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    That's our first reaction: Bret Bielema has no shame, or isn't smart, or is not a smart person who has no shame. There is a fourth option, of course: that Bret Bielema, flustered and cornered after a brazen attempt to add a rule slowing down offensive snaps, said something dumb.

    We all say dumb things, right? Particularly when you are losing an argument so badly, and have been caught so red-handed, so very defeated in our disingenuous reasoning, that we might reach for the argument of last resort, and instead pick up the name of a recently deceased Cal football player?

    You might not do that. Then again, you might, because maybe you're like most people. Most people suck at making arguments, which is why the people who can make them are paid to do so even when they're total horseshit, and swatted out of a decent conversation like a dizzied horsefly fresh off a toxic shitpile.

    That isn't Bret. That's not many football coaches, mind you, who are often the furthest thing from rhetoric coaches, barristers, lawyers, attorneys, semioticians, orators, or politicians. Most of them are just what you are, specialists raised to the level of generalist, barely holding on by their fingernails on the onrushing train they were just lucky enough to catch. It's not that Bret Bielema's in over his head here: most people in positions of power are this close to drowning, and just trying to keep it all above water and only half-flooded

    See? Doesn't that contextualize this, and make Bret Bielema seem a bit more relatable, nay even the tiniest bit sympathetic? That you should be forgiving of trespasses, and of the momentary slips of the tongue of a meathead working with tools he rarely handles like words, rules, and arguments? That you might acknowledge how repellent one comment can be, but also consider that in the end this might be an honest mistake by someone spinning their argument too quickly, and with no control whatsoever?

    And isn't that's a lot better than our first instinct, which is to think that this is Bret Bielema being a total piece of shit in service of a petty rule he's personally responsible for shoehorning into the rule book to favor his brand of football? And that he'd be all too happy to not just invoke a recent death that happened during conditioning drills, and not during a game? We don't want to think that about someone, because we'd like to assume there's no one that completely shameless in this world.

    We'd hope for better, particularly about a total stranger. That can't be Bret Bielema, who we'll grant a degree of non-judgment for the moment. Because someone who did that intentionally? That person would be a complete fucking reptile.

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    Prepare to be judged for your sports opinions, and possibly sent to SPORTSJAIL.

    We're tired of people saying you should or shouldn't storm the court. We're tired of DEBATE. A country is no better than its laws, and right now sports remains as rule-free as a Black Friday door-rush. You want to know why we have arguments about stupid things like court-storming, hitting people with baseballs, and running up the score? Because we don't have laws about these things, or the people who make them.

    We're gonna need some judges. Noted Internet jerks Jon Bois and Spencer Hall shall serve as these judges. In the comments, please ask a question about anything sports-related for which you desire a ruling. The ruling handed down shall be correct and absolute, and shall supersede all judicial rulings on a federal, state, or municipal level.


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  • 02/24/14--09:16: HOPE CHECK: FLORIDA FOOTBALL

    Date: February 24th, 2014

    Time: 11:46 a.m., EST

    Distance from loss to Georgia Southern, upon which all hope evaporated into an all-consuming miasma of catatonic absurdity: 93 days

    Hope status:

    There is a bald somewhere up in the east Tennessee mountains, a place where when I was young, I fell asleep beneath an old pine tree after a long hike. I don't remember how long the hike was: it could have been four miles, it could have been eight, because the young brain has no idea how far "far" really is. The older mind, weighed with experience and short on energy, has to know how far it's been, and how far it has to go, because it knows just how finite this all is.

    When you're young you just fall asleep, and wake up, and never question where you are, or what you have to do. I fell asleep under that tree, into one of those mile-deep slumbers you read about when other people write about what sleep is supposed to be like, a total death with the rebirth of waking. A sleep so deep I could have woken up with seaweed in my hair and a lanternfish in my pocket and thought, "yeah, that makes total sense." The kind of sleep when you wake up and feel wiped clean as a hard drive, and capable of anything--which is how I felt, standing on that hill, waking to the setting sun painting the hills of Tennessee carelessly with glorious, red-orange radiation.

    I thought about that, and then remembered this.


    Emotional Status: UTTERLY HOPELESS. Also that place in the mountains has burnt down like a thousand times, and that nap made me late for camp, and I got lost in the woods and cried because I was twelve, and a total fucking idiot who twisted my ankle on the way down to my horrible tent. I slept in my clothes and missed dinner. Fuck napping under trees, that's a great way to get Lyme Disease or robbed by possums.

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  • 02/24/14--13:29: IS COLLEGE FOOTBALL A JOB?

    If this is really a matter of a legal test, then the NCAA has already lost, but you knew that before you even started the discussion. If Kain Colter is asking a judge if college football is a job, then it's over, because money in exchange for effort is typically granted the designation of work, and then by extension the legal and economic notion of "employment." It's hard to get around that in the end, and that is why the NCAA will be a forgotten, unloved corpse in the great pauper's yard of bureaucratic history.

    But if he's asking you, the average human with a job, then we have a discussion on our hands. For instance, you probably want to know a few things about the position, and whether it is similar enough to yours to be considered a "job."

    Q: Does college football have sexual harassment in the workplace?



    Yes. Yes, it does.

    Q: Do managers often seem to make rash decisions with no basis in reality, and yet still survive, and sometimes even thrive?




    Q: Can the workplace become hostile?

    A: The 2013 Florida football team

    Q: Do people steal each other's food out of the break room fridge?

    A: Yes, and there is even a special day for it called "National Signing Day."

    Q:Are you forced to go to workplace events during the holidays when you'd rather do anything else?

    A: Yes.

    Q: Are there meaningless seminars?

    A: Yes.

    Q: Is nepotism an issue?

    A: Yes.

    Q: Are women underrepresented, and if so are they underpaid?

    A: There is literally only one major female figure in the sport of in college football, and she is chained and forced to run naked in front of hundreds of people before every game.

    Q: Does the workplace shirk safety standards and encourage workers not to report them?

    A: Yes.

    Q: Do you have to show up even if you don't want to?

    A: Yes, though technically every game Northwestern played in October was part of a volunteer scientific study. One day we'll conquer Minnesota-Iowa Wasting Syndrome.

    Q: What about that dude who just won't stop cropdusting the whole office even though everyone knows it's him?



    Q: Do child labor laws apply?

    A: Yes, much to Lane Kiffin's chagrin. Phife Dawg's unborn grandson is ready to start today, dammit!

    Concluded: It's a job.

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    Before we even start: we might have to do this with other states, so know that it's not just you, Arizona. It might even be the state where we live, Georgia, a state so fundamentally dull and stupid that we can't even come up with our own bad ideas anymore.

    No, we borrowed one from Arizona, where a bullshit bill cloaking anti-gay discrimination under the notion of religious liberty is currently a sitting duck for a veto by Governor Jan Brewer. It is likely to be vetoed, but just in case the state is insane and bigoted enough to pass the law, this puts us in a position we've never been in before: to make the choice not to go to a place to watch football because of the negligent and cowardly actions of its legislators, and NOT its otherwise pleasant and friendly football fans.

