The ridiculous Northwestern basketball that you will never read part infinity

The ridiculous Northwestern basketball that you will never read part infinity

Joe Cremo always showed up to practice early. Joe Cremo always stayed late in the gym. Joe Cremo never skipped anything, and that’s why he was one of the best Great Danes on the floor. He was heading into the arena for another late-night shootaround when he saw two figures fleeing from the stadium.

“Hey Joe, can you drive us to the train station?” one shouted. It was that guy on Twitter who also worked in the athletic department.

“Uh, why would I do that?” Cremo said.

“I’ll give you 50 bucks. You got this. Please, we’re running from Duncan Robinson,” said the other figure.

“Alright, it’s not too far I guess. What happened to you two?”

My plan was to head to New York City on the Amtrak. It would be much harder to find us and Ben and I could try to find our Inside NU associates in the area. I quickly purchased a ticket on the Empire Express after Joe Cremo dropped us off at the Albany train station.

But Ben Goren would not buy a ticket. He stood there, pondering, as the final calls for the train echoed through the station.

“I can’t go, Tristan,” he said. “There’s nothing for us in New York. You should stay too, you know people upstate. If you go to New York to find, I don’t know, Inside NU’s Henry Bushnell or Josh Rosenblat, they won’t be able to help you. In Albany, I can help myself. I have an apartment. I have a job. I’m done with college basketball conspiracies. Plus, as you have seen on Twitter, I hate New York City.”

“Well, suit yourself. I’m going home.”

Ben decided to leave the terminal and hitch a ride back with Joe Cremo. I would have to take the Empire Express to New York City alone. It would be the biggest mistake of my entire life.

The train fizzed past Croton-on-Hudson like an errant lob pass. The Empire Express was supposed to stop at Croton, at least briefly, where I would be able to exit and make contact with allies in Westchester. But no, there was no Croton stop, and the train hammered along the Hudson.

It was a beautiful summer night for a government to fall. No on the train, nay, scarcely anyone in the United States realized that C.R.E.A.N. had decided to overthrow the United State government. With the Super Mega Conference in place and college sports ruined, the only thing left in C.R.E.A.N.’s way was the republic itself. And so, on August 20, 2016, with the final primaries raging and uncertainty brewing, C.R.E.A.N. made its move.

The details were never released, but as the train whistled past Tarrytown, I received an alert on my phone that the Supreme Court had been “discontinued” and by order of the President of the United States. C.R.E.A.N., as I would later learn, used the age-old tactic of pinning everything onto the basketball-loving Obama administration, and the massive seizure of executive power was all in the name of the state. However, it was clear once the President went unseen for three months that something had gone wrong, and the shadow government of the C.R.E.A.N. had taken the reins of power.

The Supreme Court, of course, had recently dealt a blow to college athletics with the O’Bannon case. The dissolution of the body was merely the beginning in the C.R.E.A.N. plan to eliminate freedom. But that didn’t matter to me while I was on the train. Nothing really made sense once the train unexpectedly stopped at Yonkers and I spotted a group of ex-Iona basketball players dressed in macabre suits boarding the front car.

“We have received word that an enemy of the United States is aboard this train. Please do not be alarmed,” the train intercom said. “A few authorities will be searching the train—.”

I had already tore out of my seat once the word “enemy” was announced. None of the passengers, thankfully, tried to trip me. I quickly exited the train and ran up the stairs to the station itself. I hailed a cab and asked to go to the first place I thought of that could hide me.

“To New Jersey!” I exclaimed.

“Where in New Jersey?” the driver asked.”

“A place that can get me into Penn Station,” I said, after two minutes of deliberation.

I was slowly running out of money, but I did manage to arrive at the Secaucus Junction Train Station in one piece. At the station, you have to walk under a small overpass in order to reach the train lines. As I repeatedly checked my phone for news (or lack thereof) while the vehicles roared overhead and the trains bellowed beside me, I felt a sudden leap in my chest, as it began to dawn on me that I could be living in a dystopia.

The night permeated everything around Secaucus, the parked cars in the lot, the iron rail lines that lay a few dozen feet from me. The wind blew through the overpass— it was chillier than I’d expected— and the station, a dimly lit remnant of the old days of American infrastructure, lay ahead. As I walked forward and considered the consequences of this day, the dissolution of justice, the stench of authoritarianism, the coercion of the media, I suddenly realized that I had no idea how the agents of C.R.E.A.N. had tracked me down. I stared at my iPhone, and decided to leave it on the dashboard of a parked car at the station.

In the city, I hoped I could quickly disappear. My destination was probably a decent hotel to spend the night before I could start making some phone calls. I needed to access a public computer to find my iCloud contacts, and everything would be difficult as C.R.E.A.N.’s net tightened, but I had to find a way to warn my associates who was behind this. If it meant leaving the country in the end, so be it, but I had to figure out some way to fight.

As I trudged through miser of Penn Station, I passed by the in-station sports bar where I had once watched the Islanders play a regular season game. The television screens played Sportscenter. Kevin Durant, in a Warriors uniform, flew through the air.

Sports, what crimes are committed in your name?

THE JON ROTHSTEIN ALMANAC: 2016-2017

THE JON ROTHSTEIN ALMANAC: 2016-2017

Jon Rothstein is my favorite person.

No one cares as much about anything as Jon Rothstein cares about college basketball. He has watched more basketball this week than I have watched in my life. He knows more about the NEC than anyone with a national byline should ever know, and it’s very cool. Some of his takes are bad (THE GRADUATE TRANSFER APOCALYPSE) but some of them are, actually, very good. I respect the hell out of him.

Also, he’s bad at Twitter.

