I love it when my two press corps get together! Illini basketball vs Northwestern.
It's going down...I'm yelling Timber. You better move, you better dance.
Sorry, couldn't pass that up.
It's just that NU and Illini basketball, and football are the two programs, along with the Chicago Bulls, that I cover regularly. Therefore, the once a year that they play each other is special to me as I "belong" to both press corps. The media room at this one is always a lot of fun for me. I even do a weekly segment on KOZN, 1620 The Zone Omaha, talking about Illinois and Northwestern.
(UPDATE: NU to unveil new publicity-grabbing uniforms for this game)
Sunday night, 6:30 PM at Welsh-Ryan Arena will mark the one time they meet this year in hoops. There might be a round two at the Big Ten Tournament in Indy. If it were up to me, I'd keep them meeting just once a year, and have it at the United Center each time...
I have more respect and admiration for Northwestern football right now than I have previously had at any point in my life. I think even higher of the NU football program, as they finish the season 5-7, as I did when they were 4-0 and ranked #16 in the nation.
Now, I've been very critical of NU this season.
I've been extremely harsh on this team.
Maybe I've been too critical, or undeservedly critical of Pat Fitzgerald and his Northwestern football program at times, but it's only because I believe they're a very solid program that should be treated with the exact same scrutiny as the Ohio States and Michigans of the world. And that 7 game losing streak was....to quote George Michael in "Careless Whisper," "there's no comfort in the truth, pain is all you'll find."
I feel NU should be held to very high standards. And I write this 1,000 word essay just moments after they defeated my beloved Alma Mater, in the Land of Lincoln trophy game, so you know this expression comes from the heart. And to be fair, as harshly critical as I've been of Northwestern football, I've been even harder on my Illini, Illinois football coach Tim Beckman, and especially harsh on Illini Defensive Coordinator Tim Banks.
And to show fairness and balance, I've also written a lot of fawning stuff about Northwestern football in 2013
I've written pulchritudinous pieces that purple propagandists (should) passionately promote.
And perhaps no media member beat the drum to bring ESPN College Gameday to Evanston as loud as I did. And I challenge you to find anyone who covered the Gameday at Northwestern University experience with as much effort and zeal as I did
One topic I never addressed in 2013, positively or negatively, is the tremendous heart and resilient fight of this team. Now's the time...
football Coach Pat Fitzgerald
on this season: “Good riddance.”
He said that today following his team’s 30-6 shellacking at the hands of Michigan State
, dropping Northwestern football to 4-7 after starting the year 4-0 and ranked #16 in all of college football
. There’s still one more week left, at Illinois
to take on the Illini
in the Land of Lincoln trophy or LOL trophy game. And given how both of these teams are playing, the LOL contest will certainly have you ROTFL or LMAO.
The Illini ended their 20 game Big Ten
losing streak today at Purdue
; which now means the longest current losing streak in Big Ten play belongs to Purdue…and Northwestern. I don’t know who will be favored in Illini football vs Northwestern football, I just know that tickets are going very slowly for that one. Whether NU
finishes 5-7 or 4-8, it doesn’t really matter. The story of the 2013 Northwestern football season has already been written. “Good riddance” might as well be your theme. Because Northwestern is not going to a bowl for the first time since 2007. They will not be bowl eligible for the first time since 2006, Fitz’s first year on the job.
The end of the bowl game streak signifies that this losing streak hasn’t just been comprised of season defining losses, but also program defining losses. This week's Chicago Now Northwestern football piece is indeed just as uplifting as last week's piece.
And by that I mean it's as uplifting as the plot to Les Miserables...
Six weeks ago, Northwestern football
hosted ESPN College Gameday. They were 4-0 and ranked #16 in the country. Today, the story of their season is fodder for a Tom Rinaldi piece. You know Rinaldi, the Gameday personality who does feature segments on people who've dealt with and overcome adversity. And I mean actual adversity not the "adversity" that you hear dumb sports journalists, and cliched, corporatized players and coaches speak about.
Genuine adversity is the stuff Rinaldi covers: losing loved ones, fighting in a war, battling a life-threatening illness, disfigurement and disabilities. The meaningless platitude of "adversity" you incessantly hear in sports media sessions is: trailing in a football game, being an idiot and getting suspended, having to play your third stringers because of injuries. Rinaldi's pieces always end on an uplifting note; we're still waiting for that with Northwestern football.
What's happened to Northwestern football this year since October 5th is somewhere between adversity and "adversity." Either way, it's misery. It's been a nightmare. Or a train wreck, this six game losing streak is ripe for metaphorical representation. As NU has lost in every single possible way you can think of. And also lost in ways that you could never imagine.
And it's even turned Northwestern football into a verb...
The preseason media hype for Northwestern
was tremendous. And it kept growing well into this month.
Just 14 days ago, the local and national football media pundits were buying Northwestern stock in bunches. They weren’t just buying, it was "back up the truck and let's get this bandwagon filled."
Yet today it looks like a lost season for Northwestern.
Two weeks ago, Northwestern was #16 in the nation and undefeated. Today, they’re 4-3 overall, 0-3 in the Big Ten
and likely to be underdogs in four of their last five games. On October 5th, Northwestern led unbeaten Ohio State
, who currently possess the nation’s longest winning streak, by ten points with just a few minutes remaining. And 7.4 million people were watching that game on television.
