Northwestern plays a bowl game tomorrow, and here's why it's the most important.
(You'll notice I didn't write the story i always do before bowls. Here's to not having to write it again.)
Tomorrow afternoon, Northwestern will play a game against a team none of us care about in a city none of us have any connection to. By any standard, it will be the third most interesting college football game in a timeslot with four college football games being played. And yet, I couldn't want Northwestern to win more.
Bowl games are fake. Even people who defend a sport that's essential built on skirting arbitrary rules aimed at preserving the fictional ideals of amateurism and scholar-athleticism don't really try to deny that bowl games are shameless money grabs. "It's a fun time for fans!", people halfheartedly say, as schools commit to selling ticket allotments before scrambling to find disingenuous ways to avoid eating the losses. "The players love it!", we say, while showing off the gifts they get that they aren't allowed to sell. "It's a great atmosphere!" is a phrase that echoes through cavernous one-third-full NFL stadiums in cities that don't even know they're hosting an event. Tell yourself the bowl system is a true postseason, but don't forget to water your plastic flowers first.
If we were to use "bowl wins" as a indicator of college football success, nothing would really make sense. Our opponents, Mississippi State, would be one of the most successful teams in the nation, as Rutgers would have been if they had won their bowl game Friday. Illinois would have had a great year last year. And Northwestern would be easily the worst team in the country.
But we all know that would be stupid. Northwestern might not have won a bowl game recently, but they've been good recently. Damn good. They're consistently over .500, and they went out and got nine wins this year.
So the game's meaningless, so's the bowl streak, and Northwestern is a good team win or lose. Why does it bother us that Northwestern hasn't won a bowl game since 1949?
Look, y'all. We're fans of a school that for decades, was skilled at one thing: losing. Losing big, losing small, losing to good teams, losing to bad teams. Sports, you see, is about winning. But Northwestern didn't, so we embraced it. We were the unlovable losers, and it was our gig.
But that changed. But still, Northwestern's stuck with all these dumb vestiges. In the body that is Northwestern football, the bowl streak is our appendix: more or less meaningless in the grand scheme of things, since we're good at football, and losing bowls doesn't change the fact that Northwestern's making them. But still, sometimes people make fun of Northwestern for losing bowl games. That's no fun. It makes Northwestern seem irrelevant and bad at football, and recruits notice it, and recruits make you good at football, and as long as Northwestern keeps losing bowl games, that's gonna keep being a thing.
Well, the best way to avoid appendicitis is by getting an appendectomy. Tomorrow, Northwestern has a chance to go scalpel-deep on this damn bowl streak and leave Jacksonville with a win. We can get the win, get our coach a school record, get this damn streak over with, get ten wins, win as a ranked team for once, and enter next year ranked.
ALL THAT STUFF.
Here's to tomorrow. Everybody have a happy New Year's, and may Jan. 1, 2013 be the last time we have to talk about this damn streak in the present tense.
Go Cats, y'all.