For the uninitiated, Jon Rothstein will tweet the same metaphor about a team/coach/program/player roughly a billion times. I’ve gone over in my head why exactly this is true. I hope that at this point he is self parodying. More likely, he’s just so sold on these metaphors being good that he thinks that tweeting them for the 800th time is actually good. I can relate because my online brand consists of roughly two jokes just repurposed for different scenarios and it’s fun.

Rodger Sherman wrote about ROTHSTEINISMS™ last year, focusing on basically 5 tropes: “So much ___ in ___,” “Death, taxes, ___,” “This is March,” “Where the unexpected becomes the ordinary,” and a Shakespeare quote.

These are but the tip of the iceberg.

Odds are, if Jon Rothstein has tweeted something, he’s tweeted it many times before. Consider this piece to be edition one of the almanac of Rothstein. 2016 saw the birth of many wonderful Rothsteinisms and the reemergence of many more. I won’t be including every instance of every ROTHSTEINISM™ because the internet does not have the storage space to hold that much data.

Lord help us all.

“Stay hungry, stay humble.”

Jon Rothstein begins every day Online by tweeting this quote. It is the OG ROTHSTEINISM™ and should be respected as such.

This is the first time Rothstein ever tweeted the now famous phrase. However, it wouldn’t become a daily phrase until June of that year.

For the better part of 4 years now, Jon Rothstein has tweeted out the same quote virtually every day. The dedication is remarkable.

FIRST USED: January, 2012
TIMES USED: Incalculable, at least 1,000
STATUS: Active

“The door is open for Elijah”

I do not know who Elijah is. I found this trope by accident. It’s true that Rothstein uses the phrase “the door is open” really frequently but so does everyone else. For some reason though, in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, the door was specifically open for “Elijah.” Apparently, this is a reference to Kansas point guard Elijah Johnson while combining it with a Cup of Elijah reference. A deep cut, and a good one.

FIRST USED: March, 2012
TIMES USED: 3
CURRENT STATUS: Retired

“Everything comes to he who hustles while he waits”

After his daily “stay hungry, stay humble,” Rothstein tweets an inspirational quote. One of his favorites, is this one from Thomas Edison.

FIRST USED: November, 2010
TIMES USED: 65.
CURRENT STATUS: Active

“This is only _____”

This is one that has only made the lexicon once the more familiar “This is March” was popularized and spread across the internet. College basketball is a wild sport, not just in March, and thus, Jon Rothstein has changed his go-to phrase to fit with the times.

FIRST USED: November, 2016
TIMES USED: 8
STATUS: Active

“College basketball NEVER disappoints”

It might be a hair early to call this a ROTHSTEINISM™, but I’m willing to pull the trigger on it. Two uses, including the all caps “NEVER,” within the last few weeks including a high engagement tweet makes me think we’re going to see this a lot more. It’s in beta testing for now.

FIRST USED: December, 2016
TIMES USED: 2
STATUS: In development

“Omaha. Somewhere in Middle America.”

Another 2016 ROTHSTEINISM™. Creighton is in Omaha. Which, in case you were unaware, is somewhere in Middle America.

FIRST USED: November, 2016
TIMES USED: 6
STATUS: Active

“Virginia Basketball. A Thing of Beauty.”

This is the biggest lie ever propagated. Virginia basketball is ugly as sin and scoring 50 points and winning should not ever be normalized. But, hey, if watching paint dry is your thing…

FIRST USED: February, 2015
TIMES USED: 31
STATUS: Active

“Palpable Buzz”

There’s a case to be made for including “Palpable buzz” on the Rothstein Mt. Rushmore, right next to “This is March” and “Death, Taxes.” It’s been used for five years with alarming frequency. This is also one of the phrases that is probably being self-parodied at this point.

FIRST USED: December, 2011
TIMES USED: 189
STATUS: Active

“Chris Mack: Stone Cold”

Stone Cold Steven Austin apparently has nothing on Chris Mack, who is stone cold.

FIRST USED: November, 2016
TIMES USED: 8
STATUS: Active

“This is college basketball folks.”

A variant off the “This is March” theme, but different enough to deserve its own spot. Folks,,.

FIRST USED: November, 2015
TIMES USED: 20
STATUS: Active

“Villanova is like a Fortune 500 Company. It runs itself.”

I’m not sure how true this is, but I’m pretty sure that Elizabeth Holmes could run IBM into the ground in, like, 7 months.

FIRST USED: November, 2015
TIMES USED: 13
STATUS: Active

“Change is the law of life.”

Another “Quote of the Day” special, with one exception.

FIRST USED: December, 2014
TIMES USED: 18
STATUS: Active

“There are many ways of going forward…”

QOTD addition.

FIRST USED: August, 2016
TIMES USED: 4
STATUS: Active

“The epitome of brutality”

Lose a game where you paid a team to come and take you on? Buddy.

FIRST USED: October, 2015
TIMES USED: 34
STATUS: Active

“Greg Gard: Silent Assassin”

My favorite assassins are the ones who scream into their phone and wear a suit of metal armor.

FIRST USED: February, 2016
TIMES USED: 16
STATUS: Active

“More life altering than a 10-day trip to Europe.”

Jon really likes VCU home games.

FIRST USED: February, 2016
TIMES USED: 9
STATUS: Active

“Fills mortar between bricks”

In development this season. Stay tuned.

FIRST USED: November, 2016
TIMES USED: 2
STATUS: In development

“Blame nobody. Expect nothing. Do something.”

QOTD.

FIRST USED: November, 2014
TIMES USED: 15
STATUS: Active

Angel Delgado is actually Jerry Seinfeld

Double-doubles are like residual checks.

