I spend all this time this afternoon, having a Kona Fire Rock liquid lunch, and you’re still here awaiting some pearls of wisdom regarding the Penn State vs. Illinois game? Well, friends, what you see is what you get. Actually, I passed out for a while after writing an awful pile of steaming offal, much of which I’ve ditched as I return to the task at hand around 2 a.m., having been awakened from my serene somnolence by an excruciatingly painful quadriceps cramp.
The mighty and beleaguered Nittany Lions (2-2) kick off the Big Ten season against the Illinois Fighting Illini (2-2) as each seek to obtain their first B1G win. Based on all the whining and wanking out there, the Big Ten isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, so who could care? Nahhhh, shaddup, folks. Each game is a microcosm unto itself, and there’s no reason to be a bunch of smug wankers considering Penn State’s chances jerking off against the bottom half of the Big Ten. We’re back to football for the sake of enjoying watching kids compete at a decent level, no longer subscribing to the vicariously Cartesian concept of : “I watch football; therefore, I am.”
This Penn State team is obviously not going to compete in the post-season, so we have nothing to lose by watching them each week. “We’re” playing for pride, for the purest motivations of earnest young student-athletes. (Oy, that they all might someday get Drew Rosenhaus as their agent, already, and make it big in the NFL!)
You know why we call the Illini the “Fakowies”, don’t you? It’s reminiscent of an old Alan King joke about the “Lost Tribe” of Israel. King characterized the lost tribe (the tribe of Benjamin, don’t you know) as a band of Indians called the Fakowie — the Lost Tribe. And you know why they called them the lost tribe? Because when you ride up to them, they say, “we’re da fakowie” — phoneticize it and figure it the hell out. I don’t have time, but I’m a big appreciator of the late Alan King.
The Illini could well be the lost tribe. The Peoria Indians, Illini included, left Illinois a long time ago. They’re still energetically declaring to each stranger that will listen, “We’re da Fakowie!”
And for that reason, among others, we won’t be seeing Chief Illiniwek cavorting on the sidelines. I’ve covered his sorry ass and the reasons for its demise in prior columns here and here. Illiniwek, the poor schmuck, his people having been driven out of Illinois by the white eyes, did not deserve his 2005 NCAA sanctions. I say, BRING BACK DA CHIEF!
“Turnovers’ll kill ya.” —Frank Gifford, Monday Night Football, countless instances
Saturday, we’ll have the meeting of two Big Ten quasi-powerhouses, as the Illini (2-2, 0-0) are about in the same boat as PSU, sans sanctions. No one expects much from Illinois and that’s quite likely what they’ll get. Take last week, for example. The Illini got their clocks cleaned by non-BCS Louisiana Tech 52-24. The pacified Illini (can’t say “Fighting” anymore thanks to the thought police at the NCAA) coughed up the ball six times in an otherwise fairly even game that never got off the ground for Illinois. Three of the turnovers led to first quarter scores for the Bulldogs, and before they knew it, the Illini were down 21-7, with three quarters available for them to right the ship. It wasn’t enough. “Turnovers’ll kill ya.”
Channeling the late Joe Paterno, Illinois coach Tim Beckman said, “Regardless of who you’re playing you’re not going to win football games if you turn the football over and give up big strikes. I credit Louisiana Tech — I think Louisiana Tech’s got a good football team. But we still have to play much better.”
In other words, they rolled over and played dead — how embarrassing.
Our worthy academic rivals, as it were
I usually throw something in about the venerable institutions we face, letting you in on famous alumni and traditions like the “Brick Dick” of Eastern Michigan University, home of Dan Florek. About Illinois, I would fill several pages—10 Nobel prize winners and 11 Pulitzer winners, just for starters. But hey, the perfect face of the Illiniwankers would be a guy who once walked the beat with the aforementioned Dan Florek in New York on Law & Order after a very successful Broadway career. Officer Lennie Briscoe, also known as Jerry Orbach, earned his B.A. at Champaign. No wonder how he knew just how to handle Penny’s botched abortion in Dirty Dancing! But why—oh, why—did he put Baby in the corner?
I should also mention that the University of Illinois is also the alma mater of my very own Artificially Sweetened, a graduate of UI-Chicago, which has no football team and was formerly called “The Circle” because of the many satanic cult sessions conducted there. She learned how to sweeten there. In fact, they taught her how to train bacteria.
The impact Illinois has made on the wide world of sports deserves mention, especially in football, where the list is long and distinguished: Dick Butkus, Red Grange, George “Papa Bear” Halas, Ray Nitschke (the traitor who went on to play a hall of fame career as a bald-headed middle linebacker with the Green Bay Packers), and Rashard Mendenhall, who better get his ass in gear with the Steelers this year.
Stripe-ass stripe out?
