Northwestern football is a Final Destination movie. You don't know how everybody's going to die, but you certainly know that they're going to die, and there's nothing any of them can do to stop it.
Some men dare to see their destiny, how long the cord The Fates have cut for them extends.After Northwestern lost successive games a) in overtime b) on a Hail Mary c) in triple overtime after a miraculous last-second field goal, I set out to become one of these men.
Monday morning, I took a subway to a bus and walked 15 blocks, into a run-down neighborhood of Brooklyn I didn't even know existed. After passing an abandoned cooking supplies warehouse, I into a side alley and knocked four times on a door -- less a door than a few ragged slats covering up a hovel in the warehouse's back. A small, frail, yet intensely powerful woman answered. She could have been 90, and she could have been 290. In a thick Eastern European accent, she asked me: "do you wish to see those things which man is not meant to see?" I nodded, and she ushered me inside.
The floor was covered in mist and the walls were covered with shelves filled with jars holding strange herbs and the entrails of long dead animals. She sat me down in a rickety chair -- "in this chair made from the yew of my homeland, men may learn their fates."
Her intern, Steve, brought out a dusty old box, and after sweeping the surface clean, he produced a Macbook Air. (Steve, it turns out, is also a Medill grad, but, you know how the industry is.)
"YOU MUST CHOOSE," the old lady uttered with a booming voice her aged body seemed incapable of producing, "WHETHER TO USE OUR WI-FI OR HOOK DIRECTLY INTO AN ETHERNET PORT."
"Wi-fi," I said.
"ONCE A MAN HAS CHOSEN, HE MAY NEVER TAKE IT BACK," she said. "The password is "gypsybonerz69."
"It's not working."
"gypsybonerz is spelled with a "z" instead of an "s.""
"Oh, okay. Now it works."
"May the gods and spirits forgive me for what I show you this day," she said, "and may they also forgive me for not telling Pat Fitzgerald about our extremely cruel warranty policy."
"What warranty policy?" I stammer.
"Oh, don't worry about it," she says.
The screen showed me every post I will write on this site, past, present, or future, including the one I'm writing right now. After applying a balm to my forehead, the majority of my memory of the events was wiped, but she did allow me to copy-paste one paragraph from every post-game recap I will write about Northwestern football up until the year 2015. This is what I found.
11/23/2013, vs. Michigan State
When you have the ball in a tie ballgame, you expect to be the one doing the scoring -- but I suppose if anybody was going to score via walk-off safety, it would be Michigan State.
11/30/2013, @ Illinois
At least we didn't lose to Illinois. That would've been embarrassing.
8/30/2014, vs. California
THAT LAST LATERAL WAS TOTALLY FORWARD.
9/6/2014, vs. NIU
There's a time and a place for a cool trick play. And leading by three against NIU was not the time for a fumblerooskie.
Nor was it the time to just leave the ball lying on the ground until a Husky picked it up and ran into the end zone.
9/20/2014,vs. Western Illinois
It's not just embarrassing that Northwestern lost this game after the Leathernecks were given a new life -- and a much shorter field goal -- following an excessive celebration penalty. It's embarrassing Northwestern was celebrating that much about beating Western Illinois. But the 30-minute choreographed dance the Wildcats' defensive unit unfolded after that fourth-down stop certainly qualified as excessive celebration, so you can't pin this one on the refs.
9/27/2014, @ Penn State
Okay, I've seen some bad officiating in my time. But awarding the Nittany Lions a point for scoring a rouge on their game-ending missed field goal isn't even a part of the NCAA rulebook -- but as the Big Ten says, the officials' ruling on the field is final. What a Northwestern ending.
10/4/2014, vs. Wisconsin
I guess that pick-six would've scored anyway -- but it's was even more depressing that Pat Fitzgerald ran out on the field to make the tackle, which the refs obviously ruled a TD.
10/11/14, at Minnesota
Look, I get that the NCAA rulebook doesn't have a provision for what to do if a field goal magically comes to rest on its point atop one of the uprights. I still say that we should be watching the upright at TCF Bank Stadium, waiting to see which way the ball falls. It's not in the referees' jurisdiction to predict, and that's what they did by ruling Northwestern's potential game-winner wide right.