FIRST USED: November, 2016
TIMES USED: 4
STATUS: Active

“No other words are needed”

See above.

FIRST USED: December, 2014
TIMES USED: 9
STATUS: Active

“Victory is in the struggle.”

QOTD.

FIRST USED: September, 2011
TIMES USED: 94
STATUS: Active

Gary Clark is a problem

It’s a compliment.

FIRST USED: January, 2015
TIMES USED: 13
STATUS: Active

“Never miss the opportunity to say nothing.”

QOTD.

FIRST USED: February, 2013
TIMES USED: 59
STATUS: Active

“West Virginia basketball. Tougher than a long weekend at your in-laws.”

#PRESSVIRGINIA

FIRST USED: January, 2016
TIMES USED: 20
STATUS: Active

“The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.”

QOTD.

FIRST USED: April, 2016
TIMES USED: 8
STATUS: Active

Deveptively old.

I really don’t get this one.

FIRST USED: January, 2016
TIMES USED: 3
STATUS: Active

“Work hard in silence. Let success be your noise.”

Jon is a big Frank Ocean Guy.

FIRST USED: September, 2015
TIMES USED: 11
STATUS: Active

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

QOTD.

FIRST USED: April, 2015
TIMES USED: 11
STATUS: Active

The Butler Way.

Looking at the new pithy Butler-ism.

FIRST USED: December, 2016
TIMES USED: 2
STATUS: In development

“Lonzo Ball is like the The Godfather Epic.”

You forget a third of it ever happened?

FIRST USED: November, 2016
TIMES USED: 4
STATUS: Active

“Good health is the most important thing. More than success, more than money, more than power.”

QOTD.

FIRST USED: August, 2014
TIMES USED: 21
STATUS: Active

“And here we go.”

[Very Heath Ledger Joker voice]

FIRST USED: February, 2010
TIMES USED: 75
STATUS: Active

“The brighter the lights, the darker the shadows.”

QOTD.

FIRST USED: January, 2016
TIMES USED: 14
STATUS: Active

Appointment Television

Lots of teams have earned the distinction.

FIRST USED: February, 2015
TIMES USED: 18
STATUS: Active

“If people are going out of their way to tell you what you’re doing wrong then you’re doing a lot of things right.”

QOTD.

FIRST USED: January, 2016
TIMES USED: 12
STATUS: Active

“I do not like to repeat successes, I like to go on to other things.”

QOTD and probably the most ironic thing ever tweeted.

FIRST USED: August, 2016
TIMES USED: 5
STATUS: Active

“Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”

QOTD.

FIRST USED: January, 2015
TIMES USED: 22
STATUS: Active

“We can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”

QOTD.

FIRST USED: July, 2016
TIMES USED: 7
STATUS: Active

“The epitome of efficiency”

Much like the epitome of brutality, but good.

FIRST USED: January, 2014
TIMES USED: 14
STATUS: Active

“The will to win is useless without the will to prepare to win.”

QOTD.

FIRST USED: April, 2012
TIMES USED: 13
STATUS: Active

“Leopards don’t change their spots.”

This one might be unfair, but I’m not really sure Rothstein ever uses the phrase quite right.

FIRST USED: February, 2011
TIMES USED: 4
STATUS: Active

“Work ethic eliminates fear.”

QOTD.

FIRST USED: October, 2015
TIMES USED: 20
STATUS: Active

“Without struggle, there is no progress.”

QOTD.

FIRST USED: May, 2013
TIMES USED: 33
STATUS: Active

“TSA Precheck. Life altering.”

Can confirm.

FIRST USED: July, 2014
TIMES USED: 33
STATUS: Active

Bryant McIntosh = Aaron Craft

Two pass first, white point guards. First time I’ve heard that comparison.

FIRST USED: December, 2015
TIMES USED: 3
STATUS: Active

Emptying the chamber in to Georgia Tech

I’m not sure what it is, but Jon Rothstein is not nice to Georgia Tech. All preseason he was singing the praises of all the teams he saw and then did this to Georgia Tech.

It wasn’t the end of it. Even the nice things he says have more than a tinge of backhanded-ness to them.

Keep an eye on it.

FIRST USED: October, 2016
TIMES USED: 2? 3? Hard to say.
STATUS: Dormant?

“Arduous” tasks/slates

The default “this team has a tough schedule” descriptor.

FIRST USED: October, 2012
TIMES USED: 20
STATUS: Active

Brent Stover is not on Twitter.

FYI.

FIRST USED: December, 2015
TIMES USED: 15
STATUS: Active

“Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.”

QOTD.

FIRST USED: May, 2015
TIMES USED: 8
STATUS: Active

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”

QOTD.

FIRST USED: September, 2015
TIMES USED: 13
STATUS: Active

“No words.”

Pretty much.

FIRST USED: June, 2014
TIMES USED: 15
STATUS: Active

Noted Stock Broker Jon Rothstein

In all seriousness, his hit rate is really good.

FIRST USED: December, 2012
TIMES USED: 31
STATUS: Active

Mr. Intangibles

A new man has taken the crown.

FIRST USED: June, 2013
TIMES USED: 3
STATUS: Active

Flat out studs.

Featuring some guys.

FIRST USED: February, 2011
TIMES USED: 6
STATUS: Active

“Whatever “it” is, he has.”

Still feel like this is missing a word.

FIRST USED: December, 2015
TIMES USED: 5
STATUS: Active

“More focused than Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive.”

Rothstein was ready to go all in on this one but then Rhode Island went and got hurt/bad.

FIRST USED: November, 2016
TIMES USED: 2
STATUS: Retired

Don’t bet against Mike Brey.

