowl game. That is discouraging given the team’s recent success, although it is less discouraging than the time Northwestern missed 47 consecutive bowl games. In the meantime, Northwestern can use its remaining games to sow discord and confusion. There’s a chance to ruin a Notre Dame season, the most true and noble goal for the twelve teams granted that privilege each year. There’s a chance to beat Iowa, which is its own reward. An upset against Penn State, Wisconsin, or mighty Michigan State may very well end the Big Ten immediately, like that time the Soviet Union collapsed. Most importantly, Northwestern must protect the Land of Lincoln Trophy at all costs in America’s Greatest College Football Rivalry Game. I can and have endured all manner of frustrating Northwestern losses but cannot fathom living in a world where some no wildcat sign-posting, purple clothes-burning, that-school-up-northing jabroni hoists The Hat in triumph at Ryan Field.
College football is impossible. There are 128 football programs in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision. The vast majority have virtually no chance to compete for a national championship. Fans make our own goals, whether it’s a bowl berth, a quixotic Groza Award campaign, or an upset over a vaunted rival with opposing fans forced into a series of stunned incredulity GIFs. I don’t expect anything from Northwestern football other than an opportunity to chase vicarious triumph for three hours every week in the fall, to experience Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes-level heartbreak that has no otherwise tangible effect on my life, and to make my hands into claws and scream next to a tarp.
Bring Your Champions, They’re Our Meat is a blog that is sometimes about Northwestern football and sometimes about monocles.