Northwestern-Cal is in three days! Let's find out why we hate their guts.
One of the long-standing series on this site was "Next on the Chopping Block," a series where I examined the non-football aspects of every non-conference game Northwestern played. The posts were really long, and, well, took a long time to write. And over the years, became less and less fun to write, and I think less and less fun to read. I'll forever love those posts for a few reasons -- introducing me to "Gig 'Em," as well as making a lot of Nebraska fans mad -- but the time has come. After four years, we're done with that series, and we're starting this one, where I make up reasons for you to hate other teams.
The 1940's, including ROSE BOWL
As Herman pointed out yesterday, Northwestern and Cal have played before. It happened in the 1949 Rose Bowl, which, yes, until this New Years' Day, as the only bowl game Northwestern had ever won. However, it wasn't just one game: three years earlier Pappy Waldorf, who, incidentally, was the winningest coach in Northwestern history until this New Years' Day, left Northwestern for what he thought were greener pastures at Cal. This made the Rose Bowl between the two squads awkward as Waldorf faced a team he had coached for 12 seasons.
But NU fought hard, and NU got the win, 20-14, thanks to long rushing plays from Frank Aschenbrenner and Ed Tunnicliff. But the third touchdown, a score by Art Murakowski was controversial, as he fumbled the ball going into the end zone. If it hadn't been ruled a score, NU might have lost, and it turns out Cal players are still bitter about that call, and a few other bad ones, to this day:
"I don't remember a lot, but I remember we got screwed," said Dick Erickson, the starting quarterback for the Bears that day, now long retired in the East Bay.
The controversy raged. Even the Los Angeles papers, no friends of Cal, said the Bears were jobbed by the officials. In the ensuing years, Cal backers tried to persuade the Pacific Coast Conference and later the Pac-10 to put an asterisk beside the score in the record books. But as Waldorf said many times, "Yes, we've seen the pictures, and it's still official. End of story."
Not quite, for a number of Bears. Although many of them claim that the talk at the regular gatherings of Pappy's Boys is more the typical octogenarian discussion of health and departed comrades, the defeat still rankles.
Lotter's wife, Jane, listened to her husband's protestations to the contrary and said quietly, "They haven't gotten over it."
Look, take anything from us. But don't take that 1949 bowl win. It's all we got. We still haven't won anoth- WAIT, I FORGOT, NORTHWESTERN WON THE GATOR BOWL LAST YEAR WE WON A BOWL GAME WE WON A BOWL GAME WE WON A BOWL GAME I STILL HAVEN'T GOTTEN OVER IT WOOOOOO TAKE THE ROSE BOWL WIN WE DON'T CARE ANYMORE
They think they're nerdier than us
The other day on Twitter, me and @GoldenBlogs got into a little bit of a tiff. You see, apparently Cal is a really good school, and they made some comment about them being nerdier than us.
First off, hold your horses. Look, I'm not smart, I'm not successful, and I most CERTAINLY am not a nerd, because I've never seen any Lord of the Rings/Star Trek movies, I've never watched a Star Wars movie from start to finish, I don't play video games, and I only recently realized that "Starcraft" and "World of Warcraft" were different games.
But I will defend to the death my ability to call Northwestern a nerdy school.
Normally, I only engage in conversation with people who attended universities that rank in the top 20 of the US News and World Report National Universities rankings, but on this one occasion, I'll sully my reputation by responding to a school that ranks 21st. (I will make sure to take a long, thorough, shower to get their prole germs off afterwards.)
I'll cede FBS smartness to Stanford and Duke. But Duke sucks at football, and Stanford... well, Stanford's just 1.4 times better at being everything Northwestern wants to be than Northwestern is. But that's it, until Ivy League schools start playing the big boys on the gridiron, and even then I'm not gonna talk to the riff-raff at Dartmouth and Brown.
But Cal? What makes you think you're nerdier than us? Just because you have more Nobel Prize winners than Northwestern? Just because you have Robert Oppenheimer, head of the Manhattan Project and Edward Teller, the father of the H-Bomb? (What's up with wanting to blow the world up, Cal? Jealous of how we're all better at being nerds than you?) Just because you have Steve Wozniak, who invented many of Apple's early computers? Just because your researchers have discovered 16 periodic elements, including Berkelium, which took the name of your school --
these guys really are as nerdy as us
Aaron Rodgers went to Cal. Just because he's really likable doesn't mean we should forgive him for playing for Chicago's Big Ten Team's NFL Team's biggest rival, or for coming up with an iconic celebratory move that turned into an ad campaign that became more famous than his original celebration. Screw that guy, and anybody who attempts to pluralize my name. (Lookin at you, Hornsby.)