Otherwise you’ll get your head kicked in.

FIRST USED: July, 2016
TIMES USED: 3
STATUS: Active

Summon Colonel Jessup

IT’S A CODE RED

FIRST USED: January, 2011
TIMES USED: 9
STATUS: Active

“The dogs bark, but the caravan marches on.”

QOTD.

FIRST USED: January, 2014
TIMES USED: 68
STATUS: Active

Your favorite team/coach is a Rubik’s Cube

The reasons why change.

FIRST USED: August, 2013
TIMES USED: 10
STATUS: Active

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.”

QOTD.

FIST USED: March, 2015
TIMES USED: 7
STATUS: Active

My application to be the offensive coordinator at the Rutger

My application to be the offensive coordinator at the Rutger

There is a time and place for everything. This morning, a good friend who lives in New Jersey forwarded me an application to be the assistant head coach at Rutgers University. Strange that someone from New Jersey sent it to me considering the Rutger is at the heart of New York City. Rutgers recently lost its offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer to Texas, and the school is looking for a replacement.

WELL LOOK NO FURTHER! We’re going all the way to the Garden State!

After my unsuccessful bid to be the head coach of Wisconsin, I figure being the offensive coordinator for the Rutger football team should be an easier job to get. After all, they had the worst offense in the Big Ten and were shut out on four separate occasions. It’s Rutger. You know, the salt of the earth? The school that loses money on athletics every year?

Okay, let’s go looking for the online portal. Huh, this is confusing. What does the tutorial page look like?

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-11-31-17-am

Oh cool, it’s a picture of a garbage fire with the Rutgers logo on it because the page is under construction. You can’t make this stuff up folks. That tutorial page was no help, but I decided to write a cover letter and resumé anyway.

Here is what I came up with:

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-11-59-07-am screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-12-18-02-pm

I think this is going to go well!

FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER IN CASE YOU CAN’T READ IT:

Dear Mr. Head Coach of the Rutger.

Hallowed be thy name. I apply for this job not out of spite or pity, but from a feeling that goes beyond spite and pity and enters the Theatre of the Absurd. For my entire life, I have observed Rutger from afar, breathing it, studying it, and failing to understand it. I have written articles for insidenu.com, an esteemed college football site, about the Rutger football boys. As a sportswriter at Northwestern, I know the B1Ggest conference in the land very well.

I have studied the tape of the Rutger’s numerous losses. I have watched the Scarlet Knights fall to every Big Ten opponent. I have seen Chris Laviano and Giovanni Rescigno fight valiantly, only to collapse under the pressure. I understand your offense has been bad. Scoring zero points four times in a season is not good. Losing the final nine games of the season is not good.

Frankly, you need an offensive coordinator who can shake things up. I have no football coaching experience and I ran cross-country in high school. I am 140 pounds and would be athletically destroyed by most of your players. But I have sat on my couch to watch football for nearly 75 percent of my life, and because I write about the sport on a daily basis in the fall, I believe I am totally qualified to become your offensive coordinator. I mean, who could do a worse job than the last guy? It’s also a chance to hire a Korean-American offensive coordinator and increase diversity.

I eagerly await your reply and for you to ignore this beneath a stack of actually qualified applicants. But just know that, of all the people who apply, I truly want to make Rutger great again.

Sincerely,

Tristan Jung

They sent me an email already:

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-12-26-58-pm

That crazy Northwestern basketball-related serial you probably won’t read

Albany is a silly place.

The plane landed at the Albany International Airport with no complications. I still had no idea why I had to fly to the capital of my home state, and I had no intention of staying long. I had read through the notes I had stolen from the C.R.E.A.N. agent in the airport, but the only important word was “BRAND”, emblazoned in capital letters on the side of an envelope. The envelope was addressed to the University of Albany Athletic Department.

As I arrived in Albany, I immediately made plans to take the Amtrak south to New York City. I’d meet with my sister in Brooklyn before heading back home, at last, for a surprise vacation. But the train wasn’t supposed to leave for another three hours, giving me absolutely nothing to do. I decided, on a whim, to take an Uber to the address listed on the envelope.

Albany itself is a very dull place, home to New York’s sleepy and usually incompetent state legislature and not much else. The University of Albany, home of the Great Danes, was the only thing really worth visiting. My Uber driver, a 22-year-old student at the university, took me there quickly. I did not realize that he was tipping off an unseen member of a hidden organization on his iPhone as I left the black Honda Civic.

With nothing better to do, I wandered into the Albany Athletic Department building. And then I bumped into Ben Goren. Suddenly, everything made sense.

“Hey Ben, what are you–”

“Shut the hell up Tristan, get out of my hiding spot.”

Ben Goren was a former member of Inside NU, and apparently he had chosen a job at the Albany Athletic Department as his undercover spot. He chose well. No C.R.E.A.N. member would ever bother to check in Albany.

“Juicy J, great to see you, but you shouldn’t be here. How did you find me?”

“Look Ben, I saw a C.R.E.A.N. member at the airport. He was headed to Albany to interrogate you. That’s why I’m here. They tracked your mail.” I showed him the envelope.

“Damn, it was my Tweets from the PR account. I knew the #brand would get me into trouble eventually. But you’ve stopped them, right? We’re good?”

“Far from it. I’d estimate our chances of survival match Northwestern’s attempts to make the NCAA Tournament this year.”

“The team’s been disbanded thanks to us so…that means it’s basically close to zero.”

“Yeah, I’m sure they’re following me after I assaulted that man in the airport. I’m headed to my house in the middle of nowhere.”