    That sucks, since we really want to go watch the September 25th UCLA/Arizona State game, and get some of the Tempe tailgating tacos we've heard so much about. We really want to do that, and to see what could be an early season shootout between two of the Pac-12's best teams. It would not be the fault of 99% of the people in that stadium, either, since they had nothing to do with it, and just want to play and/or watch good football.

    But if Arizona somehow passes this bill, we can't go, or put a dollar into the economy of the state willingly trampling some of its citizen's personhood in order to get the worst humans on the planet another term in the state legislature. That's just one person, though, and not a very important one in us, a lowly college football blogger.

    Take an entire network--a network like ESPN, one of the country's most gay-friendly employers, and the current overlord-in-charge of college football--and now you're talking something significant. If ESPN decided not to show games in Arizona, now you're talking about a proper kick to the goods. You want your beliefs respected, then fine: you have them, and ESPN will have theirs, since they have a long track record of believing that gay employees with live-in partners have a right to benefits just like any other couple.

    Oh, and you may want to pressure the Pac-12 Network on that, too, and see how far it gets you, since it's headquartered in San Francisco, and probably has a mighty solid corporate non-discrimination policy, too.

    And finally: if an SEC state is stupid enough to pass one of these in the interest of the lowest possible redefinition of religious tolerance, we'll boycott them, too, and that includes Florida. (Not that we really want to watch Florida play football much anyway these days.) And if ESPN has any backbone whatsoever, they'll do the same, because nothing would delight us more than watching the offices of the SEC squirm when the retrograde policies of its elected politicians start to kneecap all the football its fans could be watching on television. Mike Slive, crusader for gay rights! The image alone almost makes us want this to unfold. (Almost.)

    P.S. This is all political science fiction at this point. It'd be great it if stayed that way, because boycotting Georgia would mean moving from the spot where we're typing this, and moving sucks. It's almost as bad as having to believe things in the name of people you love and respect, and then having to apply it to your otherwise apolitical football life where you go to not discuss things as awful as politics.

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    Just look at that man.


    Damn right you bring him his memos to the poolside, son. And yeah, little Hammerfist Steerpuncher Johnson the 5th gets to read it with me, because he don't care about whether or not the Russkies are moving around some of their brokedick, can't-fly, rust-tampons of a nuclear missile force around Kazakhstan. No, Hammerfist ain't the baby, it's the damn dog, and he LOVES the pool, for what it's worth. Who's this baby? Why are babies just always rollin' up and wantin' to hang with ol' LBJ? I don't care if he's related or adorable, a vagrant is a vagrant. Call security, and tell 'em to bring more beer cause I can't drink the pool water and feel better about anything afterwards.

    Now, look at him and imagine telling that man he can't drink a tall boy of Pearl Beer in the confines of DKR. Just imagine trying to do that to that man. You don't have to, both because LBJ is really, really dead, and because Texas is clearing the glorious path to selling beer in the stadium, and then probably creating a series of beer-themed recreational features: the Shiner Bock log flume, the Lone Star Kids' Splash 'n Play area. It's freedom, dammit, the kind of freedom you celebrate by reading sensitive national security documents in your pool while holding a dog, or by buying the $100 barrel of beer we know they're going to sell somewhere in that stadium.

    Just try to stop 'em, you dumb son of a bitch, and see what happens next.*

    *What happens next is Texas A&M trying to compete by installing hard liquor misters all around the new stadium. We really, really want this all to come true except for the part where Lubbock gets around being a dry county by putting LSD in all the concessions. Which they may or may not already do. It's hard to tell, because Lubbock.

    CORRECTION: Lubbock is serving booze now, so thus everyone is twice as disoriented as before.

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    If you watched San Diego State play football last year, you may have noticed the punishing ball of knees and elbows that ran over, and over, and over again to close out games. That ball of malice was Adam Muema, a promising running back who was set to participate in the NFL combine this year until he arrived at the combine and left before running the 40 because God told him to leave, sit down, and "enjoy the peace." No one seems to know where he is, including his former coaches and friends.

    Muema's really religious--like, RT'ing crucifixion scenes kind of religious--but this goes well past your normal churchiness, and into the territory of possibly following guys who call themselves "Lord Ray-El" who believe that they are the Messiah reborn and returned to Earth. Lord Ray-El, for what it's worth, looks like Richard Karn portraying Jesus in an Easter play, and appears to be some dude from Chicago with terrible HTML skills.

    Muema also shared this without irony.

    We hope Muema--who is still AWOL, not just from the draft, but from his community--is alright, and not as crazy as this all sounds. We also think that if NFL combine is already somewhat farcical to you, you should consider this: while not a top-tier running back, Muema was projected to be a late round pick. If he's still drafted before Michael Sam, we be able to confirm our sneaking suspicions that the NFL believes someone who may be seriously mentally ill is less of a "team chemistry risk" than an openly gay player.

    P.S. Good morning, everything is weird.

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    Wednesday, seven of SB Nation's college football staffers held COACH DRAFT with three of the coaching experts from FootballScoop. Thursday, Spencer Hall and Celebrity Hot Tub of SB Nation and Every Day Should Be Saturday assembled to judge all 10 staffs. Let's go through each staff, one by one.

    Bill Connelly, SB Nation

    Gus Malzahn Head coach, offensive coordinator
    Kevin Wilson Quarterbacks
    Jeff Monken Running backs
    Doc Holliday Wide receivers
    Mike MacIntyre Co-offensive line, assistant head coach
    Rod Carey Co-offensive line
    Craig Bohl Defensive coordinator
    Kyle Whittingham Defensive line
    Bill Snyder Linebackers, special teams
    Bob Stoops Defensive backs
    Larry Coker Director of football operations, wise old sage
    Dan Mullen Strength
    Shane Patrick Graduate assistant, Springdale High School head coach
    Luther Campbell Graduate assistant, recruiting coordinator (duh)

    Spencer Hall: Well, of course Bill drafted a perfectly sensible staff. Nerd.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: What I like about Bill's team is that he built in a ton of cover for Malzahn if they struggle. Imagine the fans of this hypothetical program:

    Year 1: "FIRE COKER"

    Year 2: "FIRE MULLEN"


    And so on.

    Spencer Hall: Dan Mullen's going to be an awful strength coach, though. His voice is far too smooth, and he walks without a limp from what might be an old war injury or rodeo accident.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: Who's Uncle Luke going to get fired for some NCAA reasons? It's Bob Stoops, right?

    Spencer Hall: My main concern would be a Coker/Campbell cabal splitting the staff into open warfare, but Bill's a step ahead of us. No one's outscheming Bill Snyder.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: Bill Snyder will bury Doc Holliday, just like he did in 1887.

    Spencer Hall: I give this an A-, with minor concerns about chemistry and everybody being so smart they might not recruit as well as they could.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: I'm going to go slightly lower at B+, because I just remembered Luther Campbell and Kristi Malzahn are going to be at a cookout together.

    Spencer Hall: Lighter fluid is more dangerous than anyone ever realizes.