We talked about this yesterday, but Cal clearly went out of their way just to throw wrenches in NU's plans. Late game, so we gotta mess with our sleep patterns? New coach, so we can't look at film? Newly renovated stadium, so world's greatest kicker Jeff Budzien only have one year of evidence to go off of while studying the wind patterns? New uniforms, so unstoppable killing machine Tyler Scott has nothing off of which he can program his bionic uniform-seeking brain to kill his enemies? I just think it's super-messed up that they revitalized their entire program just for this one game against Northwestern, although we do appreciate how important it makes us feel.
Bears are our natural rivals
Bears are godless killing machines. Take it from Northwestern grad Steven Colbert. Not just bears, but Golden Bears. It seems our Minnesotan pals have passed on the technology to gild and worship woodland creatures, and our Californian pals have taken it and adapted it from adorable little gophers to horrendous murder beasts. They have deified the bear -- they have taken the godless killing machine, and made it a killing machine/god. We cannot stand for this.
Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway can eat it
While browsing the list of Cal alumni (Other notables: Rube Goldberg, who invented those machines that don't do anything, Michele Tafoya, and the dude who invented MySpace) I happened upon something disturbing. It turns out Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway, theson of King Harald V of Norway and current heir apparent to the throne of Norway, is a Cal alum.
Ever since the day I started this blog in 2009, I have had two primary goals: a) providing the finest coverage of Northwestern sports on the internet and b) warming the populace about the imposing doom that could befall the Kingdom of Norway should Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway rise to the throne.
Just look at him in that photo at the top of the page. Looking evil with his sunglasses while somebody snuggles against him with a Norwegian flag hat. So smug.
But let's be honest: Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway simply is not fit to rule over the great land he is set to govern. I know this, you know this, we all know this. I could list the reasons why, but I don't have all day, and besides, do I really have to? We all know about Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway, and his faults.
This is why does not surprise me that of all European royalty, Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway is the one who attended Cal. They both represent everything I detest, both as a Northwestern fan and firm supporter of the welfare of the Kingdom of Norway.
I can just imagine Pat Fitzgerald's pregame speech right now.
Guys, I know we're pretty rared up to beat Cal here. We've been waiting all year. And our chance to make our legacy starts here.
But let's get serious for a moment. Guys, flip it on.
(Suddenly, the lights switch off, and an overhead projector whirs into action. After a few seconds, it shows that screen every overhead projector ever shows when turned on. But soon, it begins projecting an image onto the wall:
It's a picture of Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway. The room is filled with gasps. Someone shrieks. Traveon Henry stands up, points at the picture, and stammers for a few seconds before fainting out of shock.)
Kain Colter: Not Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway!
Tyler Scott: (stands up) THAT MAN WILL LAY WASTE TO THE FJORDS
(Venric Mark vomits onto Mike Trumpy, and leaves the room)
Ibraheim Campbell: Coach, this is outrageous! You can't expect to show us a picture of Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway, and expect us to focus on the task at hand!
Fitz: There's a reason I'm showing you this. Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway, is a Cal grad. Those men on the opposite sideline? They stand for everything Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway stands for. They're going to give you their all today, and if they're victorious, that means everything. That means that what this man (points to picture) believes in is right.
This game isn't just about football. This game isn't just 60 minutes to determine whether we're 1-0 or 0-1. This game isn't about the Rose Bowl, or me, or you.
This game is about the future of Norway. Now boys, are you with me? Or are you with Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway?
(raucous applause, the team picks Fitz up and carries him onto the field and beats Cal 792-6)
(Also: if you're the prince of Norway, can't you just go to any school in Norway you want?)
Bonus lost commenter edition
You might have noticed a lot of Cal fans trickling in. Generally, they've been smart and fun and very nice! So let's take one person who said mean things about Northwestern and use him as a scapegoat for all of them: Take it away, NedBear!:
Get Ready to be Disappointed...