“Well, I’m not coming with you Tristan. If I have to flee, I’m going to a city. Our old friend Inside NU’s Henry Bushnell is camped out in New York right now. I think I’m safer there.”

At that moment, one of Ben’s coworkers rushed into the room.

“They’re here!” she shouted.


I immediately bolted out of the copy room and used the fire escape on a window to exit the field. Ben followed and we headed, in panic, but currently without any chasing agents, to SEFCU Arena, the home of Great Dane basketball.

“I know a place we can wait them out!” Ben said. “We can make a break for my car in the parking lot after they leave! My coworkers will cover for me.”

Ben’s “hiding place” turned out to be the SEFCU maintenance room, but it did the trick. To pass the time, I played Peggle on my phone while Ben waxed rhapsodically about every traumatic Northwestern sporting event since 2000. It took about 5 hours to complete.

“And finally, when Northwestern won that Wisconsin game and we had hope that Demps–”

“Ben, shut up, I think we should check if the coast is clear. Text your coworkers.”

Ben received confirmation that the coast was indeed clear. We stepped out of SEFCU Arena and realized it was a trap. The entire Albany Athletic Department staff was being held captive by approximately 35 agents of C.R.E.A.N.

“Well shit TJ, I really screwed this up. I sure hope they don’t shoot us.”

“We’re not shooting you,” said the largest C.R.E.A.N. agent, who was wearing a mask but looked eerily like Connecticut center Amida Brimah. “Take this whole lot back to the stadium.”


C.R.E.A.N.’s method of interrogation was predictably cruel and basketball-related. Ben and I were given 25 basketballs and ordered to shoot from the three-point line. Every time we missed a shot, the C.R.E.A.N. agent would administer an electric shock through the floor and demand the location of the other Inside NU members. If we made one, we’d get a reprieve.

I missed 24 of 25 shots, but I wouldn’t crack. Ben somehow made 5 and was still in decent shape.

Amida Brimah was joined by someone who looked suspiciously like Duncan Robinson.

“This is taking too long,” Duncan Robinson said. “I’m going to shoot a three. If I make it, we’ll break one of your fingers. Every three I make, we’ll break a finger until you talk.”

Duncan took the first three. He missed. Honestly, missing the shot was actually a more effective torture method than you’d think. I didn’t even know where the other Inside NU members were, but Ben thought of something mildly clever with the pressure cranked up.

“They’re with the SBNation staff under assumed names!” Goren said.

“Now we’re getting somewhere. So they’re in New York then?”

“Yes, and they record a podcast after every college football Saturday. You should find them there.”

“Good to hear. Well, with that, we’re probably going to kill you and throw your remains under the renovations for Welsh-Ryan Arena.”

“It’s fine, Morty wouldn’t care anyway you selfish, Williams-attending asshole.”

Duncan Robinson hadn’t realized I had stolen one of the basketballs while Ben was talking. In order to continue the torture method, they had untied our hands, which is always a terrible idea. I quickly chucked the ball at Duncan Robinson’s oh-so punchable face and dived for the loose weaponry on the floor.

“It’s a jump ball!” Ben said, his witty one-liner abilities kicking in at just the right moment. “Possession arrow…Brand Goren!”

He dodged Brimah and seized Duncan Robinson’s large lacrosse stick that he used to subdue us.

“If you move one inch, I’m breaking his kneecap!” Ben shouted at the other C.R.E.A.N. agents.

“Don’t listen to him. Even he does it, I’ll just come back next year,” Robinson said.

“Ha, do you really think that Michigan won’t push you out of the program once they realize your knee is busted?” Goren replied. “Once a transfer, always a transfer. They’ll throw you to the curb. Just let us leave, and you can go find the real prize at the SBNation headquarters.”

Duncan Robinson hesitated.

“Fine. But next time, we shoot to kill. C.R.E.A.N. out.”

The Pseudo Dude Ranch

The Pseudo Dude Ranch

What you have to realize is that the world is a viciously empty place…

On the Westgate River Ranch, the embodiment of a nowhere that can only be expressed in Florida, there is a walk-in chapel for vacationers hoping to momentarily exit the three-star resort/dude ranch/glamping site and make peace with the Holy Ghost. The chapel, undoubtedly constructed within the last 20 years, has nevertheless been designed to look like an old Western church building, with a faux steeple surrounded by acres and acres of other ersatz constructions of an Old West inspired by the imaginations of a few Italian film directors. It’s a dude ranch, the largest ranch east of the Mississippi at that.IMG_1886.JPG

Westgate Resorts owns the chapel, just as it owns all of the land and the very real longhorns that graze pensively alongside a traditional white fence. The chapel serves the temporary parishioners for free, possibly the only free service provided on the 1,700 acres of land. Apparently services are quite popular. In an example of a vacation trend termed as “glamping”, you can shoot shotguns, stay in a “Luxe Teepee”, rock climb and spend lots of money.

But it’s not really a dude ranch, because a dude ranch east of the Mississippi is completely oxymoronic. My dad says it’s a “pseudo dude ranch”, and that’s the best explanation. Of course, it’s not all-inclusive (that’s for the really rich people), and it appears that the Ranch caters toward the American middle to upper middle class. The cheapest rooms are about $55 a night, as the company expects residents to spend more on amenities. You can also park your RV or pitch your own tent, so it’s not exactly the Ritz. However, I imagine that with the right itinerary and the right people, the pseudo dude ranch could be quite fun.

The site is not one of Westgate’s most glamorous properties, that honor would probably go to CEO David Siegel’s private residence, a 90,000 square-foot house built as a replica of the Palace of Versailles. But the River Ranch exists. The Kissimmee River exists. America exists. The “Luxe Teepee” exists, even though this land was never occupied by the Lakota and the cultural appropriation seems particularly out of place. The endless paradoxes of the 21st century are the only subjects that fill my mind in the emptiness of central Florida.