Back then, in that far away time and space, Northwestern bowl hopes were New Year’s Day at minimum with very realistic BCS potential. Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times had the Wildcats going to the Orange Bowl in the preseason. The Big Ten
Network’s website had the purple in Pasadena, even AFTER the loss to the Buckeyes
The buzz surrounding Northwestern
football was certainly quieted today with a 35-6 loss
to the Wisconsin Badgers
. The hype machine surrounding NU
hit climax last week with ESPN
College Gameday coming to Evanston, and then the ABC primetime showdown with Ohio State
. That contest of much ballyhoo ended in a “missed it by that much” and emotional drain of a loss.
Today’s defeat, by contrast, was an utter destruction from the very beginning.
It sort of reminds me of a pivotal scene in the 2000 Roland Emerich film “The Patriot.” In the Revolutionary War movie, Tom Wilkinson plays famous British General Lord Charles Cornwallis. After achieving an advantage, the Officer subordinate to Cornwallis tells him:
“But my Lord, you’ve taken the field!”
“And now we shall take their spirits! Send the entire battalion over the hill and CRUSH THEM!”
“It ends today!”
Cornwallis/Wilkinson says with prodigious bombast, instructing his Commander to make an extremely aggressive maneuver to finish off the American rebellion. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work. Not in the film’s fictional representation of the Battle of Cowpens nor in your grade school history book)
Today was for Northwestern football, that crush.
Wisconsin's defense destroyed them with a force of an entire battalion. Following up a significant setback. Last weekend was a bad loss. What happened in Madison today hurts much more.
And yes, something did “end today.” All that extra media hype and additional buzz surrounding Northwestern football...
Wildcats had Ohio State
right where they wanted them. NU
had the nation’s third-ranked team on the ropes in the 4th quarter up 23-13. The biggest win of the Fitzgerald era was right within their grasp.
It was a chance for a program defining win- ending the Buckeyes 17 winning game streak, the longest in the nation.
What happened instead was history repeating;
as once again OSU had their way with the Northwestern Wildcats, winning 40-30. And once again NU (it's NU not NW) blew a 4th quarter lead versus a name brand Big Ten
opponent. Although that final score is rather misleading, as the last touchdown by Ohio State was scored with time expiring.
It happened three times to the Northwestern Wildcats in 2012: Nebraska at home, Michigan
and Penn State
on the road. This time it was Ohio State’s turn. Another marquee league program, another blown opportunity for the Northwestern Wildcats to enrich their football history. They have a recent history of letting these opportunities get away
College Gameday set up shop this morning at Lakeside Field on the Northwestern
University campus in Evanston
Tonight at Ryan Field, not be confused with the Fox Sports 1
anchor named Ryan Field, the #4 Ohio State Buckeyes, favored by a touchdown,
will take on the #16 Wildcats. Kickoff at 7pm on ABC with OSU alum Kirk Herbstreit and NU alum Brent Musburger on the call. Heather Cox will be on the sidelines.
I love College Gameday, but the best part of it, in my opinion, would be the signs.
I’ve led this post with a great sign about Kain Colter
. And posted a few in gallery. You can see a few more signs here.
NU will look to upset the Red Menace tonight, and have a much better outing than the last time College Gameday was on site for a NW home game. That was the infamous “we conveniently forgot about the lack of space in Wrigley Field, so we’ll have both teams go one way/the same way the whole time” game.
48-22 at the Friendly Confines as Mikel Leshoure ran for an Illinois
record 330 yards rushing. Here's to hoping the Cats don't have a repeat of that performance tonight; and cut shut down Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde.
, Northwestern sells the naming rights to their Athletic Director position. They've come such a long way in Evanston. Three decades ago, they were considering abandoning big time sports entirely to join the Ivy League. According to the Wall Street Journal.
personality Darren Rovell is evocative of a cartoon shill monster.
Specifically, the villains of a "Simpsons" Halloween Special vignette. On this particular episode of the animated series, characters from advertisements came alive and grew into monsters terrorizing Springfield.
The Simpsons got rid of the monsters by following a Paul Anka jingle: “just don’t look, just don’t look.”
That’s how you get rid of cartoon villain shill monsters.
Both haters and lovers of Darren Rovell call him a shill; and he’s embraced the villain role. He’s also gotten a bit cartoonish lately with his "corporations are people" bit. Rovell is the sports media equivalent of Rush Limbaugh. However, he's not the monster that Limbaugh is. Rovell is a blatant corporatist; and the corporatism practiced in America today is monstrous, but ripping Rovell further won’t help.
We’ll only get rid of Darren Rovell if we..."just don’t look, just don’t look.”...
College Gameday is officially headed to Ryan Field in Evanston
. Not be confused with the Fox Sports 1
anchor named Ryan Field.
Now that Gameday will be here, I want to see your signs! The best ones will be posted here later.
ESPN College Gameday has been to a Northwestern
“home game” before. Remember the goofy “everyone drives the same direction” battle at Wrigley Field in 2010? Although that aspect of the contest was a total Chicago Cubs
like fiasco, the game was a huge marketing/publicity success, as you had many moments in the vein of Mr. Cub Ernie Banks singing “Go U Northwestern” at Clark and Addison.
In the game itself, Ron Zook
and the Illinois
smoked the Wildcats 48-22 as Mikel Leshoure rushed for an Illinois school record 330 yards.
This time, ESPN College Gameday will see Northwestern host the Red Menace, the Evil Empire of Ohio State
, who enter the game as just a four point favorite. It’s the best two teams
in the Big Ten
no doubt. (Certainly, the Buckeyes
and Wildcats have looked like the cream of the league crop thus far)
However, this is still very much a Rocky vs. Drago match-up...