Update: Our friends over at Wide Right & Natty Light have taken a stab at this endeavor too, and they swear they came up with the idea independently even though their post is a bit later than ours. Suuuuuure you did, Cyclones. Sure you did.
Cowritten with Shane Chriesman and Abram Orlansky.
I'm generally not a big dungeons and dragonballer. Let's just get that out of the way. But, some combination of incessant nagging and tepid curiosity led me to the world of HBO's Game of Thrones: a world of political intrigue, incestuous sex, gratuitous violence, and ego. A world in which both virtue and competence exist, but rarely coincide. So pretty much, Big 12 football. Also, there are dragons.
Summer has come, and we are too many days removed from sports that will matter again. And so, my sweet winter children, we BON authors have taken it upon ourselves to ask: Which Game of Thrones characters are the Big 12 teams?
I promise no spoilers from beyond what has been shown in the TV show. If you're not caught up, you have been warned.
Texas Tech: Rickon Stark
Texas Tech and Rickon are both little brothers, but not the little brother you care about. Yes, every now and then you get some dialogue from Rickon, just like Tech is good for a big upset every few years, but for the most part he just stays in the background and flies under the radar. The most notable thing about Rickon is that his Direwolf, Shaggydog, is incredibly wild, untamed, and unpredictable, much like Mike Leach during Tech's hey day. Texas Tech is working to achieve relevance with a recent high profile coaching hire in Kliff Kingsbury, and they're striving to improve themselves by leaps and bounds academically with a campaign to reach Tier 1 status. Unfortunately, just like Rickon has potential as a future important character, we'll have to wait and see if that potential ever comes to fruition. -- Shane
Kansas: Sansa Stark
Sansa is a hard-luck character in Thrones. In the first season, she is filled with hope for a future life as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, and these ambitions are tied to her arranged marriage to Prince Joffrey Baratheon. Soon after rising to a life of privilege in the Red Keep, though, she learns that Joffrey is actually a sadistic monster; she falls from grace quickly after her father is betrayed and beheaded; and she now finds herself in a loveless marriage to Tyrion Lannister, a couple of decades her senior and a couple of feet her shorter. Kansas thought it was joining the big time in college football not too long ago, when it won the Orange Bowl under Mark Mangino. But Mangino turned out to be a sadistic monster. After jettisoning him, Kansas' fall from grace has been fast and decisive. Its future is no longer that of the simple Northern girl destined to be queen of the realm, but to settle into an unhappy--albeit not abusive--relationship with a man she doesn't love, but doesn't hate either, and who might at least be able to give her a decided schematic advantage. -- Abram
Iowa State: Ned Stark
Look where Ames is. No really, look. Winter isn't coming in Ames; it has never left. Guarding the Southern Kingdoms against the hordes of the Big 10, Iowa State is Winterfell incarnate. Occasionally succeeding against the teams up North, Iowa State tends to run into trouble when it ventures South into King's Landing. Besides the geography, Iowa State just feels like a Stark. Similarly, Ned Stark is the honorable king of Winterfell, whose last foray into King's Landing leaves him missing a head. Iowa State, though coached by one of my favorites, is kind of boxed in by its own limitations -- geography and competition. But like Ned Stark of Winterfell, they are one of the good guys. -- Sumedh
Baylor: Theon Greyjoy
Oh, Theon. He spent most of his life a prisoner of his wards, The Starks of Winterfell. Then, through less than honorable means, he returned home to the Iron Islands, only to realize he was still loathed and disrespected by his father. In an overzealous attempt to win his father's favor and respect of the Iron Islanders, Theon foolishly attacked and sacked Winterfell when its defenses were down. This gave Theon a small window where his delusions of grandeur seemed to become reality. His reward for such hubris? Being mercilessly tortured for reasons unknown. Which brings us to Baylor. Baylor has spent the majority of its Big 12 life at the bottom of the barrel, and has long desired to be feared and respected by its conference brethren. Enter: RGIII. With this Heisman Trophy winner at the helm, Baylor was able to achieve on-the--field respect for the first time in its history. The run would prove to be short lived though, as Baylor has fallen back to form after the exit of their hero. While the fall from grace may not currently be at Theon levels, if history is any indicator, the SMU Mustangs may soon be receiving the most heartfelt gift ever: A Dick in a Box. -- Shane
Kansas State: Tyrion Lannister
About once a year, generally after an expected-but-devastating loss to KSU, I have an interaction with a Kansas State fan that goes something like:
KSUfan: Tough loss this year, you guys played a heck of a game.
Me (dejectedly): yeah.
KSUfan: Mack Brown is a heck of a coach you'll be back on top in no time.
Me (dejectedly): ok.
KSUfan: Oh yeah. And Case McCoy looked great too. That kid's going to be special one day.