    Brian Floyd, SB Nation

    Mike Leach Head coach, sports information director
    Bob Stitt Offensive coordinator, innovator
    Bryan Harsin Quarterbacks
    Dana Holgorsen Running backs, refreshments
    Steve Sarkisian Inside receivers, recruiting coordinator, boating coordinator
    Tony Levine Outside receivers, special teams, assistant strength
    Bo Pelini Defensive coordinator, staff mediator
    Bret Bielema Defensive line, strength
    Todd Graham Linebackers, team communications
    Paul Petrino
    Hal Mumme Special assistant to the head coach
    Beau Baldwin Some offense stuff and getting defensive coaches drinks
    Joseph Smith Graduate assistant, defensive backs
    Jared Lorenzen Graduate assistant, read-option specialist

    Celebrity Hot Tub: A Dirty Dozen remake except everyone's Telly Savalas. Brian wants me to watch this team for the offense, but I'm paying attention for another reason: the sideline fights. Stop dangling your spit over Todd Graham's face, Bielema!

    Spencer Hall: This is the only coaching staff here I saw that made me immediately rank the order of their inevitable deaths-by-feudin'. Like the paintball episodes of Community, but with real guns.

    Bob Stitt just wanted to coach a little football and see his family. He didn't deserve this.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: It's also unrealistic to think you can get Lorenzen on board if he can't also play quarterback. And be a booster. And a state senator. And the mascot.

    Spencer Hall: Lorenzen, though I love him, goes first due to sheer target size; Harsin follows shortly afterwards. Graham and Petrino both follow their natural instincts and take to the ventilation system, where they take each other out chasing a stray nickel into a giant whirling fan. Dana lives for a while, because he falls asleep in a closet, but is picked off leaving his cover for Red Bull. Bielema, appalled by the pace of the game, refuses to run through a hail of gunfire and expires shortly thereafter. Pelini uses Smith and Baldwin as human shields to get to Bob Stitt and Paul Petrino, working in an uneasy alliance against Mumme and Leach. I don't know how the rest works out, but Steve Sarkisian ends up in a coffin meant for Lane Kiffin, and Hal Mumme reigns supreme.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: Correction: There's a reason he's named after the supercomputer from 2001 and an undead Egyptian king. My grade: D. Bob Stitt just wanted to coach a little football and see his family. He didn't deserve this.

    Spencer Hall: This is a dangerous, dysfunctional, and volatile mix of personalities. I give it an F for FIREBALL. Well-done, Brian.

    Bud Elliott, SB Nation

    Jimbo Fisher Head coach, offensive coordinator
    Jim McElwain Quarterbacks
    Scott Satterfield Running backs
    Dabo Swinney Wide receivers, recruiting coordinator
    Matt Rhule Tight ends
    Steve Addazio Offensive line
    Paul Rhoads Defensive coordinator
    Mike London Defensive tackles
    Ron Roberts Defensive ends
    Mike Riley Linebackers
    Paul Haynes Defensive backs
    Todd Berry Special teams
    Travis Trickett Offensive GA
    Joey Jones Recruiting GA

    Celebrity Hot Tub: BUD TIME! There's nothing more BUUUUUD than taking the head of your biggest conference threat and making him a position coach working under Jimbo. I'm just shocked Bud didn't also snag Will Muschamp as Vending Machine Supervisor.

    Spencer Hall: No, that's a good move. There's like a thousand ways you can break those, and Will Muschamp would show you all of them. There is not an uncreased, unironed khaki on this staff. Just look at all that properly worn khaki.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: I'm excited to see what Paul Rhoads can do in this position. If Bud's team can recruit as well as he's hoping, there's a possibility he'll turn this defensive coordinator job into a head coaching job. (At Iowa State. Destiny is not always a good thing, Paul Rhoads.)

    Spencer Hall: Time's a flat circle, Paul Rhoads, just like the state of Iowa. I give this staff a B, because it's built to recruit well, win a title every now and then, and lose to NC State on the road.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: I also give this staff a B, as [#FSUTwitter insists there's no way Jimbo could ever leave FSU for Bud's staff, even in a hypothetical, they'd pay him all the gold in Florida, which is hidden in the aquifer, by the molepeople]

    Doug Samuels, FootballScoop

    Chris Petersen Head coach
    Kliff Kingsbury Offensive coordinator, quarterbacks, head of coaching gear
    Dave Clawson Running backs
    Gary Pinkel Outside receivers
    Hugh Freeze Recruiting coordinator, inside receivers, head of video production
    Brian Polian Offensive line, assistant recruiting coordinator
    Derek Mason Defensive coordinator, defensive ends
    David Bailiff Defensive tackles, Texas recruiting coordinator
    Chuck Martin Linebackers
    Curtis Johnson Strength, NFL liaison
    Lance Leipold Offensive GA, tight ends
    Chris Klieman Defensive GA, defensive backs
    Bill Blankenship Special teams
    Dan Enos Because I had to have one Michigan State connection.

    Spencer Hall: Next! Doug Samuels.This is the one that's basically a roster of first names shaken loose from an English pub at 9:30. Oy, Derek! You puked on me curry! I've never been to England, and don't really want to go. That said, this is probably my favorite staff for diabolical scheming because of Mason, Petersen, and Kingsbury all on the whiteboard at once. Just leading the league in plays they didn't know were legal, for years running.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: Alternatively, Jonathan Crompton decides to pay a visit to his former offensive coordinator, and oh god all the coaches have boils, lock the doors and just set fire to the building. No, this is a good lineup. There's only one real flaw (not that Jonathan Crompton's epidemiology isn't real, mind you) I can find: I give it a month before the "well why the hell ain't Kliff the head ball coach; he's so dang good with the kids, and isn't Petersen 74 or something?" talk starts. Give 'em an A.

    Spencer Hall: You know what happens if you turn Kliff Kingsbury's collar upside down? You got yourself an A, long as you lay something stiff, solid and lifeless across it. Hey, THAT'S what Dan Enos is for!

    Jason Kirk, SB Nation

    Steve Mitchell, USA Today

    Steve Spurrier Head coach
    Mark Richt Offensive coordinator
    June Jones Quarterbacks
    Todd Monken Running backs
    Matt Wells Wide receivers
    Kirk Ferentz Offensive line
    Mark Dantonio Defensive coordinator, defensive backs
    Gary Andersen Defensive line, assistant special teams
    Bob Diaco Linebackers
    Scott Shafer Safeties, cold weather correspondent
    Tim Beckman Cornerbacks, strength, SHOUTING
    Terry Bowden Recruiting coordinator, special teams
    Rob Ambrose Passing game assistant
    Brian Bohannon Running game coordinator

    Spencer Hall: Jason Kirk's staff has asked its doctor about a host of medications advertised on broadcast television. If you assembled this much chill, late-middle-agedness in one room, a Cracker Barrel would spontaneously appear over them.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: But man, is this EVER Steve Spurrier's dream situation. Capable coordinators on offense and defense to minimize his workload. Bob Diaco to spot him in the gym. A Bowden to randomly prank. "Daggone, I just don't know who filled your car with corn cobs, Terry! Must'a thought you was a prize sow come straight from the fair."

