Australia is home to vast, barren wastelands, countless creatures that will kill you more efficiently than any others on earth, and some of the craziest people on the planet. It’s basically like if Florida were one colossal and arid island. So it’s natural they love football. All the kinds. Soccer, rugby, Australian rules football, and now they’re the world’s punting powerhouse outside of the U.S. of A. The logical next step? Fly a struggling Mountain West team and a middling PAC-12 team down under and have them play the first college football game of 2016 six days before the “official” start of the season. The game is actually being played at 3 p.m. Saturday local time, which means it’s Friday night here in the States. HOW DOES THIS EVEN WORK? It’s 10,000 miles away from the ESPN studios. The only precedent for this is a pair of MWC/WAC matchups in Melbourne from the ‘80s that had pretty disappointing turnouts.
Enough of the past. This week we pull from the finest of Australian culture for inspiration, redemption, and not a little foreboding awe.
My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember a time of chaos... ruined dreams... this wasted land. But most of all, I remember The Road Warrior. The man we called "Spav." To understand who he was, you have to go back to another time... when Aggie football was powered by competent quarterbacks... and the desert sprouted great cities of pipe and steel. Gone now... swept away. For reasons long forgotten, two mighty warrior tribes went to war, and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without five star QB's they were nothing. They'd built a house of straw. The crootin' machines sputtered and stopped. Their leaders talked and talked and talked. But nothing could stem the avalanche. Their world crumbled. The message boards exploded. A whirlwind of looting, a firestorm of fear. Men began to feed on men. On the recruiting trail, it was a white line nightmare. Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage would survive. The gangs took over the highways, ready to wage war for a 3 star tight end. And in this maelstrom of decay, ordinary men were battered and smashed... men like Spav... the warrior Spav. In the roar of an engine, he lost everything... and became a shell of a man... a burnt-out, desolate man, a man haunted by the demons of his past, a man who wandered out into the wasteland. And it was here, in this blighted place, that he learned to live again.
Nothing quite symbolizes the combined post-Tedford and -June Jones eras for these two schools like a violent prisoner slicing off his own ears in order to be transferred into the crazy unit, but that’s where this forced metaphor converges: Australia. Chopper, the 2000 film that launched Eric Bana’s international career, is based on the true story of Mark Read, crazy even by Australian convict standards, a lifelong criminal who parlayed his notoriety into a sort of mainstream fame. Each of these two teams will be looking to do much the same: Cal, fresh off an Armed Forces Bowl victory, will be trying to replace a #1 draft pick at QB. Hawaii is coming off the rare 3-10 season that saw them beat Colorado at home, lose by only 38 to Ohio State on the road, win their third game, then reel off nine straight losses before finishing with a win over ULM. The offensive tools are there, but any semblance of certainty is not. This will be wide-open, sloppy, awkward, chaotic, beautiful football: the perfect appetizer a week ahead of one of the better Labor Day Weekend slates we’ve seen in years. Crack a Victoria Bitter open with your teeth and try not to pass out in a pool of your own blood before it’s over.
Traveling a real damn long way for a gimmick game from corporate zombies. I'm glad that there's football, but I'm still nervous, 'cause there's no Game Day to watch with breakfast.
And I said, "Why'd they play in a land down under? Where those in the know don't bet the under. Just another NCAA blunder. You'd better bet on the Bears to cover."
Running the spread with a man who hustles - he was six foot four and once had muscles. I said, "Is there home field advantage?" Sonny smiled and puked up a Vegemite sandwich.
And he said, "Let's play in a land down under! Where beer does flow and men chunder. Davis Webb will tear them asunder. You'd better bet that my Bears will cover."
Relying on a wheel route bomb play, Nick Rolovich is screwed on Friday. I said to the man, "Have you crossed the twenty? Because your O is running on empty."
And he said, "Why'd I play in the land down under? I hoped we'd win and steal their thunder. Now we're getting rolled and it's no wonder. Good thing I bet on the Bears to cover."
Sending two forgettable college football programs to a PENAL colony to play a game? That's a CAPITAL IDEA. Please tell me they traveled there via barges skippered by drunk, rich, British rulers (see: ESPN execs). I blame ourselves as Americans. Australians are our allies! They've given us delicate, lovely tarts in Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Portia de Rossi, Elle Macpherson, Isla Fisher, Margot Robbie, Keith Urban, and Heath Ledger. They've given us brawny, cantankerous drunks to do the heavy lifting in our action films such as Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Mel Gibson, and Iggy Azalea.
How do we repay them? We pull two hunks of rotted fig out of the college football compost heap and ship it Down Under. We should have shipped them Alabama and USC. The last time I saw such bawdy, wasteful work down under from overcompensating shorties I was watching Tom Cruise go french tickling on Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut.
Need story lines? Hawaii might drop their football program entirely at some point. Good message for croots! Evidently taking 10 hour flights to away games is deemed "wasteful" for a program that hemorrhages money. Oh, and Sonny Dykes has actively been trying to get fired at Cal. He belongs in Berkeley about as much as Bernie Sanders belongs in College Station. Can't wait for this game. OH - want to know how big this prison taint for expat blokes is? It takes 40 HOURS to drive from Sydney to Perth:
Dear college football, welcome back. We missed you so. And even though this ridiculous tease dances across our screen at nine on a Friday evening with no promise of Saturday action, well. We'll be there. You know we'll be there. And you LIKE it, you little minx.
As for the game, dear reader, I'd like to tell you that I've studied Cal's defense, or that I'm really confident in Hawaii's special teams, or hell, that I know more than one player on the entire two deep of both the teams combined.
But I don't.
What I do know is that Sonny Dykes lives in Berkeley, California. And if Big Spring can make it there, we can make it pretty much anywhere.
Here's a video of Colt Brennan nearly dying at the hands of the Georgia defense in the 2008 Sugar Bowl. Let the warmth wash over you like a Jacob Spavital throwback pass inside the opponent’s 10 yard line.
College football is back. And we are all complete.