10/18/14, vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
I know we're all disappointed about Northwestern's loss, but I think what we really should be worried about is Trevor Siemian's mindset. After sprinting backwards 75 yards to take a safety out of the back of the Wildcats' end zone as the clock expired, he clearly began celebrating with Nebraska's players -- the cameras looked like they captured him yelling "POINTS! POINTS! POINTS!" while jumping up and down amongst the shocked Huskers -- and then he stripped nude and began crying on the Ryan Field grass. Either he was involved in a horrible gambling ring, or he's gone insane, and neither are particularly good options. Whatever it is, I hope he figures it out during the bye week.
11/1/2014, @ Iowa
I don't know why Fitz and Ferentz agreed to settle this one mano a mano, but I still would've taken NU's chances. But I have to say, the refereeing was appalling. Fitzgerald clearly had Ferentz pinned while the ref was distracted by Gary Barta yelling at him from out of the ring, and any replay booth would've showed Fitz held Ferentz down for five, maybe six seconds.Then, when a sexy ring girl seduced the ref from the sideline, Barta clearly ran into the ring and hit Fitzgerald on the back of the head with an aluminum chair -- a violation of the previously agreed rules of the match, indicating Fitz and Ferentz would be the only two in the ring and that no weapons could be used. From there, the pin was easy, and the Wildcats fell to 0-8.
11/8/2014, vs. Michigan
I didn't even recognize C.J. Bacher. Part of it was his enormous growth -- at least 12 feet tall, comprised entirely of pure muscle. And I didn't recognize the way he played either. I'm not sure, but I think his 983 yards passing and 14 touchdowns is an NCAA record. Bud I do know that he's totally ineligible, and that despite the lopsided 103-14 victory, this game will not go down in the record books as a Wildcats' win. Normally, I'd criticize the failure of NU's coaches and the referees to prevent an ineligible player from taking the field, but after Bacher's brutal -- and unfortunately, televised -- pre-game killing spree wherein he repeatedly screamed in his demon-voice "I SHALL THE WILDCATS TO VICTORY, AND ALL WHO STAND IN MY PATH WILL PERISH", I can't blame everybody involved from just getting out of his way. I just hope that he burrows back into the fire-pits in the Ryan Field parking lot from which he emerged prior to the game
11/15/2014, at Notre Dame
As a lifelong Jew and Northwestern fan, this has obviously been a weird week. But I'd like all readers, heavenly and human, to understand: as soon as Touchdown Jesus emerged from the mural to fight MechaBacher, I immediately knew to root for him. Sure, I had sworn allegiance the 240-foot-tall ex-Northwestern quarterback during the week before the game, but that was a false oath made out of fear for my life. I have seen the way and the truth and the light.
I also want to say I agree with the NCAA's decision to strip NU of the Michigan win. Their decision to rule Bacher eligible was a frightened move after MechaBacher destroyed several Indianapolis suburbs -- its a rare situation where I applaud the association.
I'm really glad my readership has stayed relatively steady after the massive ascension of billions across the globe -- in fact, it's risen. BTW, does anybody have tips for removing this sharpie mark from my forehead? That'll teach me to pass out around my friends after swearing allegiance to a 240-foot-tall demonic ex-NU quarterback, LOL.
11/22/2014, @ Purdue
I really thought NU would get some points on the board in the ninth overtime. So, so, so Northwestern.
11/29/2014, vs. Illinois
At least we didn't lose to Illinois -- that would've been embarrassing.
9/5/2015, vs. Stanford
First of all, I didn't even know Northwestern was located near any seismic hotspots.
Second of all, how unlikely is it that the huge earthquake that destroyed so much of our Evanston campus would happen IN THE TIME IN BETWEEN STANFORD'S KICKER KICKED A 50-YARDER AND THE TIME IT REACHED THE BACK OF THE END ZONE.
Third of all, how unlikely was it for the uprights to swing off-kilter at a 45 degree angle in the exact direction where the inaccurate kick was headed?
I suppose technically the ball went through the uprights, and that makes it a good kick.
9/12/2015, vs. Eastern Illinois
This game should not have been played. NU had already lost several defensive backs to the enormous crevasses in Ryan Field before Eastern Illinois' desperation hook-and-ladder. To lose several more chasing down a streaking Panthers player was so Northwestern.