At once in this suddenly deeply political age, the mind wanders. In November 2016, it’s inescapable, even while I’m on an airboat searching for alligators in the emptiness of the Kissimmee. The wife of Westgate’s CEO, Jackie Siegel (the prime mover in the construction of the American Versailles), once dated Donald Trump. The place reeks of American resort mogul-ism, a uniquely narcissistic consciousness that now (figure)heads the largest military and economic force on the planet, and a Twitter account. You can guess what candidate the employees of Westgate were asked to vote for, especially in a swing state that could be influenced by a few thousand employees of a resort company. I am not here to pass judgment. I am only here to watch the alligators.

I’m sitting on this airboat because my grandparents insisted that I should experience this experience. My grandmother, a Korean immigrant who arrived in the United States in the earl 1980s, has a post-retirement obsession with what I term “experiences”. In the past year alone, she has left Florida to travel across Europe, much of the Southwest, and to the Northeast and Midwest. She is joined in these rather remarkable endeavors by my grandfather, (step-grandfather), who leads/follows her across the globe. They are, by estimation, quite happy, and I’m rather jealous that they’ve gotten to see much more of the world, from Alaska to Hong Kong to Istanbul, in the past three years than I have.

In the aftermath of their latest trip to the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Festival, they’re hosting us for Thanksgiving. But because of their incredibly voyeuristic nature, they want us to go to the Westgate River Ranch, which is 50 minutes away from their residence. The plan is to take an airboat trip before heading to the Saturday night rodeos that the River Ranch hosts every week. Compared to Rome, the River Ranch is a drop in the proverbial bucket, but there was nothing better to do in the sleepy area around their retirement home, so off to the River Ranch we went.

From outside observation, my grandparents are in a nearly apolitical mood these days. In what may come as a cruel reality to you, there were precisely zero political conversations during the entirety of Thanksgiving Day. They fill their lives with experience, not talk, and although they talk quite a lot, the backdrop of the real always grounds them. Just before we leave the retirement community, my grandmother demands we stop the car to give sandwiches to my mother and father in the car behind us. She runs out and argues with her daughter, forces her to take the food, and then we depart.

Now, back on the airboat, the deafening noise of the engine makes conversation impossible. All the members of the boat are left to their own thoughts, insulated by headphones, punctuated by the occasional sighting of an alligator that has just been rudely awakened from an afternoon siesta. None of us are really having too much fun; the noise from the propeller has deafened my dad and my mom is irritated because the headphones do not fit her. The boat is silent and noisy at the same damn time.

I first think about my Korean-American grandmother, who sits behind me and tells me to get off my phone as we travel through a nondescript channel of water. She then tells me to keep my back straight. I realize that after 70+ years of surviving civil war, having three children, working as a single mother while my grandfather tried to find work in America, then watching her children go to Ivy League schools and create respectable lives for themselves, she has finally gotten a chance to experience the American Dream for herself.

Until today, she has never retreated to a “pseudo dude ranch” in her enjoyment of the American Dream. She has used the fruits of the American Dream (although, as I am contractually obligated to mention as a member of the liberal college-educated elite, she attained much of this “American Dream” through marrying a white male) to travel anywhere other than central Florida for half the year, and now, with everything central Florida has to offer, I don’t really know what she’s thinking about.

I next think about how this is all a metaphor for how many conservatives treat the environment. The boat disturbs everything in sight. Magnificent birds fly away in panic. We drive through patches of river plants and disturb all sorts of natural habitats. The noise is deafening. The airboat, sitting just on the water, isn’t as mutually destructive as a motorboat, but the fact of its existence bothers me. I start to doubt myself for even getting on this boat. I start to question my own environmental legacy. I start to think all these liberal-ish thoughts that get printed in Daily Northwestern op-eds and populate the comment sections of NPR feeds.

Then we stop to see a baby alligator. She or he moves away, not yet ready to fight anything and rather scared of this afternoon interruption. The boat operator, an older man who speaks with a thick southern drawl, gives everyone some useful information about alligators. He doesn’t say much, but he quickly steers us away. It seems he wants to get through this disturbance of the natural order as quickly as possible. The 1 hour tour ends after just 40 minutes. We see three alligators the whole time, for about 3 minutes total. I think about atoning for my sins at the a la carte church, but I think God would be fine with staying outside.


Most things, and by extension most people and most societies, are more complicated than they appear…

The boat ride ends and we are deposited on the shore to spend a few hours before the rodeo. My dad, who despises boats on principle and can no longer hear properly, staggers around and decides we should go skeet shooting. My grandfather immediately notes that this is a terrible idea and probably impossible due to the fact we do not have a shotgun, 20 cartridges, or a reservation. He’s right, but we head over anyway.