    Spencer Hall: This is the staff I'd most like to see solving mysteries together.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: SPOILER: It's always Tim Beckman.

    Spencer Hall: Beckman has to turn in his badge and gun, like, weekly. To the actual cops, because the court order forbid him from having one in the first place, and FEMALE BODY INSPECTOR is still not an official law enforcement position despite years of t-shirt lobbying. I give this staff a D for Dad.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: I give it a C+, because you're still paying Kirk Ferentz his full salary. That's in the contract, and good luck arguing your way out of it. Kirk Ferentz sold Satan a used back massager for full price. Said it was "lived-in."

    Luke Zimmermann, SB Nation

    Kevin C. Cox, Getty

    Urban Meyer Head coach
    Mark Helfrich Offensive coordinator
    Troy Calhoun Quarterbacks
    Willie Taggart Running backs, Florida recruiting coordinator
    Darrell Hazell Wide receiver
    Paul Chryst Offensive line
    Charlie Strong Defensive coordinator
    Dan McCarney Defensive line, Ask-ask Dan McCarney (/Big Boi'd)
    Al Golden Linebackers, Enterprise Rent-A-Car
    Jerry Kill Defensive backs
    P. J. Fleck Director of player personnel, aquatics
    Kyle Flood Strength coach, absolutely nothing to do with recruiting
    Vince Kehres Graduate assistant, Ohio whisperer
    Dennis Franchione Graduate assistant, Newsletter editor

    Spencer Hall: Luke's staff. Hoooboy.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: Oh hey head coach Urban Meyer and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong hmm where have I seen that 41-14 41-14 41-14 41-14 41-14 41-14

    Spencer Hall: Figures closeted Browns fans looking for a team to root for would want NFL-style retreads. Also, there's no way in hell Paul Chryst is going to work with a spread offense without committing suicide on principle.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: Al Golden can help you with that.

    [hands Paul Chryst tie off neck]

    [tie spontaneously regenerates]

    Spencer Hall: I give this staff an A if they quarantine Helfrich. You have to take Dan Hawkins contamination seriously if you want a high grade here.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: My grade on Luke's: 41-14 HATER

    Matt Brown, SB Nation

    Nick Saban Head coach
    Mike Gundy Offensive coordinator
    Larry Fedora Quarterbacks, wide receivers
    Frank Solich Running backs
    Matt Campbell Offensive line
    Jeff Quinn Assistant offensive line
    Gary Patterson Defensive coordinator
    [Brady] Hoke Defensive line
    Rocky Long Linebackers, defensive line
    Bronco Mendenhall Defensive backs, assistant defensive coordinator
    Ruffin McNeil Defensive assistant, strength
    Craig Candeto Offensive GA
    Dave Doeren Defensive assistant
    Joe Moglia Defensive GA, booster

    Spencer Hall: Mine for Matt's staff is easy: no. F. Fail. Nein. No one likes Nick Saban football, not even Nick Saban.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: Bray Hoke: typo or revelation that donkey-men can gain employment and contribute to the community?

    Spencer Hall: Seriously, I'm done with Matt's. No one even wants to theoretically see that crap unless they can guarantee it's happening to Notre Dame.

    [All further discussion of Matt's draft is vetoed]

    Scott Roussel, FootballScoop

    Les Miles Head coach
    Art Briles Offensive coordinator, running backs
    Rich Rodriguez Co-offensive coordinator, quarterbacks
    Sonny Dykes Inside wide receivers
    Butch Jones Director of recruiting, senior advisor to the head coach
    Ken Niumatalolo Offensive line
    Pat Fitzgerald Defensive coordinator, inside linebackers
    Charlie Partridge Defensive line
    Tim DeRuyter Outside linebackers, safeties
    Bill Clark Cornerbacks
    Rick Stockstill Outside wide receivers
    Chris Hatcher Chief storyteller, assistant director of recruiting
    Brian Jenkins Director of player personnel
    Larry Blakeney Strength coach, senior associate head coach

    Celebrity Hot Tub: Scott's, then.

    Spencer Hall: I can't see the names on this list over the massive balls all over the place. This is what happens when you send a real alcoholic to the liquor store for a barbecue and they just come back with 10 bottles of Everclear.

    MILES AND BRILES, Tuesdays on TNT!

    Celebrity Hot Tub: One's a speed demon. The other thinks time is a joke. MILES AND BRILES, Tuesdays on TNT! I want this team to beat Matt's team by 30.

    Spencer Hall: In the first quarter. The real connoisseur's touch here is Chris Hatcher on storytelling, and Butch Jones for clock management. Part of organizational management is countering weaknesses, and Scott clearly understands that. There's even a translator for Les here! Throw in one for Briles, and you have a United Nations of testicular footballarity. A+, would actually pay to watch.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: Agreed. It's the Magic Mike of coaching staffs.

    Steven Godfrey, SB Nation

    Kim Klement, USA Today

    Kevin Sumlin Head coach
    James Franklin Offensive coordinator, quarterbacks
    Bobby Petrino
    Quarterbacks, chaplain
    Mark Hudspeth Wide receivers, Orgeron v.2
    Paul Johnson Offensive line, get off his lawn, calling the cops
    Jim Mora
    Defensive coordinator
    Randy Edsall Defensive backs, recruitnlolololol
    Tommy Tuberville [unknown]
    Skip Holtz Special teams
    Jeff Brohm Strength (Google "XFL Jeff Brohm")
    George O'Leary Grumpy
    Norm Chow why not
    Bob Davie Graduate assistant, color man
    Jackie Sherill Graduate assistant

    Spencer Hall: Godfrey's ... wait, I see an uncorrected typo. That says "Skip Holtz," and ... oh god he has Paul Johnson, and what are you even doing here Steven? I don't even know if George O'Leary can leave the state of Florida legally.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: [wakes up] I think Godfrey slipped Norm Chow in my drink.

    Spencer Hall: The only parts of this that aren't total nonsense are A) Sumlin possibly holding this together, and B) Tommy Tuberville having no fixed job description.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: And Bob Davie as "color man." Skin cancer is for real, kids.

    Spencer Hall: I give this staff an incomplete because Petrino will leave before they make a nameplate for his office.

    Celebrity Hot Tub: My grade:


    Zach Barnett, FootballScoop

    David Shaw Head coach
    David Cutcliffe Offensive coordinator, quarterbacks
    Willie Fritz Running backs
    Dino Babers Wide receivers
    Charlie Weis Tight ends, team psychologist
    Sean Kugler Offensive line
    Will Muschamp Defensive coordinator, linebackers
    Frank Beamer Defensive line, special teams
    Mark Stoops Defensive backs
    Brian Kelly Director of recruiting
    Trent Miles Strength
    Justin Fuente Offensive analyst
    Glenn Caruso Graduate assistant/Midwest recruiting director
    Pete Fredenburg Graduate assistant/Texas recruiting director

    Celebrity Hot Tub: Nobody on this staff knows what an emoji is. But yeah, this is the staff you want to get you to a really good bowl game. Note: I didn't say to WIN a really good bowl game. Grade: B, for BOTARKUS Y'ALL DONE FORGOT ABOUT HOUSTON NUTT.