You know how successful comedic genius and Paterno buddy Guido d’Elia’s “White Out” campaign was at Penn State when you see how often it is imitated around the country. Yes, my turkologists, imitation is by far the sincerest form of flattery. Well, not to be outdone by the loads of other copycats out there, the Illini football marketeers are “declaring” a “Stripe the Stadium“-out to confuse the Nittany Lions. Ahh, the wonder of alternating sections of fans decked out in orange and blue. But will they get it right? Will it make Matt McGloin think he’s throwing into a giant Benetton store replete with those dumb-ass striped scarves? (Hell, I don’t even know if Benetton is in business anymore, but I digress.) The odd-numbered sections in Memorial Stadium will be adorned by Illini fans in orange, as will the entire north end zone; the rest of the sections will, in theory, wear blue.
College students being what they are, particularly on Saturday mornings, the kind folks in the athletics department at UIUC have provided an easy to follow, graphical seating guide. It will be interesting to observe the end result.
Illinois has a quarterback controversy. Remember Nathan Scheelhaase? OK, then. Do you remember trying to pronounce Nathan Scheelhaase? Well, he’s having his struggles this season, and young Reilly O’Toole is stepping up to take advantage of the situation. Scheelhaase had been out with a sprained ankle, missing two games. He came back just for Louisiana Tech, and blew his grand reopening. He was yanked during that fateful first quarter.
Hmmm. This seems to be a game that should be played in Dublin. Clan Wars — O’Toole vs. McGloin. A fight to the death. May the lad with the larger shellalagh ultimately prevail. Now, shake hands and come out fighting. Hey! Wash those hands first!
At least the kicking game is sound, with the French/Polish coalition of Justin DuVernois and freshman Taylor Zalewski.
Why are there no black place kickers?
Could someone please give me the name of a black place kicker who had any kind of game? I bet you can’t even think of a place kicker whose skin is darker than Snow White’s. (And have you seen Charlize Theron as the evil Snow White? Want me some of dat.) But I digress. This would be the trivia question of the week, were it not for the tragedy inherent in the conundrum. I mean, really. Why aren’t there more black field goal kickers?
The only black place kicker guy I can think of who made it in the NFL was Donald Igwebuike, a true African-American, originally Nigerian soccer player who played his college ball in the U.S. at Clemson, and went on to be an NFL place kicker with the Tampa Bay Bucs and the Minnesota Vikings in the 1980s, leaving a trail of name-desecration carnage behind him in all the sports broadcast booths of the western world.
How do we get more Iggys?
Funny you should ask. Turns out that theDonald has a kicking academy of his very own, and being in the Silver Springs, Maryland area, it’s pretty close to the Beltway. Perhaps a good, old-fashioned kick-start subsidy from the Hill in return for promising to produce potential NFL place kickers — kind of Affirmative Action for place kickers.
Someone out there must have an explanation for this paradox and eventually, possibly, maybe, a viable solution will emerge. Perhaps the Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship could stop jerking off for a while and delve into this serious issue. For Penn State has surely been remiss if it has never had a black place kicker. WTF?
Players of Color have made their way into the punting position (the late, great Reggie Roby of the early 1980s Iowa Hawkeyes and subsequently, the Miami Dolphins, et. al., comes to mind — one of the best ever), but not the place kicking one. Why, other than the aforementioned Iggy? I need to know. The next Travis Forney could be out there in Harlem, South Central, The Hill, or the remains of Detroit, dreaming of Penn State as a venue for his groundbreaking career as a place kicker.
How likely is that to happen?
For those of you who accuse me of being a raaaaaacist—of course I’m a racist-–I recognize that there are differences between and among all sorts of different humankind. I don’t believe in all this leveling the playing field garbage, sweeping the unseemly reality that there are players of all sorts of differing abilities out there under the rug. If a black guy is better than I am, he should get my job; if I am better than he is, I should get the damn job. So, why the hell, given that there’s so much whining about innnnnnnnnnnnnequality and unfooooooooooooooooortunate people, do we not have more black place kickers? This is an outrage!
(You tell ‘em, Jesse!)
Or do you think the position isn’t glamorous enough, and involves a lot of practice, and the chances of failure are far fewer than the chances of succeeding? Who wants that? To work for it, I mean. Can’t do much free-lancing or showboating as a kicker. To be a ground-breaking, history-making sort of guy— isn’t that enough of an inducement? What’s up with that? Perhaps our buddy Warren Sapp can comment on this. I’m just shakin’ my head.
OK. Enough of thaaaaaaat.
And I’m still shakin’ mah head over what PS4RS hopes to accomplish. That organization sent out an e-mail that indicated they had incorporated as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit, meaning that they’ll stick around for a while, doing whatever rabble rousing they think is their purpose. I can tell you two things they will not accomplish: 2) any mitigation of the NCAA sanctions against Penn State, and 1) any make-up of the board of trustees that is markedly different from what they are now. Nevertheless, it is good that the exercise in futility has provided so much hope for so many. So did Obama, and you see where that went. Wide left. Oh, PS4RS is innocuous enough if its mission is restricted to making people feel good, but their delusions of grandeur are getting on my nerves. The next big David & Goliath production by Cecil B. DeMille, starring Charlton Heston in lifelike Cinerama, so real you’ll think you were there!
