Tuesday, November 01, 2005

How 'Bout a Little Pep?

It was all over nearly four hours before Saturday's game. We might as well not even have played Michigan this weekend.

Five of us watched one of the Breeder's Cup races before the game, and when a horse named Wildcat Heir -- with its jockey clad in purple and black -- flipped over and threw its rider several feet forward, we knew the upcoming football game was not ours to win. There are omens you must take seriously, and this was clearly one of 'em. A harbinger of defeat, never a good sign.

I haven't been to a game at Ryan Field since the 2002 season, when Minnesota ran all over us on Homecoming. And I must say, it was incredible to return to a packed, jacked stadium to watch a 5-2 ranked team take on the mighty maize and blue. Cue the Keith Jackson voice: The atmosphere in Evanston was electric; a palpable sense of excitement rushing through this puritan town for a sure-to-please Big Ten match-up of brains versus brawn.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Stadium, though. As six of us were walking up on Sheridan Road, Evanston's main artery, we suddenly found ourselves caught in the eye of a Category 4 Pep Rally.

We were swarmed by a pack of 15 shirtless freshman dorks with letters spelling out Northwestern on their chests and their girl friends. Make no mistake, there was spastic jumping and airkicking like they were drunk for the first time ever. They were singing the fight song, trying to start chants and rouse rabble, generally sullying the NU name, long synonymous with cool.

I can't emphasize enough how funny that scene is to a group of 26-year-olds back on campus for the first time in years. Doe-eyed teens, most likely drunk on Peppermint Schnapps or Malibu Rum, running through the streets trying to drum up support by looking like complete fools. Ahh, the beauty of youth.

Then the game started, and the rest is history. Everyone wants to say that Michigan's defense stifled our ridiculous offense, and there's a little bit of truth to that. We certainly gave up 25-40 pounds at every position and just couldn't stop their bullrushes on the line. But if our wide receivers hold onto the five or six passes they dropped, and if we don't get called for holding on three crucial third downs, that's our game. Down there, it's our game. Chester Copperpot.

Still, we're now 5-3 and likely headed for a bowl game in either El Paso or Nashville, probably against a pretty good team. And if you told me that before the season started, I'd gladly take it. It's all about managing expectations, which is certainly what our football squad failed to do this weekend.

Want to know why we really lost this weekend? We read the papers, read the papers. Basanez & Co. saw the articles in the New York Times and USA Today and ESPN and the dozens of other periodicals, and they forgot to play the type of game they've been playing all year. Maybe after getting smacked in the teeth this weekend, they'll wake up and beat Iowa at home this Saturday, travel to the Horseshoe and take down Ohio State and then Big Ten-doormat Illinois the next week.

It's been a fun season, and it was great to go back and see a game in Evanston. And the Homecoming weekend in general was maybe one of the best weekends I've had in a long time, seeing people I never thought I'd see again. It just would have been nice to get caught up in a Category 4 Pep Rally that concluded with a happy ending.

Or at least just the handjob.

Slack Song of the Day: We had a pretty fun Halloween party last night (more on that later), and I made Dorsey Levin put some great funk songs on the iPod playlist for the bash. So to counteract that, here's some cheesy funk: You Dropped a Bomb on Me > She's a Bad Mama Jama > Get Down On It > Freakshow on the Dance Floor.

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