(Originally published at SB Nation’s Wide Right Natty Lite.)
The story began with the great football purges early this millennia. Traditions were destroyed and unlikely alliances formed. Members were absorbed into larger groups and became more powerful. Others teetered. A constant state of war existed, year after year, never resolving. A smaller collection of members known as The Conference saw Big Bob arrive to take control. He was their savior.
Stuck between two great powers, the members of The Conference were told Big Bob was a welcome contrast to previous leadership that had allowed discord to fester. He informed them it had always been BIG undermining and constantly attacking, never anyone else. The SEC was a friend. Big Bob and the Striped Police protected the conference members from the enemy, BIG.
Big Bob was always watching the members, because he loved them. He was troubled still, for the real struggle laid within The Conference.
At an abandoned corn farm, not too far from Big Bob’s headquarters, the members met in secret. Some sense needed to be made of all these recent changes. Eight animals walked into a dark red barn and someone lit an old couch for visibility. While the animals found comfortable spots, two cowboys loyal to the cause stood outside, alert for the slightest hint of Striped Police activity. It was important Big Bob not find out.
A massive bull with elongated horns sat in the middle of the barn on an elevated bed of hay, flanked by two stout wagon-horses. The horses were siblings and often argued. Perched above in the rafters were a cardinal and bluejay, widely accepted as the scholars of the group.
A wizened cat sat in the corner wearing a purple collar, licking its paws. He was the oldest animal there, having seen the highest highs and the lowest lows. Some wondered if the cat had an infinite supply of lives, but all knew he could be counted on to give necessary perspective. On the cat’s back was a small toad. No one knew where it had come from. One day it had suddenly appeared and that was that.
In the far corner where the couch flames couldn’t quite reach, a massive bear slept in shadow. This was not unusual. It was hibernation season after all.
Surveying the gathered, the bull said, “Y’all, thank you for coming tonight. Before we get started, remember we are all in this together. We are all equal.”
Big Bob realized some members required further mollification, so the Department of Amends was created and run by the Striped Police. Big Bob found it amusing how the most insignificant members needed the most paperwork assurance. As if it changed anything. That was how control worked. The members had to understand he was looking out for their best interests and that the Striped Police was controlled by the Department of Amends, which was controlled by the Striped Police.
KNOWLEDGE IS WEAKNESS
When an unhappy member threatened an uprising, the Department of Amends stepped in by issuing reprimands. This way members could see the accountability. One way to do so was to apologize for errors that were not errors. Members were urged to not look into the details too much, because it revealed weak character and distrust. It was best to let Big Bob worry about the details, but would the members remain loyal to him?
A new secret meeting was underway at the barn. The two wagon-horses were locked in a fierce battle of wills. One loudly advocated for the recruitment of additional members to help resist Big Bob, while the other insisted the existing members were just fine. Back and forth they went. The other animals watched the volley of neighs before the bluejay flapped his wings for silence.
“Remember the tiger?” asked bluejay, “Remember how he betrayed us, how he sat in this very barn and looked all of us in the eye and said he would save us, but he was working for the enemy.”
The horses shifted uncomfortably.
Bluejay continued, “If we bring in others, there’s no guarantee they will be as unified as we are now. They could even hurt us.”
“If we don’t show we are unified, they will destroy us,” said the cat.
In the corner, the bear continued to snore, while the bull watched all of this with narrowed eyes.
Big Bob’s hazy origins led to unreliable memories. Some whispered he had claimed to help farmers without actually helping. To ensure the members knew he was on their side, the Department of Transparency was created. It was more clear and helpful if everything was easily understood. One way he checked for understanding among the members was with a slogan, delicious in its simplicity.
5 + 5 = 12
This was a way to scrub diseased unbelievers out of the system. Five plus five had always been twelve. It had never been anything else. Ten is twelve. Twelve is ten. If any member suggested otherwise, Big Bob gladly had the Striped Police open Room 812. To destroy brought clarity. The Department of Transparency tested members by challenging them to doublethink. The Conference had one true champion, represented by two champions. One is equal to two. To suggest otherwise was treason.
Big Bob decided to watch the members even closer.
Another secret meeting was almost finished at the barn. A general sense of unease was thick in the room. The cowboys peeked inside and reported large predators, likely cougars, were circling closer and closer. The cowboys fired rifles at the shapes, but had only scared them away temporarily. The end seemed near.
Not much had been solved this time. The birds had pored over legal documents, seeking an edge to exploit, but the two horses kept braying at inopportune times. The animals were getting ready to leave when a huge sigh came from the corner where the bear had just woken up after a long hibernation. Rubbing his bleary eyes, the bear looked at the group gathered around the dying couch embers and asked, “Did I miss anything?”
Fourteen wide eyes stared back, unblinking, and the bear changed its mind. “Never mind, don’t wanna know. Big Bob can’t hurt me if I don’t know nuttin’. The veil will protect me. The veil will protect me …” His voice faded away.
With that, the bear rolled over and was soon snoring again.
“Y’all know we are in this together equally,” said the bull, nodding towards the corner, “some of us can’t help but be more equal though.”
Big Bob was pleased. The betrayal was underway, the mole had informed him the members had won their internal struggle and now understood five plus five was always twelve, the path to happiness. They were free. Besides, focusing on the real enemy was necessary now. All members had a valued role to play in battling against their eternal enemy SEC.
DEFEAT IS VICTORY
Big Bob chuckled. What would they have done without him? Now they were free from thought, free from knowledge, free from strength. The Conference remained strong and victorious in its defeat. The end was near, but that was okay, because Big Bob loved the members and the members loved Big Bob.
CONCEPT HELMET OF THE WEEK
Exactly 93 years ago, Jack Trice penned his famous letter in the Curtis Hotel and made a promise to do great things. He stepped onto the Minnesota field the following day wearing a gold jersey with red numbers and gray vertical stripes, the “I will” vow reverberating in his heart. Here’s another way Iowa State can honor this legacy by wearing helmets that evoke his jersey color scheme and letter. Mostly gold, some red, the gray matching the stripes in front. A red 37 decal could be placed either on the back or on the other side.
JACK TRICE RESEARCH NOTE
In July, The Ringer launched Cleveland Week, a series of stories that discussed “why Cleveland matters” and one story caught my eye in particular, since I’m always on the lookout for tangential information that helps fill in the dirty, belching, industrial city that Jack Trice entered as a timid East Tech freshman. Click here to learn how “Cleveland was the original Motor City.”
Do you have any original 1920s Iowa State artifacts? Drop me a line on Twitter or email joshua.t (AT) kagavi.com. Help reveal new insights into Jack Trice’s life.
TEACH ME SOUNDS
I was born broken, better known by the complicated medical term “deaf,” and need you to teach me basic sounds in written form. For this week:
Teach me the sound of the Jack Trice crowd when Iowa State beat Oklahoma State in double overtime.
Give your best version (turn of phrase or onomatopoeia) in the comments.
Kagavi’s Cyclone Soup will appear throughout the remainder of the 2016 football season. Follow him on Twitter here.