9/19/2015, at Duke
I know the zombie attacked Duke's quarterback, and I feel deep, deep sorrow for him and his family. But since he came out of the Duke stands, shouldn't the penalty have been against Duke? Northwestern didn't order the zombie to attack anybody, and there's no reason the Blue Devils should have gotten those 15 yards at such a late juncture. What's to stop teams from planting zombies in their stands for free penalties? Let's just hope all our boys pass quarantine out of the infected area in time for next week's game.
9/26/15, vs. Ball State
Kudos to Ball State on recruiting Jeff Budzien's younger brother. I couldn't be too upset about his game-winning 82-yarder.
10/3/2015 vs. Minnesota
The ornithologists say the bird that swooped Matt Alviti's pass out of the air and carefully dropped it into the hands of a Golden Gopher defender was a wild Golden Eagle, but no wild bird I know could act with such tact -- and none would have talons shaven down so as not to puncture the football. I hate to play the conspiracy card here, but somebody trained that bird. Wow, what a Northwestern ending.
10/10/2015, at Michigan
There are going to be a lot of people calling for the head of our kicker after this one -- how do you shank a game-winning extra point? But the way the ball doinked off the upright with enough power to reach the Michigan defender who whiffed on the block shows how much leg strength he has. I mean, the defender was all the way on the 12-yard-line when the ball dropped to him! That's a 22-yard travel AFTER the ball had hit the upright! I don't blame the team for not realizing the ball was live in that scenario.
10/17/2015, vs. Iowa
It was nice of the team to join hands and sing "Kumbaya," but I wish they hadn't done it while the ball was still live on the Hawkeye's game-winning drive.
10/24/2015, at Nebraska
I hoped the referees wouldn't call an excessive celebration penalty on a team that had lost virtually every game for two seasons as they went to score their game-winning touchdown. I hoped wrong.
11/7/2015, vs. Penn State
They should teach you to play through the whistle, not to the whistle. Because the ref who tooted while NU was running back an interception was clearly doing so unintentionally, but the fact that everybody stopped took NU's seven -- and the win -- off the board.
11/14/2015, vs. Purdue
I can't blame the small student section for rushing the field as Northwestern approached victory, but AT LEAST WAIT TIL THE CLOCK EXPIRES. That's an easy free first down and the Boilermakers took advantage.
11/21/2015, at Wisconsin
After a few horrendous seasons, I really thought this was the game. Northwestern scored 11 touchdowns in the first half, returning the opening kickoff for a TD followed by a series of Tanner McEvoy pick-sixes and fumbles deep in his own territory. But whatever evil beset the Badgers in the first half, it came home to roost in the second. NU suddenly couldn't go an offensive series without an incredibly poor mistake, and the defense's porous play was insulting to sieves. A gutsy two-point conversion called by a suddenly house money-infused Gary Andersen gave Wisky the 78-77 win, and we're 0-11.
This is Northwestern, so we've been told. Northwestern is *not clutch,* so they say. Northwestern has not been clutch in good years. Northwestern has not been clutch in bad years. Northwestern has not been clutch in games they should have won going away. Northwestern has not been clutch in games they had no business winning.
Perhaps there's something about Pat Fitzgerald's coaching that makes Northwestern particularly susceptible to late game failures. Perhaps there's something about the way Northwestern acts in late-game situations -- playcalling, situational decision-making, whatever -- that sets NU up to give up more points than it scores. Perhaps the idiots who say that this has something to do with NU being nerds are correct. Perhaps Ryan Field is built on an Indian burial ground. Perhaps it's just shoddy, rotten, luck, the bouncings of an oblong ball in game with arbitrary rules.
Regardless, being a Northwestern fan is good training for life. When Northwestern loses a close game, I remind myself to look around and soak in everything good that's happening in my life. I'm lucky, and of late, it has been quite a few things. Generally, a bad Northwestern football loss is miles more depressing than anything else that happens to me in a given week. Awful football happenings give me the perspective to notice and appreciate this, and in turn, make me feel good.
Northwestern football is a reminder to savor the good things you have every damn day. Because every week, the same idiotic bounces an oblong ball makes seem to dick over the Wildcats in incomprehensible fashion, and life at large tends to be crueler than a ball.
11/28/15, at Illinois
At least we didn't lose to Illinois. THAT would've been embarrassing.