The shotgun range is everything you’d expect it to be. There’s a old white dude with a cowboy hat directing things, and a boatload of people with their firearms shooting at clay targets. Every few seconds, a shotgun shell goes off, but you eventually get used to it. My dad convinces my sister, a pretty good markswoman herself, to attempt to get onto the range. I don’t go because:

1. I’m a terrible shot.

2. I don’t have contact lenses or glasses with me because I am very forgetful.

The fancy trucks in the parking lot complete the range, of course. As I sit at the makeshift archery range for the kids, there is a black 2014 Chevy Silverado. My sister walks by, having been denied from the shotgun range due to a lack of a shotgun, cartridges and insistence, and immediately points out the “Liar, liar, pantsuit on fire” bumper sticker on the Chevy. Then she points out the Trump 2016 sticker. Then she points out the numerous pro-gun slogans and Confederate flag emblazoned on the back and sides of the truck. Pretty typical fare.IMG_1883.JPG

Then she points out the Pokémon Go logo that sits right at the center of the truck. It’s the logo of the red team (of course), Team Valor, with a Moltres logo surrounded by fire. I am very, very confused. Why is a logo of my all-time favorite Pokémon sitting on the back of this car? Am I really supposed to believe that this Confederacy-loving, gun-supporting, Clinton-imprisoning person from Florida also happens to be a rabid Pokémon Go player? Perhaps this person is a big fan of Pokémon 2000? These questions are all unanswered. Later that day, in the parking lot of a McDonald’s, my sister sees another Team Valor logo on the back of an SUV. My best explanation is that the denizens of Polk County co-opted a Pokémon logo as a symbol of the Republican Party. America!

“Damelos!” I hear in the distance. The family who is sharing the makeshift archery range with us is having a bit of an argument. Apparently, the makeshift archery range is actually a real archery range, with real bows and real, metal-tipped arrows. A crowd of unsupervised children, including my 11-year-old younger sister, play peacefully with the archery set. One of the children, predictably, had pointed a loaded bow at his brother, prompting the dad nearby to grab the bow and speak some commands in Spanish.

Of course, the whole family is solely speaking Spanish. In fact, as you may be surprised to hear, there was plenty of Spanish being spoken at the dude ranch, although I’d have to estimate it’s still a 80/20 split in favor of English.. There were plenty of bilingual staff and bilingual guests. It’s Florida, after all. It’s America, after all. You really thought everything could be simple? One of the kids is wearing a “Frank Underwood 2016” shirt. The family leaves and we have the archery range to ourselves before another Spanish-speaking family that walks by to take their shot, because visiting a dude ranch in central Florida does not necessarily mean you are a caricature. Maybe the person with the Trump/Pokémon Go bumper stickers is a proud caricature, but just one person cannot signify the complexities of a single county, let alone a society.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not excusing overpriced tourist attractions, racism or pseudo dude ranches, or the fact that a caricature has in fact been given a significant part of my society’s governing apparatus. I’m just trying to wrap my head around that, outside of the Northwestern bubble, the world is a vastly complicated place. People of all political stripes live alongside one another. There is a rampant tendency by our wondrous news media to simplify America into a divided nation. Urban vs. rural. Working white vs. city minorities. The truth is, there are very real divisions, but these divisions have no borders. Just because 55 percent of Polk County, FL voted for Donald Trump doesn’t mean the 45 percent doesn’t exist. There are 15,294 minority-owned firms in Polk County, Florida as of 2012.

Hell, even I live in one of those paradoxical divisions. My home county of Orange County, NY voted 50-44 for Trump. My county also re-elected Democratic senator Chuck Schumer 59-38. Chuck Schumer will be the primary Senate minority leader for the Democratic Party. Schumer got 9,000 more votes for his re-election than Trump received for the presidency. In what world does this make any sense? And yet, in a two-party system with no readily available answers for the environment, education, race relations, foreign relations, war or justice, these paradoxes must be expected, even if the people who participate in the creation of these paradoxes scarcely understand the complexities that they construct. That includes me.

Meanwhile, my family, irritated by repetitive shotgun blasts and bored by the dude ranch, decides to go to the general store. There’s really nothing special about this particular general store. It’s clearly a pastiche of the Wild West and sells overpriced goods. My sister and I (the older, 18-year-old one), wanting to cause some pointless trouble, leave the general store with some souvenirs and unchanged bank balances. The general store sells Starbucks coffee.

No one wants to go to the rodeo anymore. I fall asleep on the 50-minute drive home.

We head home and eat at a terrible Japanese restaurant. There are no East Asians operating this establishment, and all the food is straight trash. The tap water, in particular, tastes awful. Throughout the entire meal, nobody takes more than two sips from her or his giant glasses.

As I try to fall asleep, I slowly start to formulate a vision of America. It’s a vision that will please some people, and dishearten others. A nation that looks like a pseudo dude ranch, with commodified existences, light control and lazy corporate attractions. A nation that feeds its predominantly white clientele papier-mache and more than slightly racist constructions of a past America that has faded. A nation of selfishness, a nation of cheap greed. This softly despotic hypothesis, by the way, definitely works for some people. I can see that now, while I recall the events of the day. It could be, like the Westgate River Ranch, an American Dream re-founded by a rich billionaire real estate mogul. But in my estimation, it’s paradoxical, appropriative, and a pretty crappy iteration.

I think of my grandmother, whose American Dream is to experience as much of the world as possible, to avoid the rigmarole of daily life and set herself free across the cities and farmlands of the world. I hope I get there someday. I drift off to sleep in her RV and wait for the flight home.

 

Notes on the French Revolution

Just needed to write this down and publish, to be honest.

1. The Revolution and You

As with all histories of important historical events, the French Revolution in the popular consciousness has devolved into a few “highlight reel” moments: the storming of the Bastille, the execution of the King and the Terror.  I can’t really dispel that belief, and as long as historical education in this country remains a bizarre conglomeration of histories that signify nothing, this idea of the French Revolution as a simplified revolt from the poor against the rich monarchy will persist.

That being said, the main takeaway you should draw from the French Revolution is the main point you probably learned in history class. The French Revolution is the start of the modern era (for the West), but the path it took to get there was immensely complicated and the upshot of the events are egregiously difficult to understand. That’s the part that I am going to write about.