Oh, yeah. There’s a game to talk about. I almost forgot again.
The Illini seem to be worthy opponents, with an identical record and not yet having broken their B1G cherry. Oh, there’s the grudge factor, that Illinois sent a bunch of vultures to State College in their attempt to pick up some talent the cheap, easy, and NCAA condoned way, but that’s only meaningful to women at this point. So what if they have Ryan Nowicki? Who cares? This reminds me of a scene 40 years ago where a guy was horning in on the babe I was chatting up in a bar, and when I got pissed off, he said, “If she would go with me, you wouldn’t want her, anyway!” I had to laugh. Truer words had never been spoken. I saved some scraped knuckles and had a good laugh.
I don’t care about Ryan Nowicki, and I’m not going to whine à la PS4RS about how we wuz wronged by the big, bad NCAA, who practically issued engraved invitations for players to leave Penn State in the wake of the great consent decree implosion. I wish Mr. Nowicki lots of luck and if Tim Beckman wants to run his coaching staff that way, God will eventually get him.
What I do care about is that Penn State has been taking better care of the ball, now ranking 24th nationally in net positive turnovers ratio. And I also care that McGloin has settled into a role as a confident and serviceable quarterback, one who won’t be setting any records or eventually heading to Canton to pick up a yellow jacket but who could make the difference in closely contested games.
I’d start worrying about Allen Robinson right here and now. He’s too good, and is McGloin’s favorite target, with 7.25 rceptions per game. The guy is right-sized and will fit into just about anyone’s scheme; I wouldn’t be surprised if he bolted for greener pastures after this season.
One thing you know for sure: Paul Jones won’t be catching any more passes as a Penn State tight end. He has left the team for the dreaded “personal reasons.” And so, the sad experiments with “almost was coulda woulda shoulda” stories of Rob Bolden and Paul Jones have resulted in only some minor profits for the spare parts surplus stores.
Penn State’s passing attack is almost respectable, ranked 45th. Alas, the running game, as you all know, has been decimated by injuries to key players, thus settling in at 94th on the division formerly known I-A. Things are looking up a bit, with Bill Belton slated to return for this game. Don’t expect him to be 100% quite yet.
You can expect Illinois, better known for its famous “Fakowie Cover Four” than for any semblance of offense, to put a worthy defense on the field, notwithstanding their having given up 52 points to LaTech. The Illini have long produced talented linebackers. This year, the superstud is pre-season All-American junior Jonathan Brown, a 6′-1″ — you might remember his as a proverbial “one-man’s wrecking crew” approach during the Illinois- Penn State game in 2011: Led Illinois with 11 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, one sack, two PBUs, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery against Penn State.
On the Penn State defense, we have… um… Mike Mauti. He’s tied for 13th nationally with 10.5 tackles for game. Linebacker U lives!
What of the other factors? OMG. Illinois weather. You know what they say—if you don’t like it, wait five minutes and it will change. How come everybody issues the same summary indictment of their own weather to visitors, as if the visitors didn’t come from a place in which if you wait five minutes their weather would change. This whole thing has bred a collection of optimists who walk around with their thumbs up their asses waiting five minutes. Well, ya fucks, here’s what we’ll call The Turkey Corollary: Five minutes won’t change shit! So, dethumb, o learned ones, and behold that the weather today in central Illinois will be best described by the highly technological meteorological term, “nice.” Partly sunny with a high of 76°F (24°C, 297°K). Weather should not be a factor, whether or not I said so.Our announcing crew is an upgrade, so thanks for small miracles. Dave Pasch, Brian Griese, and Jenn Brown will be handling the broadcasting chores for ESPN, who just luvvvvvvv to capitalize on Penn State’s notoriety.
And so, as we approach the time of night/day in which predictions are driven more by the desire to sleep than the desire to be accurate, we stumble directly into the Officially Wasted Turkey Poop prognostication for Week 5 Illinification. Ahhhh, a smelly little den it is, replete with foul fowls soporifically smoking opium through small, silver pipes. I’ll tell you I don’t like what is going on in Vegas. They’ve got Illinois bet down to a mere one point favorite at home over PSU. The punters think 41.5 is a good place to draw the over/under line. And how can one argue with punters? They’d just as soon drive a ball up your ass. They’re suggesting a 21-20 squeaker.
This Turkey has another idea about the whole thing. There’s no doubt that we’ll see turnovers. Turnovers’ll kill ya. In this case, though, it will be Illinois whom they’ll kill. I like Penn State to win 27-23, and I’m taking the over. Can PSU actually cover this spread???
I’ll be back sometime after the game, hopefully sober, to wrap it up (i.e. break it down).