Me: *blank stare*
It's at this point in the conversation where I cannot tell if I'm being made fun of or not. It is unpleasant. This surreal kind of feeling is exactly what players of other Big 12 teams -- teams who often boast faster, stronger, and more heralded players on their roster -- must feel after yet another loss to KSU. It's the same kind of surreal that Tyrion Lannister adds to the lives of the characters in Game of Thrones who consistently choose to underestimate the imp. His physical shortcomings are made up for with guile and wit, and he even exerts control on crazed tyrant
DeLoss Dodds Joffrey Baratheon. And then there's the whole Little Apple thing. Comparing Kansas State to Tyrion Lannister is to pay Kansas State a large compliment. Tyrion is eminently likeable and sympathetic, like most of KSU's fans. It make them all the harder to hate. -- Sumedh
Oklahoma: Cersei Lannister
Both are powerful, but neither of them are as powerful as they think they are. Cersei believes herself to be ruthless and cunning, and a major player in the game of thrones, but when the die is cast she bows down to whatever command her father Tywin orders. Similarly, Oklahoma has a storied history and is a major force in the game, but we learned from the realignment saga that OU will bow down to what Deloss Dodds says in the arena of conference direction. -- Shane
Oklahoma State: Sandor Clegane
Sandor Clegane, otherwise known as "The Hound," is powerful force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, but that prowess is overshadowed by his older brother, Gregor, a.k.a., "The Mountain." When the two were growing up Gregor held Sandor's head in a fire and watched with fervor as Sandor's face melted away. From that point forward, Sandor knew big brother was in charge, and The Hound still carries the scars of that encounter to this day. In the same vein, any Big 12 team would be foolish to write off The Fightin' Gundys come Saturday afternoon...except for big brother, OU, who boasts an 83-17-7 overall record against OSU in the Bedlam Series. The Cowboys can defeat any Big 12 school head to head any year, but when it comes to The Sooners, Okie Light just can't seem to get over the hump.
More importantly, The Hound is most definitely a man, albeit shy of 40. -- Shane
Texas Christian University: Petyr Baelish
He is not from a traditionally powerful house, but he has schemed (weaseled?) his way first to a position of extreme influence and now is beginning to accumulate power in his own right. He doesn't mind betraying anyone and everyone, including the ultimate betrayal of Ned Stark, in order to gain the favor of folks more powerful than those foolish enough to trust him. Now let's review how TCU made it back to the big leagues. Step one: bail on its minor conference for the Big East. Step two: use Big East as a stepping stone to take the place of one of the departing Big 12 schools, before even playing a game in the Big East.
Well played, Baelish. Well played. -- Abram
West Virginia: Mance Rayder
We don't actually meet Mance Rayder until the premiere of season three. Toward the end of season two, though, we hear tell of "The King Beyond the Wall," a man who has managed to bring together disparate tribes of wildlings far beyond the influence of the Seven Kingdoms. We learn early on that his ultimate goal is to bring his army over the Wall and launch an attack Westeros below it; a band of wild, backwoods people attempting to conquer a civilized and well-established society. As if this actually needs any explanation: West Virginia was among a group of schools being considered to join the Big 12 to bring the league back up to ten schools, but until it was official we didn't have a full picture of who they would be. Just introduced to the society within the last year, the Mountaineers are based far beyond the borders of Big 12 civilization, and they have visions of marauding their way to conference dominance. But, as with Mance Rayder, it is clear to all but the true believers that at present the Mountaineers lack the resources, ability, and training to actually pull off this quixotic feat. And besides which, skullet. -- Abram
Texas: Robert Baratheon
During Robert's Rebellion, Robert Baratheon was one of the fiercest fighters in all of Westeros, taking the Iron Throne by force from the Mad King and usurping power from House Targaryen which had ruled the Seven Kingdoms for ages. Unfortunately, prior to his death, King Robert was a shadow of his former self. He sat on the Iron Throne fat, drunk, lazy, and belligerent, arrogantly letting the Kingdom fall into ruin. Still, no one in the Seven Kingdoms would dare openly oppose his grace. When Texas entered the newly formed Big 12, it quickly unseated Nebraska as the rightful rulers of the conference, a feat Huskers still resent to this day. For most of its existence, Texas has ruled the Big 12 during an era of prosperity complete with 10 win seasons, top recruiting classes, BCS wins, and a National Championship. However, in its current state you would never know Texas once wielded its war hammer with such might. Just like Bobby B., Texas is presently a shell of its former glory, and though you would be hard pressed to find a conference member that would openly defy its authority, there is a feeling in the air that the reign is over as rival houses plot against the throne. Also, for those of you with an affinity for the old SWC, Robert Baratheon was killed by a pig which should please our friends in Arkansas. -- Shane
Dan Beebe: Hodor
To conclude, I'd like to paraphrase our beloved Ami Hooper, who in response to this post had this to say: "When will you boys put down your dolls and get back to football?". That Fall Saturday will be here soon enough. Until then, leave us to our dolls. Winter is coming.