    Spencer Hall: An Office Depot chair of a coaching staff. I know it works, and is a good deal, but man, there's just so much sad functionality here. The most puntworthy team on here. I give them a C for Citrus Bowl.

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  • 02/27/14--14:11: LET'S CUT A DEAL, SEC

    You can play music, because the band lost the battle against the DJ a long time ago when stadiums made speakers loud enough to strip the paint off Les Miles' hair and rattle the windows in the pressbox. (Hi, LSU, and your gigantic mindkilling subwoofers.)  The band is in second place, and that's less a matter of taste or the death of tradition than speakers simply being really, really loud things.

    That said, there must be rules, and reasonable ones at that. You can play almost anything you want, but there must be rules of engagement. You cannot play songs during plays, Auburn, not even the opening riff of "Welcome To the Jungle." (Which they do, all the time.) There should be a few other prohibitions, as well.


    Your state is such an officially miserable wild boar-ridden pine barren of human misery that the band called "Alabama" had to sing about Tennessee to make happy music. You don't get this song, but you also don't have to be Tennessee football because life is all about tradeoffs, and Alabama chose football over humanity a long time ago. (AND NEVER REGRETTED IT ROLL TIDE.)

    Tennessee: You don't get to play any Dolly. She would have won the division at least once in the last decade on sheer vivacity alone.


    Look, dammit. You don't ACTUALLY want Bobby Petrino back. Stop saying that or he'll show up. Stop it. Stop. STOP.


    Claiming things that don't belong to you is such an Alabama thing to do, so leave this alone. You have "All I Do Is Win," and eighty year olds throw up their hands and let them stay there, Auburn. Leave a song that is now three decades old (and more applicable to LSU, anyway) alone.

    Georgia: Well...

    Like it's appropriate in any way whatsoever.




    Because the part about a hopeless place is so accurate, and the part about finding love there so utterly misleading.


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    Inspired by Danger Guerrero's MS Paint Classic, and written with Captain Annoying.


    What can you "get started" for me today? How sure are you that you can really start anything in this life? Heraclitus said we could never step in the same river twice, but me, I think it's just the opposite — every river we step in's the same one we stepped in before. Every step we take is in a spot we've already walked. That latte he's making for the fella in the Cowboys hoodie over there? Already been made, poured and drank.

    We like to think of time as a straight line, but it's a circle, taking us back through the same events, feeding us the same script, moving along as we make the exact same mistakes. Including the one where I forget to ask for 2% milk in my caramel macchiatto 'cause I'm tryin' to cut out some fat and sugar . . . you know what, just gimme whole. Whatever I gain, lose, calories I burn or don't burn. Ain't a thing a one of us can do about it anyhow.


    No, I can't quiet them down. I can't fix the lean in the ceiling up there, either. You didn't notice it? You wouldn't have, but I see it. I see it all, because I have gift for noticing the things I shouldn't, the little tweaks and creaks in the warp and woof of the universe all too apparent to someone who understands---well, the one who doesn't see it as a story of a ship sinking.

    You see the Titanic as a tragedy. I see the kids throwing crackers over the seat and into your booth, and see the brown stains of a doomed waterpipe in the ceiling, and smell the stale booze and vomit on our server's breath and see the burst blood vessels in her eyes and know this: the iceberg always has the right of way. It's your fault for not seeing that, not mine. I understand what's going on here.

    That's my only consolation. Well, that and the fact my son just threw your phone on the floor while we were discussin' the universe and such. You might want to get a proper case for that next time, because the iceberg ain't the only one with a perfect record. Gravity's undefeated, too, particularly against phones made of glass and doomed tightrope walkers. I know the score, and Karl Wallenda and your phone are getting shut out in the fourth quarter.


    OK, now right here it says I'm bein' charged $150 for "underbody protection" . . . now you know I didn't ask for that. I look to you like the type of guy lookin' for "protection"? It ain't about me bein' tough, either, I know better'n to think I'm any tougher'n the next man. It's about bein' wise. Not even that, it's about bein' in tune with the universe, knowin' better than to think we can protect ourselves from anything.

    We're all gonna fall into that deep sleep eventually, aren't we? So are you sayin' I'm gonna be sittin' there, facin' the blackness, and I'm gonna be thinkin', "Well, I sure am glad I got that underbody protection"? Naww, man. Everyone's so anxious to "protect" themselves from one thing or another, only makes the end more terrifying when it comes. Me, I don't have any illusions. This car, that car, ain't gonna change what happens in the end.

    So with that in mind, ain't nothin' keepin' me from goin' cross town to the Chevy dealer, takin' advantage of that lease deal they got on the 2015 Silverados, is there? Yeah. Think about that next time you weave this fairytale 'bout how much "protection" you can offer someone. I would like the Sirius/XM satellite radio, though, 'f I can get that on there.


    Said you was lookin' for someone to give up their seat, take a later flight, all that? Yeah, I'll take that deal. Doesn't really matter when I get to Cincinnati anyways, not connectin' nowhere, nothin' that's a matter of life and death for me to be on time for. You see all these people runnin' around — "Oh, I gotta make my flight" or "Oh, why're we takin' off so late"? Wonder how many a them ever stopped to think about what it is they're goin' to. Business trip? Family vacation to Disneyland? More'n likely it ain't nothin' they're gonna remember after two weeks.

    Hell, the universe forgets it even before it happens. Yet we still want to hold on to all that, as if it makes us unique, makes us significant, allows us to rise above the muck and rabble of human existence. But whether I get on this plane or the next one — hell, whether I'm goin' to Cincinnati, Phoenix, Tokyo, it don't matter. It's all goin' to the same place, and by the time we get there, everything we've done is just so much scrap metal, waitin' to be melted down and fashioned into the same stuff as the cycle repeats itself.

    Anyway. Tell me again how much of a voucher y'all gonna give me.


    You ever think about what you're pushing against here? You picked up that bar naively thinking it was just a matter of simple physics. The earth, rotation, the tendency of things to fall toward the center. Four. Come on. Five.

    Wait, hold this one at the top.

    [/grabs a knife and a Muscle Milk bottle]

    [/starts carving up bottle]

    You can keep going. You're not lifting against weight. No, no, you're pressing up against existence. This universe, physically speaking, is a flat rubber sheet, and the Earth is just sitting in it like a bug caught in flypaper. All that weight, caught in dark matter no one understands, pressing in on itself. You might slip away from it for a second, a minute, or an hour, but it's all gotta come back down. The only heat in this whole cold cosmos comes from that hateful pressure, the weight of every human alive or dead, the Sphinx, the air itself. It all adds up. wanna go for ten? How much weight would keep you from getting it. I had a daughter once.

