Monday, January 15, 2007

Thank Goodness

We managed to beat a cursedly boring Northwestern team in that bizarre high-school hybrid hell of half-assedness, Welsh-Rarebit arena. So I, the other poster to this website, and a bunch of other assorted Wisco alums/leaners attended the game on Saturday, as did about 4,000 other Bucky fans. Observations:

- At first glance it seems sad and pathetic that Northwestern is basically an extended home game for every team in the Big Ten, as it was at this game (at least 60% Wisconsin fans). But then it starts to make sense. First off, population. Every other Big Ten school has more graduates living in the Chicago area than Northwestern. Yep, even Minnesota and Penn State have more alums. Northwestern only has about 2,000 undergrads per graduating class, and the kids come from (and go back to) all over the country. Second, unlike Madison, which tends to embrace the school, its students, and its athletics as a source of fun and culture and as a proud symbol of the state, many non-Northwestern affiliated Evanstonians dislike NU and its students. Evanston has always been a fussy town (a bastion of the temperance movement), and residents resent NU's property-tax exempt status, which shunts larger and larger tax bills on local land-owners with every new university acquisition. There have also been some well-publicized and unfortunate encounters between delicate Evanston residents and intoxicated students. The end result: the city does not give a lot of support to the school or its athletic program (unless they're winning the league in football). But third, and perhaps most importantly, "Northwestern Basketball" is a horrible thing to watch. The Princeton offense, as run by Carmody and his epic hairstyle, is designed to limit the number of offensive possessions in a game. That is, slow the pace and keep scoring down. NU's various zone defenses work to stifle passing and penetration and create silly turnovers, while giving up offensive rebounds. In short, a terribly boring and ugly style of basketball is played in Welsh-Rarebit. Plus, besides the random influx of an occasional decent player (Vukusic or Jitim Young were both solid), Northwestern's players are far from compelling. Whether this is due to poor recruiting, unrealistic academic standards and/or their intensely unattractive style of basketball is up in the air. The end result of all this-- there is little demand for a Northwestern basketball game unless you are a fan of the opposing team. So no one goes, except for folks looking for a free babysitter for their five-year old, young alums who haven't figured it out yet, bored faculty/staff (they get a discount), and retirees who have no idea what good basketball looks like. Oh, I forgot about their 90 person student section.

-- TMCC duly noted that the dress de rigueur by the elderly retirees/staff/faculty set is purple sweater over a white turtleneck, with the white turtleneck folded over once. Seriously, those must be on special somewhere. We were surrounded by this.

-- Worst non-ironic national anthem ever. Not joking. Wisco fans started singing over her at the end to try to stop the disgrace of our nation and to bring her interminable rendition to an end. The woman was apparently a Northwestern "student" according to the PA announcer. I hope she wasn't a student at the music school, because if so, somebody in admissions should get canned.

-- I'm not sure if we would have been much better with Flowers not in foul trouble, but without him, we sure looked like crap. He may be far more valuable than typically thought. See here.

-- TMTCC got bitched out by a turtlenecked retiree in her seventies for shouting "YOU SUUUUCK!" at this-one-goes-to-eleven volume during the game's quiet moments (TMTCC was directing his comments toward Vince Scott whilst Scott shot free throws at our end of the stadium-- I think I'm going to give TMTCC credit for one Scott miss, by the way.) We couldn't really understand what exactly she was saying in her various squawkings, but it appeared that she was wearing a purple and white boa and that she didn't like the heckling. (Lady, if you get your season tickets in a section right next to opposing fans, you're going to have to learn how to deal.)

-- Butch and Landry kept us in the first half with their offensive rebounds and put backs. Not sure why we weren't able to make decent entry passes to Butch in the second half. No one on their team could stop him from putting in lay-ups, he just had to get the ball near the basket.

-- Alando's dunk, step back three and circus off the glass lay-up ruled. His mom claimed he started playing decently after she showed up (she arrived late).

-- Dear Kam, if you're going to be the guy we get open to receive inbounds passes when we're protecting a lead late in games, you have to make your free throws. Get it together. (G.I.T.)

-- Everything about Tim Doyle screams YMCA-- the knee bands, the number (00), the absurd/constantly traveling post-ups, the complaints about lackluster fan support (last year he complained about fan attendance at their home upset win over Iowa). Hmm, where and when would I want Doyle on my team. Pick up game at YMCA on Saturday morning, yes, good. Starting in Big Ten, ummm, no.

-- Carmody's hair is ridiculous.

-- General comments on the half-assedness of Welsh-Rarebit:
(1) Why does Northwestern darken the vast majority of the stands during most of the game? Are they trying to hide the fact that the "arena" is mostly opposing fans?
(2) What is up with the safety mat underneath the cheer squad? If you need a mat, maybe you shouldn't be doing the air toss, flip move. Also, NU cheer squad/legal staff-- the cheerleader was getting caught well off the mat, so if/when you drop her it's not going to do any good. She's still going to break C-1 through C-7.
(3) Worst organization of concessions lines in any stadium I've ever been at. The line at the counter forms to prevent people from getting to the bathroom.
(4) NU AV guys-- way to try to drown out the "Lets Go Badgers" cacophony that drowned out the NU band by blasting that "whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa" techno song. Great retort. That totally made me forget that the place was 60% Badger fans. Much less embarrassing.
(5) I think the most central seats have purple backs so it looks like there are NU fans sitting in them when they're empty.
(6) I'd complain about Willie the Wildcat not wearing any pants, but Bucky doesn't wear any either.
(7) Unsurprisingly, Northwestern knows how to treat the media. They have the whole bank of courtside seats on the south side. Wisconsin moved them to the upper-deck this season.
(8) The retaliatory booing of Landry to our booing of Scott was so typically Northwestern. (Scott and Landry fell down and got their legs tangled and it appeared Scott kicked at him or tried to do some Royce Gracie leg lock maneuver on him while he was standing and Landry was on the ground. Since Landry is the Precious, tensions were raised and booing ensued.) "You're doing to our guy so were doing it to your guy!" Umm, our guy didn't do anything, morons. This is like Stanford students yelling "sucks" after the Badger fans at the 2001 Rose Bowl called out "Ron Dayne" after each of Ronnie's carries. No, the NCAA career leader in rushing doesn't suck. You're wrong.

That's all I got. We should be able to take Purdue at home this week (not playing them on the road this year is a serious plus, since we've one there precisely once in the last twenty years), and the first Landry/Landry match-up could be neat.

As a current Chicago resident, I was amused to see the overly-jubilant reaction to the Bears barely beating an injury-riddled Seattle team. They would have lost to Dallas and they are so NOT winning the Super Bowl. I think Bears fans probably think they'll walk all over the Saints next weekend because they're a warm weather dome team and the game's in Chicago. Uh, the Saints kicked the crap out of Dallas in December, and put up 31 points in a November game in Pittsburgh. The Bears will probably be favored, but if I were a betting man, I'd take the Saints with the points.

p.s. TMTCC-- happy birthday. You will be missed in the Chiccy-G, my friend.

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