First, welcome to Lake The Posts readers who came here expecting the "the inspired, witty, clever, best damn blog in the Big Ten." I'm not sure how he confused us so completely with mgoblog or a half-dozen other, better blogs, but hey! ¡Bienvidos! As mentioned below in our programming note, LTP's contribution will be up tonight.
Northwestern is our quirky, purple, brilliant-to-the-point-of-ambiguously-douchey Big 10 opponent. The Wildcats are a rarity in that they turned around a truly moribund, depressing football program without an ounce of help from a Hayden Fry disciple; think KSU, but with an IQ on the right side of 80. jub jub
Instead, Northwstern's gridiron architect was Gary Barnett, a man who, frankly, belonged at Northwestern the way a quasi-Asian masseuse parlor/brothel belongs in the Vatican. Barnett, a master motivator, turned around Northwestern in just four years, riding the momentum of a season-opening win in South Bend (indeed, the one win that began the inexorable destruction of the Notre Dame mystique) to a 10-2 record. The Wildcats would go 15-1 in the Big Ten in '95 and '96, which is as many wins as they had in the entire decade prior. Among his motivational tools was a book in which he alleged Iowa ran up the score on Northwestern during prior games, and alleging trick plays from gentlemen who had never, in fact, played for the Hawkeyes. Also at issue was a quote attributed to Hayden Fry after a game, one that went to the effect of "Hope we didn't hurt your boys." Barnett perceived it to be far more disrespectful than Fry ever was on the worst day of his life, and the proliferation of that "quote" in Barnett's book, How I Gave Hookers To My Players And Recruits at Colorado*, has led to some animosity in Evanston toward the Hawkeyes.
That, friends, is how rivalries are made. It's not through bizarre trophies and focus groups--ask Penn State and MSU--but through sheer unadulterated hate of dubious origin. Did Hayden Fry really consider the Cats players to be children and at risk of serious injury? Who cares! NU fans hate us now! That raises the number of Illinois schools with an irrational, unreciprocated loathing of the Hawkeyes to two. The Illini, of course, still have a stranglehold on "Bitterest One-Sided Rival," but I suppose that gives Wildcat fans something more to aim for.
After Gary Barnett left for Colorado and its rarified air and loose morals, Northwestern replaced him with Randy Walker, who looked and behaved like what would happen if Sam Kinison was trapped in Phillip Seymour Hoffman's body.
The terrifying screams were all on the inside, but trust that they were there.
Walker, of course, left the Big 10 and the world far too early, and for a guy who was nine games under .500 at NU, he was entertaining and a solid coach.
Anyway, we're not in the business of two-year-old eulogies here. Pat Fitzgerald is probably a cool guy and a worthy coach, but he's going to have to lose this weekend. As mentioned before, not only does Iowa need this win more than Northwestern does, but America's way of life needs Iowa to win. We bring money and fans to bowl games! Northwestern brings a half-dozen people with glasses and Ph.D's and purple sweatshirts. I've said it for years, the only worthwhile piece of purple fabric in existence is the Crown Royal bag, and unless I can bring one into Ryan Field without THE MAN getting on my ass, then Northwestern can eat a fat one.
Truth be told, I rather like Northwestern. They gave us Darren Rovell, Dan Shanoff, and frottage**. It's hard to hate a team so delightfully bereft of an obnoxious fan base, really; the fact that nobody can maintain a winning record there makes them all the more charming.
But the little fuckers had better start losing to Iowa again, or we're going to stay mad at them any day now.
*this title may or may not be accurate.
**again maybe false.