    [/places plastic outline of a little girl on his chest]

    She passed. She's part of the world's dumb weight now that keeps the fires in hell and beyond burning. I wonder if her ashes are the exact amount of weight you'd miss this last rep by. You might think a ghost has no mass, but you'd be wrong. You add up enough of them and it's enough to crush a man. No, I ain't taking that off your chest. I got too much weight to carry all by myself, much less to carry what you're too weak to bear on your own, brother.

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    What's happening in college football right now? This, a bunch of running, and sprinting, and more bounding and rolling and sprinting you couldn't ever dream of doing without feeling very, very bad immediately.

    Alabama strength coach Scott Cochran is fond of saying that the players he already sees are Bentleys, and that his job is just to put spinners on them. So if a football trainer is working with you, he's probably saying something like, "Well, here's this busted-ass 1995 Ford Explorer with a shredded engine manifold, a cracked axle, and stained cloth seats. It never should have happened in the first place. I mean you, here, trying to do things. See that thing they're doing with the tire, where they try to pull it out of each other's hands like to pit bulls fighting over the same mailman? Yeah, we could do that, but you'd tear a rotator cuff in the first ten seconds, because you're a 1995 Ford Explorer, and you aged out of high-speed quick twitch athletics somewhere...well, somewhere on the drawing pad your misbegotten shape was scrawled into the world on."

    The bad part is noticing all that, and the nice part is never, ever having to do mat drills. It's also pretty neat when you get to see concrete examples of just how utterly deviant some recruits' strength numbers really are---like, say, Nick Chubb, UGA running back commit who at 217 pounds of bodyweight just squatted 645 and benched 390. He'll probably get stronger and faster if he doesn't explode spontaneously just walking down the street from sheer overpowered horsepower first, and that's sort of the whole point of spring drills, lifting and conditioning for the fan: to see the thing already selected for being several standard deviations away from what we would consider fully normal, and see it turned into an even bigger, meaner beast than possibly imagined.

    To rephrase Cochran: it's not enough to see an F-22 buzz the house. No, you want them to do it with a neon kit on the bottom of the plane, and possibly with an extra afterburner kit installed just for the hell of it.*

    *This doesn't even include our favorite inevitable spring quote, the moment when a strength coach says something like "We got to 800 pounds on the squat, he did it easily, and we told him to stop because...[SPACE NOISES]"

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    The theme for every team in spring is being excited, mostly. There are a few other ones: getting deeper at every position, for instance, or maybe "running around and seeing what we've got." You might even "give the young guys a chance to show what they can do." But more than anything else, coaches entering spring are universally wallowing in a jacuzzi of sheer, unmitigated excitement.

    Who's excited today? Steve Addazio of Boston College, that's who.

    "We’re going to give the defense more conflict, make them defend the field more.’’ "I’m really excited about our class and I really feel like we filled some real needs," "Just a great group of guys. I really couldn’t be happier.’’

    In 337 words, Addazio used the word "excited" just twice for a cruising speed of 168.5 words per "excited." He also threw in a quality cliche there by mentioning an offense that would make defenses "defend the field more," code for "we lost our dominant running back, and will have to do something else, something that probably involves a LOT of bubble screens."

    One person who is not as excited: Dabo Swinney, who just had to suspend four players for violating team rules.*

    *WHY NOT FIVE, DABO? [/South Carolina fan holds up hand with outstretched fingersand beams with evil smile.]

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    Oh, offseason. You make us forget so many things: the joy of football, hope, the desire to live, and that once, on a dark day in 2011, Marquel Wade danced in the neighborhood the possibly dead body of Vanderbilt's Jonathan Krause. You can do a lot of things as a player to be remembered, but the one that always sticks with us is leveling another player in a hit so brazen and obviously forbidden by the rules that you're thrown not just out of the game, but out of society, off the planet, and possibly out of the solar system. No one can ever take that away from you, sir.

    So you should watch that and remember a few things: that Arkansas in 2011 was coached by Bobby Petrino, and blissfully unaware of the greased express slide into football hell it was about to jump down headfirst; that Vanderbilt didn't "almost win this game," but instead blew a 21-7 lead with a key Zach Stacy fumble as the killing blow; and that Marquel Wade did in fact freak out, sort of celebrate nearly decapitating someone on the football field, and get ejected in a call so easy even Marc Curles could make it. Oh, and remember who the other person really recruiting the hell out of Wade was: RON ZOOK, BABY.

    P.S. You might still be mad at Marquel Wade, too, but don't be. He's in jail right now, and jail sucks, Tina Fey. There's a deep sadness in the pit of our stomach right now, and it's probably because we just thought about Arkansas football before noon.

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    Hal, you don't know this. We respect you a lot, and recognize your status as one of the godfathers of modern football, but seriously you're not even an MD, PhD, oncologist, or even a physician. You might be a homeopath, Hal, but that's a cash-only business you provide for friends and locals only, and certainly isn't anything you'd want to get messed up with "stuff that requires licensing boards, the state, and liability."

    Now, we feel pretty secure saying there is little correlative strength in a link between cancer and football, and that any pairing of the two would shake out to total randomness relative to the general, non-football population. In fact, we'd go as far to saying that exposure to football viewing at any level is pretty risk-free in terms of cancer-causing stuff. However, we would go so far as to remind you of another public health problem: depression, a productivity-sapping disease we don't talk about enough.

    Football can be correlated to depression, per an influential study.

    This serious problem deserves further study, and address of the root causes behind it.

    This has been a public health PSA from Hal Mumme, and EDSBS.

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    The NCAA Rules Committee's proposed speed limit on hurry-up offenses isn't done for. It'll be back on the table next year, but without needing to lie about being a safety rule. So how will slow-down coaches try to sell it in 2015?

    .m-sbnation-gif-tournament-v img {
    max-width: 100%;

    SB Nation's GIF Tournament V

    Re: Arguments for slowing the game of football down/rhetoric

    Gentlemen, you lost. You lost the argument about football, and thus lost the possibility of getting your clock rule passed this year. It's a temporary loss that we here at Frank Puntz Communications are going to turn into an enduring victory in one simple step: by changing the conversation into one we can win.

    First, a question: Why do you keep harping on safety in sports?

    Unless children or celebrities are involved, no one cares about safety in sports. All the viewer cares about as far as safety goes is not watching someone die live. The concept of safety is an aspirational concept, not an operational concept -- you know, like frugality, fitness, or fidelity. People like it, but they don't want to live it.

    So if you want to sell something, it has to transcend aspiration. You have to tap into people's deepest desires. Bret Bielema's not far off when he calls his brand of football "normal American football," because deep down no one wants to be weird, and everyone wants their football to be theirs, and not Canada's or Russia's or China's. FYI: Russia's normal football involves Spartak fans. You don't want anything to do with normal Russian football.

    You do want something to do with messaging properly, advocates of slow football. First, you must never, ever call it "slow football." Slow is bad. It highlights one of the advantages no-huddle football fans have from the start: they are fast, and you are not.

    Fast is young, sexy, exciting, and vibrant. No-huddle football automatically turns the corner at 70 miles an hour with a barrel-sized energy drink in hand and a line of Adderall sliding around on the dash. Slow brings up the worst possible imagery for the listener. Slow football is your great-grandmother in a leather helmet, riding a giant turtle through a half-empty Jo-Ann Fabrics.

