Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune
Last year, before a game at Louisiana State University, the University of Washington brought an actual Bengal tiger to practice to prepare players for LSU’s notoriously intimidating tiger mascot.
“Coach wants us to get used to it so when we play them and come out of the locker we already know that it’s there and there is no distraction,” redshirt freshman linebacker Travis Feeney told the Seattle Times.
It must have worked: Neither Feeney nor any other UW player reportedly dropped a load when they saw Mike the Tiger among 92,804 screaming fans in Baton Rouge a few days later.
Then again, they lost, 41 to 3.
College football teams try all manner of gimmicks during practice to simulate game conditions, supposedly giving their tender, suggestible players an edge over opponents. (Apparently, coaches do not believe the average 20-year-old can adjust to the slightest change in environment without forgetting how to play football entirely.)
So when ESPN.com recently reported that Northwestern is preparing for its season opener Saturday night against Cal in Berkeley by taking mid-afternoon naps to combat the time change, no one raised an eyebrow. (“Shut your damn eyes, Colter, or you’ll spend the rest of the afternoon running sprints!”)
But here’s a new one:
“To create a California feel, a speaker next to the field blared the sound of lapping waves.”
Let’s forget for a moment that Evanston is far closer to a large body of water than is Berkeley—and the fact that no one in a packed football stadium beyond radioactive zombie bats are capable of hearing anything resembling lapping waves—and just examine this for a second.
No, wait. Let’s not. Let’s make fun of it. Let's keep this extreme practice thing rolling.
After the Cal trip this weekend, here’s how Northwestern should prepare for the rest of its games this season (even the ones at home):
Dump a shitload of snow on field and practice taunts that center on the demise of Kodak.
9/14: Western Michigan
Convert practice facility to depressing, functional strip mall.
Hurl the entire offensive line into swimming pool full of live lobsters and make them eat their way out.
10/5: Ohio State
Dress all coaches and trainers in crimson, give them flasks filled with cheap whiskey, and watch them sing “Hang on Sloopy” for no goddamn reason.
Spend two entire practices teaching every player how to drive slowly in the passing lane.
Blast “Purple Rain” on loudspeakers, exchange pleasant but vaguely passive-aggressive greetings.
Replace grass playing field with artificial turf to keep cheerleaders from grazing.
Plant cornfields on sidelines and invite straight-shooting local businessmen to espouse ill-informed knee-jerk politics.
Amass enormous, vocal fan base to talk ridiculous shit about Ohio State then lose to Ohio State.
11/23: Michigan State
Place rusted-out Chevy next to Gatorade cooler to replicate the region’s crippling economic condition.
Practice talking points on one’s right to perpetuate racial and ethnic stereotypes against Native Americans; alternate that with drills on waiting for basketball season.