Monday, February 22, 2010

Big One and Little Ten: The Big Televen.

You might say the Big Ten is a great place to be. When you think of it, you think of powerful teams, cold weather, and industry. And then you look at the teams and you say, "wait, it turns out I was thinking of the year 2000." The Big Ten is a 20th Century power in a 21st Century World. They ain't bad, sure, but they ain't what they used to be. In other words, they be North America. Of course you think of the US and Canada first, but then you look at the rest of the roster and think, "maybe these guys ain't too tough." Onwards...
  • Ohio State :: United States of America. Goes without saying. King of their own mountain, have been for a while now, and no real signs of stopping. Of course, when you're right doing well is usually when the floor drops out from under you. They've been bloodied and embarrassed a whole lot this decade, relying on some iffy leadership. Definitely peaked in 2003 (remember, that's when the bowl game was). Ever since, there's been backbiting, hubris, and unforseen upsets. They say they still have everything in control, but there's a definite feeling of being on the downslope in a couple of years. Mostly due to recruiting stumbles (natural resource issues).
  • Penn State :: Canada. Usually not mentioned in quite the same breath as their neighbors, but really have every reason to be. Way newer to the scene than is generally thought, and have generally been quite successful, if not on quite the same plane as OSU/USA. Like their food as fat laden as possible. Love their tradition and duochromatism. Led, titularly, by an old fogie who might be a zombie, and definitely has incompetent kids.
  • Iowa :: Nicaragua. Competently getting by on machismo and duct tape for a while now. Never thought of as a traditional power on the same scale as some of the other guys, but certainly have done better than most of them. Still known more for crime than for any of the decent things that have gone on. Did you know Managua is the biggest city in Central America? Did you know that Iowa's the winningest program outside of Ohio State - Penn State - Michigan this past decade? Weird, huh?
  • Northwestern :: Costa Rica. I mean, I wouldn't raise a family there or nothing, but they're usually good for some fun a few months every few years. Much like Welsh-Ryan, Costa Rica depends on foreign investment and visits in order to stay standing. Led by a man who everyone seems to genuinely like and appreciate. And really, what's Northwestern most known for? That's right -- not having a defense.
  • Wisconsin :: Jamaica. Treated with a bit more respect than they probably have historically earned, and if you look at the right stats, seem a bit like Canada/Penn State (Still ostensibly part of UK, bad sports, worse food, but great music scenes). Program is on shaky foundations, and most people who like the place are from elsewhere (mostly Ohio). In fact, a whole lot of their fanbase is douchey frat-brahs who listen to terrible music and are have hair-gel issues.
  • Michigan State :: El Salvador. They'll talk your ear off on how they're so much better than Mexico/Michigan, or at least should be mentioned on the same level. But they're not. And the more you think of it, everything you thought you knew about El Salvador was actually from some place else. San Salvador is marginally more interesting than East Lansing, but that's mostly due to the earthquakes. President may be supporting roving Death Squads, which sounds like something Coach Dantonio would do.
  • Purdue :: Dominican Republic. Better than the worst (Guatemala, Haiti, Dominica) but not on the same level as the best. Beat who they beat, lose to who they lose to, and 5-7 wins. Mark it. Like Tiller, Trujillo stayed well past his welcome. Like Tiller, Trujillo casually massacred those that confronted him (see: Brees, "basketball on grass" years). Fitting for an engineering school, there is a "Dominican Chernobyl" which just about everyone gets lead poisoning.
  • Minnesota :: Guatemala. If you ever want to launch a coup, can always get worse. I'm sure that deposing Glenn Mason / Jacobo Arbenz made sense at the time, but since? It's been civil war, madness, and the bottoms of the polls. They have all the resources for a resurgence, but don't count on it any time soon. All the best Minnesotans/Guatemalans usually make sure to get the hell out of there.
  • Illinois :: Haiti. How did this happen? Mismanagement, outside influences, and just plain bad luck. People may believe in their leadership, but it'll just break your heart in the end. And if this doesn't describe the Zook era, well, what does?
  • Michigan :: Mexico. Just because they look similar to how they did 10 years ago does NOT mean they're the same bunch from 10 years ago. Bombed out, depleted, and getting worse. Nobody really in charge, brothers fighting brothers in the streets, the [Detroit Free]Press calling out any and everyone. Consistently picked up by their richer neighbor...and the worst part? All their countrymen crossing the border for greener pastures.
  • Indiana :: Grenada. Never really relevant until they get picked on by one of the big 'uns. Actually kind of pretty and has lots of things going for it. But they'll never really kick it with the top of the food chain here because their focus is just on the wrong sport.

And because I spent formative years in Indiana...
  • Notre Dame :: California. Go on and on about being able to compete at a national level if they were independent, but as time goes on, that seems less and less likely. Still reaping the benefits of the 1980's, but I'm not sure how much longer that's going to last. There's a whole lot pointing to things getting worse more than get better. They'll need some help in the next couple of decades from somewhere, sure. But they'll probably just stay independent until they float off to sea. Where some believe they have been since time immemorial.
Whew, alright, another one gets done. This one more culturally insensitive and falsely assertive than most. But never fear, because the Big 12 is getting the beachfront sunshine they don't know what to do with next.

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