The French Revolution was, at its core, a crisis of the political order. All the other distinctions–class, religion, economic etc.–feed directly into the political crisis that overtook the monarchy in the years leading up to 1789 and beyond. The political system failed, repeatedly, to solve the vast fiscal problems of a monarchy that, far from absolutist, was actually powerless in its attempts to centralize the state.

The best metaphor to describe the cause of the Revolution is that of a really bad offensive line. The O-line represents the political and legal institutions of France. The monarchy is the quarterback. The debt problems are the pass rushers. During the course of a football game, the narrative is that the quarterback has the power to change anything at will, but he is actually at the mercy of the offensive line. While the quarterback (for example, Case Keenum) looks horrible, he actually can’t control much because of the offensive line. Of course, everyone blames the problems on the quarterback anyway.

Throughout the lead-up to the French Revolution under the reign of Louis XV, the attempts to reform the government and centralize the monarchy failed. The Mopou Crisis, the failures of the Physiocrats, and most attempts to reform the state failed miserably due to various special interests, from the peasantry (in the case of the Flour War) and the nobility (the protests against the suspension of the Parlement). The only societal reform that seemed to function properly was the military reforms of Guibert, but even that reform was entirely biased in favor of the nobility.

But the French monarchy football team kept chugging along, and the debt crisis was just swept under the rug by guys like Necker and Calonne. And, in my opinion, the collapse of the political order that occurred in 1789 (and again in 1792) was not even close to inevitable. If the French had strong central leadership and a method to solving the monarchy’s problems by crushing these special interests, things might have somewhat worked out with limited reforms. A good quarterback can work with a bad offensive line. Louis XVI and his ministry just weren’t good quarterbacks. Thus, the whole team imploded.

But when the “absolutism”, which was strived to but never existed, fell apart, the factions within France took control of the Revolution. At this point, every single group leading up to Napoleon, from the Estates-General to the final days of the Directory, used the political crisis to achieve its own narrowly defined goals. You may call this tendency “freedom”, but I’d call it “inexperience” or “extremism”. The upshot of the mass “freedoms” of the French Revolution was complete chaos for about four years, and then mild chaos for the next seven.

Therefore, I agree with de Tocqueville on the basis of his argument that political neophytes really hurt the French Revolution’s attempts to modernize the nation of France. Here are a list of the problems of the “first revolution” (the more famous one) which started with the Tennis Court Oath and was run by liberal nobles.

  1. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy divided the nation on religious lines for almost no reason.
  2. The “Self-Denying Ordinance”, proposed by that greatest of political idealists with no idea how to actually govern, Maximillian Robespierre, basically doomed the Legislative Assembly to factional squabbles amongst the Feuillants, Girondins and Jacobins as the liberal nobles were kicked out.
  3. The failure to deal with the matter of Saint-Domingue/Haiti in a timely manner. Sugar shortages that eventually resulted from the revolt would cause some serious civil disturbances later on.
  4. The inability to see that Louis XVI was not really that committed to working with the Revolution.

And of course, the mistakes only continued with the Legislative Assembly.

  1. The War of 1792 itself was a tremendous mistake, created by lack of understanding of the European political situation amongst the Girondins and a tremendous over-confidence in the French military. The war was not just a direct cause for the overthrow of the French monarchy, but it also devastated the French economy and caused massive revolts once the central government started to conscript soldiers.
  2. The Feuillants’ consistent attempts to make amends with the King really stripped them of their political legitimacy due to the King’s flight to Varennes.
  3. The Massacre of the Champ de Mars.
  4. The mishandling of the situation on Saint-Domingue stripped France of its most important Atlantic colony and triggered even more shortages and economic catastrophe.

The revolutionaries were idealistic and their ideas were sound (the Constitutions of 1791 and 1793 went beyond the American Constitution in terms of equality and representation), but their inter-factional squabbling and inability to create a functioning central government along republican lines doomed the Revolution to violence and war. The decisions of the Girondin ministry directly led to the Terror and the Haitian Revolution, which is very impressive.

Of course, another massive component of the French Revolution’s inability to settle down and actually solve the problems it set out to accomplish was the city of Paris. The move to Paris after the Women’s March on Versailles had massive consequences, and the repeated influence of the ultra-radical Paris sections on the Revolution alienated just about everybody in the nation at some point. These “ultra-radicals”, first with Danton and the Old Cordeliers, and then the enragés against the Convention, constantly made their narrow and extremist positions the position of the government.

Now, were the radical sans-culottes “wrong”? No, they wanted universal manhood suffrage and creation of a social safety net for the poor, and some of their beliefs are cherished wings of modern Western liberalism in the 20th and 21st century. But they were also, undoubtedly, violent extremists. For the average French citizen in Lyon or Bordeaux, Danton’s Revolution of 1792 was the equivalent of a terrorist taking control of the central government. And although the new Convention and the Revolutionary Republic ostensibly tried to keep terror out of its government, it gave into political violence and repression within a few months. The political chaos also completely ruined the French economy (remember, the same problem that caused this whole mess), which triggered the Federalist revolts of 1793 and the revolts of the sans-culottes to ensure “the maximum” and other economic protections.

The constant overrunning of the moderate position in the French Revolution, spurred on by factionalism and extremism, essentially made the Revolution a black hole that needed a strong leader to rescue it. And of course, the utter black hole of 1793, with its long-running string of crises triggered by the defection of Dumouriez in the beginning of the year, allowed Maximillian Robespierre to believe that he could be that strong leader. It’s too bad he turned out to be a complete nut.

Say what you want about him though, he and the Committee of Public Safety did eventually stop the long-running trend of political chaos. Their attempts to continue the crackdown, however, got them run out of power.

TL;DR – Political infighting really ruined everything, but it also probably created the modern nation state in the process.