Thursday, November 7, 2013

NFL Picks Week Ten: Northwestern and its Snakebitten 2013 Season

Ladies and gentlemen, I do not believe in the supernatural. To a degree the idea of "what goes around, comes around" is something I do accept, but it is more due to the idea that things regress to the mean rather than it being hatched by karma. I don't by hexes, while I'm not exactly an atheist I don't really put much faith in prayer and with the notable exception of the Chicago Cubs I absolutely do not believe in curses when it comes to sports.

All that said, something is rotten in the state of Evanston, and there's no real way I can put my finger on what, exactly, it is. It is probably not a curse, but there is some funky, supernatural nonsense that has completely thrown what was the most anticipated Northwestern football season in years entirely down the tubes. To wit: One month ago, Northwestern was undefeated, ranked No. 16 in the country, coming off a 9-3 season with its first bowl victory in more than six decades and had a 10-point second half lead on No. 3 Ohio State.

Then things began to unravel.

First Ohio State rallied for an undeserved win in Evanston. Then a week later Northwestern suffered a rough, but explainable blowout loss at Wisconsin, a notoriously difficult building in which to play. Then came an entirely inexcusable home loss to an inferior (or so we thought) Minnesota team and a mind-numbing overtime loss to Iowa that Northwestern probably should have won, but didn't because the team apparently forgot what football was for roughly 38 minutes of the game. Suddenly the Wildcats were unranked, down to .500 and, astonishingly, 0-4 in conference play.

And then Nebraska happened. This is a game that in so many ways I cannot begin to process not exactly because Northwestern lost despite outplaying Nebraska for most of the game in Lincoln, nor because of the fact that Northwestern missed opportunities to increase what was at one point a 14-point lead. It was how Northwestern lost in a way that was so discombobulating and disorienting that for the first five minutes after it happened I really had no idea what was going on. They say you can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but it seems on a day like this past Saturday, Northwestern managed to do the opposite.

There is no way to comprehend what is happening when your team loses on a last-second hail mary in a game it has mostly controlled and desperately needs to win. To do it against a team that has its mistake-prone backup quarterback leading the drive doubly so. To have that pass caught by a player who had never caught a pass in college before this play brings a whole new dimension. It is confusing, distressing and downright numbing.

How on Earth does something like this happen?

In short, it really can't be explained without the supernatural, and while I still don't really believe in the supernatural, I see no other reason or explanation for such a totally bizarre and gut-punching confluence of events. When I sit back and think about it, however, I get a strange sense of calm and easiness about me because rather than be depressed or upset or wonder what could have been like I did last year after each of NU's three losses came with a double-digit lead lost in the second half, I have realized there is nothing you can do.

When something like this happens it is as clear evidence as you can find that forces greater than yourself is at work, and the championship season you imagined ending in Pasadena simply wasn't meant to be. This was a season that from its outset, from its very beginnings in Berkeley, California, was never going to end how you wanted to because the universe has deemed it would not be so. And on a day when there were almost no straws left for the universe to grasp at to prove its point, it pulled the most inexplicable, unlikely rabbit out of the hat just to make it clear.

"This will not end how you want it to. This is not going to be your year. The cosmos have made their decision."

And that's it. There is no other answer than I can find, but knowing I am helpless to stop the tidal wave (and seeing that Northwestern is apparently doing its best to show it can't help itself from making this season a disaster either) I will simply sit back on my Saturdays now and relax with a pitcher of beer and some buffalo wings and think, "You know, this isn't going go the way I had hoped, but at least I can enjoy beer, friends and some football."

There really is nothing else you can do. After witnessing what happened this past Saturday, I now know that. The important thing, is that I'm fine with it.

Last week: 5-8-0
Season: 62-69-2

MINNESOTA (+2.5) over Washington
Seattle (-6) over ATLANTA
Detroit (-2.5) over CHICAGO
GREEN BAY (-1) over Philadelphia
TENNESSEE (-12) over Jacksonville
NY GIANTS (-7) over Oakland
PITTSBURGH (-3) over Buffalo
BALTIMORE (+1.5) over Cincinnati
SAN FRANCISCO (-6) over Carolina
Houston (+2.5) over ARIZONA
Denver (-7) over SAN DIEGO
NEW ORLEANS (-7) over Dallas
Miami (-2.5) over TAMPA BAY

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