Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Didn't Know Commies Had Mothers

"Of course, there are still a few bugs in the system."

That is the punchline for the first Doonesbury cartoon that ever ran, back on Oct. 26, 1970, meaning that the strip recently turned 40.

TigerBlog was a bit late to the Doonesbury party, and it was probably 1976 or so before he actually started reading it.

It didn't take TB long to catch up, and in the years that have gone by, he's read every single Doonesbury strip that's ever been written.

Of course, being a political moderate, TB doesn't always like the constant swing to the left that the strip takes.

Still, it's hard to argue that it's been ground-breaking stuff, from its treatment of the Vietnam War through its use of icons to denote each of the Presidents who have been lampooned right up through to the present time with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There has been no issue that Doonesbury - written by Gary Trudeau - wouldn't address. He's had a character die of AIDS, had several injured in the wars, dealt with poverty, written about race relations and dove head-first into any number of areas.

TB has always loved several comic strips. Peanuts? Of course. Beetle Bailey. Bloom County. Calvin and Hobbes. Today, it's Dilbert.

But Doonesbury has always been there, with its storylines and ability to deliver the punchline and then the sarcastic follow-up comment in the last panel.

The best part about Doonesbury is the characters, from the title character Mike Doonesbury to the roommate he's matched to in the first strip, B.D., to Zonker, Duke, Honey, Joan and Joanie Caucus, Mark Slackmeyer, Rick, Alex Doonesbury and all the others.

If you're looking for TB's single favorite Doonesbury cartoon, it ran on Jan. 27, 1985, and it didn't feature any of the regular characters. Instead, it talked about the state of higher education and still to this day makes TB laugh.

B.D. began the strip as a football star, and he was never shown without his helmet until after he was injured in Iraq, which resulted in the loss of a leg (and for a few days, the reader didn't know if one of the most popular figures on the strip had been killed off).

During his service in the Vietnam War, B.D. befriends an enemy soldier named Phred, remarking after he hears his new buddy talk about his family that "I didn't know commies had mothers." Later, Phred becomes the Vietnamese ambassador to the U.N. and then an executive with Nike in Vietnam.

As for B.D., it actually stands for Brian Dowling, who was Yale's quarterback in the late 1960s and a classmate in New Haven of Trudeau's.

Dowling was Yale's quarterback in its famous 29-29 tie with Harvard, the one that led to the headline "Harvard Defeats Yale, 29-29."

Dowling started for Yale as a junior and senior and led the team to wins over Princeton in 1967 and 1968, which started the Bulldogs on their 14-game streak against the Tigers that wouldn't end until Bob Holly led Princeton to a 35-31 win in 1981 in what Princeton Athletic News called the best Princeton game of the 20th century.

Princeton is at Yale this Saturday in football. The Tigers enter the game at 1-7 overall, 0-5 in the Ivy League, and with an army of injured players on both sides of the ball.

Yale, on the other hand, is still alive for an Ivy League championship and is actually in the position of having to root for Harvard to beat Penn this weekend. Should that happen, then Yale would play Harvard for the following week for a share of the title provided Yale beats Princeton (and assuming Penn then beats Cornell in Week 10).

Anyway, the current state of Princeton football got TigerBlog thinking back to another era of Ivy League football.

Back when TB is remembering, there was a team that went 4-33-1 over a four-year stretch.

The last of those four years was the first for a new head coach, whose team won its first game under him in highly dramatic fashion and then went winless the rest of the way.

By his second year, the team had tied for the league title, starting it on a run of five straight championships and six in seven years. Now, three decades later, the winning is still there.

The team was Penn, which was awful in the late 1970s. Jerry Berndt began the Quaker turnaround in the 1981 season, and Penn is closing in on its 14th since the day he stepped on campus.

In other words, looking back at the Berndt era, nobody judges him by his first season.

Princeton has a new head coach this year, Bob Surace. Will he have Berndt's success? That's asking a lot.

But will he be judged by his first season? No. No new coach ever should be.

This hasn't been the greatest season in Princeton football history, and it's certainly not the way Surace would have wanted to start his career. But the near future?

Who can tell.


Anonymous said...

Princeton fans need to give Surace time, as you say. The team had had 3 straight losing seasons before he took over and a raft of injuries since.

CZ said...

My friend, you never cease to amaze me. How a person can wax poetically about the virtues of Doonesbury and then bring it back to Princeton football is a true talent.

I’m looking forward to your drawing the correlation between another Princeton team and Bloom County (“You’re breathing all my air, Tux Boy”).

Anonymous said...

I find it difficult to see Princeton go 1-9 or 2-8. They have quality players but just have not been able to score much in the red zone. All year they seem to need more help on the Offensive Line to strengthen both the passing and running games. It all starts in the trenches and most Qbs and running backs look better than they are with a great OLine.

Anonymous said...

I don't see the offensive line getting much better next year. They are losing two or three off the line due to graduation and I didn't notice much help from the freshman class this year on the line (not much size).