    You have a big challenge, but not an insurmountable one. You may even have an opportunity here. Take it away, horrendous Cadillac ad.

    You know what Cadillac's ad was supposed to do here. It was supposed to drive home the point that Americans work harder than anyone else on the planet, and that Cadillac is American, and that Cadillac, and American greatness, and look at those lazy foreigners taking a whole month off at once while we build hybrid Cadillacs. There is literally no French person with a pool like that, and if they do have one it is probably from money they made selling Liam Neeson's daughters into human trafficking, because wealthy Americans earned things while wealthy foreigners stole it all.

    That is not, in fact, what Cadillac's ad did. What this ad did was remind everyone that other people in comfortable, well-off countries work less, take more vacation time, and don't have Neal McDonough trudging through their houses telling them how great all that deprivation is because ... because of who?

    The man. That's who. He's the one who wants you to go faster for less pay. He's the one who wants you to only take off two weeks so he can get another fancy pool at his modular home filled with nice stuff you'll never have. He's the one who changes into his $3,000 suit and tells you lies about how we're going to go back to the moon and get that car, buddy.

    He's the one who wants you to hurry up even during the last vestige of recreation in America: football. The bridge too far is under your wheels, my countrymen. It was built by men who mock the huddle, the great congregation of the team. Remember the team? At least part of Michigan never forgot the power of working together, and taking a moment to communicate what was really important before doing the slow, deliberate work of moving the metaphorical ball down the field together. 

    Those men would want you to mock the care with which the bourbonieres of Kentucky age their fine liquor. They would scoff dismissively at the pioneers -- not because they basically stole whole swaths of the country from its rightful owners, no -- they would want you to laugh because they did it walking the Oregon Trail one step at a time, and not sprinting the whole way in their bear meat slippers.*

    The no-huddle, no-vacation, no-sleep, no-life gangs want to maximize your life.

    *I have no idea what people made shoes out of in the 19th century and neither do you.

    The no-huddle, no-vacation, no-sleep, no-life gangs want to maximize your life to its fullest by telling you the oldest lie of all: that life and football are one continuous action, and not a series of actions punctuated by rest, contemplation, planning, and that rarest element of all, empty space to think, breathe, and relax into at the end of the day. Life is not to be flash-fried; it should be slow-roasted with care, and shared with your loved ones when it's ready in full disregard of the ticking clock on the wall.

    You don't have to believe that, buddy. You and your fastball friends can go eat flash-fried food alone in your fast cars while you all jam the same highway looking for the quick score.

    The Craft Football Movement™ doesn't believe in rushing any of that. See how much better Craft Football™ sounds than "slow?" See how you've already changed the conversation you were losing into one you win? Craft Football™ is the kind of excellence we've forgotten, a pastoral legacy of care, time, and detail a lot of us lost somewhere on the rush towards that promised land of the endzone. It's attached to what your audience thinks it wants most: leisure, time, and the freedom to do one thing at a time.

    Suddenly you're not old football. You're Craft Football™, the real football, the one that made this country great, and the one people watch to get away from the pressure of constantly being told to go faster, put up more meaningless numbers, and still wind up losing in the end. You are the people's football, not the spreadsheet demanding more sales digits in the third quarter. You turned no-huddle football into a cellphone holster clipped to dad jeans, all with just a single word.

    Messaging guidelines going forward

    Use the following talking points and phrasing as often as possible when discussing Craft Football™:

    • "They call it the 'play" clock, not the 'work clock.'"
    • "We believe football players do enough running during the play."
    • "They have a word for the game our opponents want to play, and it's a four letter word where I come from: soccer."
    • "No huddle? More like all-muddle, [talk show host's name]"
    • "Haste makes waste and no crystal in the trophy case."
    • "Substitutes deserve respect in the classroom and on the field."
    • "Let's call the hurry-up no-huddle what it really is: a tax on togetherness."
    • "Numbers can say whatever you want them to. You see 58,008, but turn that calculator upside down and all I see 'boobs.' See what I mean?"

    And most importantly, let them know this: You're the football some never forgot. Oh, sure, even Oregon, the land of the pioneers, went to a fast-paced, mass-produced, non-organic huddle. But it's never too late to come back. You forgot your roots, Oregon, but the Prodigal Duck can always returneth.

    We'll all do it: you, me, Oregon, Baylor, Auburn, America.

    We'll all get back to a better and simpler time, and we'll do it just the way our forefathers did it: 40 precious seconds at a time.

    There's always next year, gentlemen, because bad rules don't die. They just keep getting rammed down the throat of committees until they have no choice but to be vomited into the rule book. It's not an attractive process, but that's democracy.

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    Spencer Hall interviews former SR-71 Blackbird pilot Rick McCrary about what it's like to fly the world's fastest plane. Spoiler: It's terrifying.

    SH: How did you end up flying that thing?

    RM: Well, I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a lot of luck involved. I entered the Air Force in 1970, and was accepted for pilot training. After I completed that, I was a pilot instructor for about five years in the T-38, the supersonic trainer the Air Force still uses to this day. Subsequent to that I flew the F/B-11, the Aardvark, up at Pease AFB, New Hampshire. Then I was actually on nuke alert up there when I got a phone call from a fella I flew T-38s with who asked if I was interested in "a new position." I was due to rotate, so I said sure.

    I was anticipating a desk job, which is just part of the rotation cycle as an Air Force officer. I can't say I was looking forward to it. He said that he'd been out with the SR-71 program, and that they were looking for a pilot. Of course, that was an easy answer. They said, "Well, why don't you come out and have a look," so when I got off alert that tour I flew out to Sacramento and drove up to Beale AFB to meet everyone.

    SH: So you couldn't even fly into the base?

    RM: No, only the planes stationed there could--the SR-71, the KC-135 refueling planes, etc. I got up there on a Saturday, and caught up with them a little bit, and then they said, "Well, let's go look at the bird." They were all in small hangars, all closed. We unlocked the back doors, turned on the lights, and I thought "Oh lord, there's a spaceship."

    SH: And that was the first time you saw it?

    RM: I'd never seen the airplane before, so it was just awe-inspiring. It's so unique compared to other aircraft, just that flat black plane. It really was a sight.

    SH: Are we in "breathtaking" territory here?

    RM: Yeah, it just took your breath away because it was so different looking. The shapes are very different depending on what perspective you have walking around the aircraft. But nowhere did it look like anything flying to this day.

    SH: What was its reputation among other pilots?

    RM: Very little was known about it by anyone else. It was still sight-sensitive. You could see it, but you couldn't walk up and touch it, or look at the cockpit, things like that. It was never out for public display. It would fly missions and always taxi right into the hangar. It flew sensitive reconnaissance missions, so very few people knew anything about it outside the community. I only knew what was in the public record, as well.