I just don’t think you guys are that good. Sorry. Your schedule was weak last year and Miss State in the Gator Bowl was terrible. I know we SUCKED last year, but we have athletes that fit really well with the new system. Even with a flawed scheme and lagging coaches last year we almost beat Ohio State and outright beat a good UCLA team. Not trying to trash talk—one elite University to another, I have respect—but you should expect to get punked on August 31st. Just expect it. It will save you a lot a heartache. You will be seriously blindsided.
PS Go Bears!
Normally, I'll do responses, but here, I'll let TCMcG, who has been killing it with long comments recently:
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this Saturday’s contest between our Northwestern Wildcats and your Cal Bears, and for doing it with so much respect. We rarely get to interact with our Pac-12 friends, and we value these exchanges. I especially appreciate your concern for our inevitable heartache. Most opposing fan bases don’t show that level of thoughtfulness.
Unfortunately, I believe that you may not have properly assessed the matchup between our respective teams. Some of my fellow Northwestern fans have already made some useful points, but I’d like to reiterate and add a few of my own.
Although your team did, in fact, almost beat Ohio State, that’s not quite the achievement you think it is. Among Ohio State’s 12 wins last season were a one-point win over Michigan State; a three-point win over Indiana; and an overtime win over Purdue. By comparison, Northwestern defeated Michigan State by three points and defeated Indiana by 15 points. Northwestern did not play Purdue, but Purdue— like Cal— fired its coach following the season.
This isn’t to say that Cal doesn’t have talented players. Rather, it’s to suggest that almost beating Ohio State isn’t particularly remarkable. It’s especially unremarkable when you note that a number of mid- to lower-tier Big Ten teams did a better job of almost beating Ohio State than Cal did.
In addition, Northwestern has its own version of “We almost beat a good team!” Northwestern lost to Nebraska by one point and Michigan in overtime, and held a fourth quarter lead over Penn State. If you’re not particularly impressed with those results, you now know how we feel about Cal’s losing effort against Ohio State.
You also noted that Northwestern’s “schedule was weak last year and Miss State in the Gator Bowl was terrible.” It’s true that Northwestern didn’t play the strongest of schedules, but I believe you’re somewhat underestimating what our team accomplished.
In the season opener, Northwestern defeated Syracuse, which would go on to be the Big East co-champion. That’s not something I’m especially proud of, given that it’s the Big East, but Syracuse nevertheless managed an impressive win over Louisville, a 5-2 conference record, and an 8-5 record overall. Northwestern defeated Vanderbilt, which finished with a winning record in the SEC— 5-3— and an overall record of 9-4. Mississippi State, meanwhile, opened their season 6-0, only to play an unenviably difficult slate of top-tier SEC teams in the latter half of their season. I suspect that Cal, even with the much-hyped #BearRaid offense, would struggle against the likes of Alabama and LSU. Nevertheless, Northwestern defeated Mississippi State by a larger margin than even most of us were hoping for.
Does that make Northwestern an invincible, world-beating team? No, of course not. Does last year’s success guarantee victory on Saturday? Nope. This is undeniably a challenging matchup to begin the season.
That being said, however, I think it’s somewhat disingenuous for you to suggest that Northwestern’s success was a product of a weak schedule. Cal’s failure last year certainly wasn’t a result of its rigorous and challenging schedule, considering your team recorded losses to noted heavyweights Nevada, Washington, and Utah.
Finally, you bring to our attention the superior athleticism of your players, and you posit that the incoming coaching staff knows how to utilize that talent to a greater degree than the previous coaching staff. I acknowledge that this may be a possibility. However, many head coaches struggle in their first season, and especially in their first game, as their teams struggle to put what they have been learning into practice. Northwestern, by contrast, has had one of the most stable coaching staffs in the country, and returns all of the coaches who were a part of last season’s 10-win campaign. Given that trust between coaches and players is often identified as a key factor, and given that Coach Dykes is installing a relatively complex offensive scheme, the potential for first-game hiccups seems to be higher for Cal than for Northwestern.
Again, this guarantees nothing. But these factors appear, at least to me, to be as important, if not more so, than the factors you identified in your original note.
I do appreciate that you brought these items to our attention, and I hope that you write again soon. Many fans of other schools spend the week prior to a game leaving taunting, trash talk-style comments that contain bold assertions and few concrete facts, and I’m incredibly heartened to see that you aren’t like that.
Nevertheless, I hope you consider the points I have made here as you continue to prognosticate with regards to the upcoming game.