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OFFSEASON THEATER RIPS OFF THE CLASSICS

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THE BIG TEN NETWORK'S GOT AIRTIME TO FILL AND WE'VE GOT COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENTS TO TIPTOE AROUND

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

With the proliferation of conference-owned cable networks, there's a lot of empty offseason airtime to fill. Some networks have responded by developing their own movie studios, producing topical knock-offs of familiar classics. We take you now to one, already in progress...

SCENE: a ramshackle laboratory, full of half-finished experiments, gadgets and trinkets. A chalkboard in the corner is covered in cryptic ramblings, like "more Harbaughs? ask if more" and "DeVry: the Next Maryland?"

[a young coach skateboards in]

TIM BECKMAN: Doc! You here, Doc?

[a frazzled, older man in a lab coat and welding goggles appears]

JIM DELANY: Timmy! I'm glad you're here. I want to show you my latest experiment.

TIM: I dunno, Doc, the last experiment of yours ended up with Big Ten games in New Jersey.

JIM: Oh like West Lafayette is any better. No, look, it's something I've developed for the Big Ten Network.

[unveils the device, a glowing cable box covered in wires]

TIM: What...  what is it?

JIM: I call it the "flashback machine". It's one thing to show viewers repeats of old games, you see. I want them to experience repeats of old games. You'll be sitting there in the stands, feeling it as it happens! It can take you there!

TIM: It's a time machine?

JIM: No you dingbat, it's a fancy DVR that adds $12 a month to your cable bill whether you want it or not. Also, it sends you back in time, yeah. Just think... [typing numbers into keypad] you could be there on November 24, 1973, the day Ohio State and Michigan played to a 10-10 tie that led to controversy for the Rose Bowl bid! Or October 13, 1990 to watch Michigan State upset top-ranked Michigan! Or to-

TIM: Are there any Illinois games in there?

JIM: Sure, you've gotta have something to show at 4am. Let's see...  [flipping through guide] it's in here somewhere... hang on...ah! Here we go. November 16, 2002, when Ohio State's undefeated season was almost derailed in a thrilling overtime game. Illinois was led by a 300-yard performance by quarterback Jon Beutjer.

TIM: So you could send me back...

JIM: TO THE BEUTJER

TIM: This whole thing is just for that one pun isn't it

JIM: Look, I made a promise to some Libyans about getting Benghazi into the Big Ten and they're gonna show up to kill me in like five minutes, you should probably just

TIM: yeah I'm going I'm going

[we skip ahead in the action]

[SCENE: Champaign, Illinois, fall 2002]

TIM: Wow, Illinois looks so different in 2002. I should check my GPS to see where I am.

[pulls iPhone from pocket]

ANGRY MOB: WHAT'S THAT

TIM: Uh, it's a smartphone

ANGRY MOB: WE DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT IS, LET'S KILL HIM

TIM: NO LOOK YOU CAN CHECK FACEBOOK ON IT

ANGRY MOB: WE'RE STILL ON MYSPACE

TIM: WELL NO WONDER YOU'RE ANGRY

ANGRY MOB: WE BET FACEBOOK IS TERRIBLE TOO

[we skip ahead again]

TIM: Doc, you've got to listen to me! I'm from the year 2015! I came here in a time machine you built! That bandage on your head! You fell off the podium in Dallas and when you woke up, you designed it!

JIM: Okay, if you're from the future, who's the coach of Iowa in 2015?

TIM: Kirk Ferentz.

JIM: Jeez, still? [low whistle] that program, man

[skipping ahead]

TIM: You told me the box needs 30 million viewers to work.

JIM: 30 mill- 30 MILLION VIEWERS? THIRTY MILLION VIEWERS? I'm sure you can just run any old Purdue game in 2015 and get thirty million viewers, but nowadays the only thing that can generate that is a Big Ten national champion, and that hasn't happened since 1970!

TIM: Well there was Michigan in 1997

JIM: WE BOTH KNOW THAT DOESN'T COUNT

TIM: Okay, but look at this - [pulls out crumpled copy of Miami Herald] "OHIO STATE WINS BULLSHIT TITLE ON BULLSHIT CALL"

JIM: They printed this in a newspaper?

TIM: well it WAS bullshit

[skipping ahead again] [this movie's seven hours long] [there's a 45-minute interview with Bobby Williams in the middle for no apparent reason]

[SCENE: The Enchantment Under .500 Classic, where it's been established that Illinois has to defeat Northwestern to win its 5th game, live up to mediocre preseason expectations, and avoid destroying the space-time continuum.  Tim has stepped in and is secretly relaying playcalls to Illinois coach Ron Turner]

MAN ON PAYPHONE: PAT! PAT! IT'S YOUR COUSIN MARVIN, MARVIN FITZGERALD. YOU KNOW THAT UNINSPIRED, INEFFECTIVE BRAND OF FOOTBALL YOU'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR? WELL LISTEN TO THIS

[skipping ahead]

[SCENE: back in 2015, Tim sees offensive coordinator Bill Cubit arrive to work]

TIM: Boy are you a sight for sore eyes

JIM: dude what

[Jim Delany appears in a flash of light, wearing futuristic clothing]

TIM: aw cripes this guy again

JIM: TIM. IT'S YOUR KIDS. WE'VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR KIDS

TIM: are they also mediocre at football

JIM: yeah pretty much get in the car

TIM: aren't we going to need more road?

JIM: where we're going, we don't need roads

TIM: [sighing] who else did you let in the Big Ten, Jim

JIM: well it's not NOT DeVry

[splash screen: TO BE CONTINUED]

(no, it won't be, though)