    To see the size of it was just...awesome. Until you see it, you really don't have a feel for how big it is for a fighter-type aircraft: 107 feet long is a big airplane. Because of the black color, it has this massive look to it, with those giant engines out there on the wing. Again, just an incredible sight, and unlike anything else I'd ever seen before. I was hooked at that point.

    Photo credit: WikiCommons

    I then met several of the other crew members, and that began a courtship, if you will. They had a very small crew force at the time, less than ten pilots and less than ten reconnaissance system operators (RSOs). At any time, about a third would be deployed, a third would be training or on vacation, and a third would be doing operations from their home base. Seldom did you have many people around.

    SH: Is that odd to have such a small crew? Out in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of high desert California, isolated from the rest of the world?

    RM: It truly was. The only other people there were like us: the U-2 people and their crews, our tanker crews, and us. It was a very self-contained operation with a small group of people who couldn't talk about what they did when they were away from there. There really was very little open information about it even in the Air Force at that time.

    We unlocked the back doors, turned on the lights, and I thought "Oh lord, there's a spaceship."

    You really had to get to know each other pretty well. It largely was a social check, a compatibility check to make sure that you could get along with the crew. You spent more time with your crew than you did with your family, since once you were training you'd spend fifty percent of your time on the road deployed on missions, and fifty percent you'd be home training locally. There were certifications and a lot of stuff, too, but the first visit was mostly to see if you got along with everyone.

    SH: Were they looking for a specific kind of person?

    RM: Yes but there were qualifications, first. You had to have flown two high-performance aircraft. You had to have had an in-air refueling background, and you had to have a perfect flight record without any medical issues at all. That all happened before you got there. But having a friend who had flown with you really helped, because only then did they make the call. They didn't use the normal personnel system. It was really a personal recommendation for a person who could pass the screens and the social check.

    After I passed the social check, it was about "are you serious about doing this," and that there was a lot of impact on the family. Believe it or not, it could also be a career limiting thing, because it broke your normal way up through the Air Force career system by not taking the desk job at that point.

    Once I saw the plane, though, I couldn't have cared less about that. I'd wanted to be a pilot since I was six years old, and to me this was as good as it was ever gonna get.


    SH: When you do that kind of training, they don't just throw you in the cockpit, right? How does that work?

    RM: You go back to your normal duty, then they set up an astronaut physical. That was an all day thing, with brain scans and treadmills and all that kind of stuff. They get recommendation letters from your bosses, all that. Then I went back for the formal interview, which included flying the T-38--which we flew as a kind of companion trainer, since the SR-71 was so expensive to operate.

    You got in the SR-71 simulators, which was your first real look at what the plane could do. They interviewed everyone you knew, and then six weeks later I got a call telling me I was accepted. Once we relocated out there, I started into an academic study to understand the airplane. They do that for any plane you fly, because you need to understand all the systems of the plane, all the performance characteristics, all of that so that if you ever have an emergency you know what to look for. There was a lot of study, including going down to Burbank to meet Kelly Johnson, the famous engineer who designed the aircraft, and Ben Rich, the chief designer of the inlet system--which is the real magic on the airplane.

    In that first six months of training, they had to break all your habits you had from your first ten years of flying.

    They crewed you up. There were two people to a plane: a pilot, and a reconnaissance systems operator. He had to have that same operating background that you did. (My backseater had flown F-4s and F-111s.) You were set for four years together, which is important because of the way the plane was. There were two seats, fore and aft, with no visibility between. There was a titanium bulkhead between you and the backseat.

    SH: Like, literally a wall?

    RM: Literally, a wall. You have no visual, so you have to communicate over the intercom. After a while, you learn to anticipate each other just from the tenor in the voice, that kind of thing. We had simulators all the time, we'd fly in the trainer just to learn to work with each other. We did six months of that until we got comfortable with the systems, and understood the basic airmanship of the aircraft.

    Then we did four flights with an instructor pilot. Normally you'd get quite a few more than that with any other airplane, but again, this was such a special machine, and cost so much to operate, that that's why they hired people who could transition into a plane quickly and who already knew how to refuel in mid-air.


    The trainer had two pilot stations, so the backseat occupant could see forward. It could be flown from the front seat, or from the backseat, but really the instructor was there to serve as a navigator and make sure everything was going okay. My first flight, I had the same instructor who'd taken me through the grueling simulator training, and there were no surprises. It was just like the simulator except for the raw experience of sitting inside an aircraft of that power and immensity. You had to get used to the spacesuit, too.

    SH: People forget you had to basically wear a space suit.

    RM: It was a Gemini suit, built for sitting. Very cumbersome. It was the same suit you'd see astronauts walking into the capsule in, except ours were gold.

    SH: How long did that take to put on?

    RM: We'd go in about four hours before flight. Each day they'd give you a mini-physical, since you couldn't fly in a space suit with a head cold or anything like that. We had a backup crew ready for each mission ready to substitute. You'd then go have a breakfast, what was termed a "high-protein, low-residue meal" of steak and eggs. You're gonna be trapped in that suit for six or eight hours, the low-residue part is pretty important.

    SH: This is the other really practical question here: it's a space suit, so you're diapered up, yes?

    RM: That was an option. You did have a tube on, what looked like a big condom. It had a nipple on the end of it, hooked up to a tube that led down to a bag with sponges in it. Those little hard sponges you see somewhere that when you put water on it, it expands to its real size? That's what was in these things. That's what you used for urination. The plan was to never use anything else. If you did, you just did.

    They did have a diaper for extremely long flights, but I don't remember anyone ever using it. For one thing, if you were not well you did not fly. Everyone trained hard, everyone was in great shape, you watched what you ate. You used that little bag, and that was quite a challenge. You had to get the differential pressure right or you'd be sitting in wet pants for the whole flight.

    Also, half the crew that suited you and de-suited you were female. You had a great working relationship with them. You just hated to come back it with poop in your pants. There's a lot of stuff in the job that isn't in the shiny brochure.

    All other planes have either a three minute limit, or five minute limit on full power, but you'd be going at full afterburner for an hour, hour and a half.

    SH: Going back to another detail: was there any other plane where you had to go back and meet the dude who made it? That seems unique to me.

    RM: It was very unique, but it was a very unique program and airplane. It stayed a very small community to the end, and that included the manufacturer, the operators, and the systems people. We had Lockheed technicians with us for every flight. If you had an issue, you could talk to them. There were small teams of people with you whenever you deployed overseas, and were always there for technical advice. It was a small club.

    SH: Your tech support for the Blackbird was 24/7, and always there, in other words?

    RM: Absolutely.

    SH: What was it like when you finally got to fly it for the first time?

    RM: You waddle out there in your spacesuit, carrying your little cooler because it gets quite hot in that spacesuit. You go out to a van with some La-Z-Boys in it, these big recliners, and they drive you out to the airplane. It's sitting there with all the cables hooked up to it, just like a space launch. It's outgassing stuff, people are checking it, and then people start unhooking it and leaving and then it's just you and the crew chief.

    You get into the seat, close the hatch, and you're in your cocoon. Startup was also a unique thing. It had this special fuel, because the temperatures during flight got up to over 600 degrees Fahrenheit when you're at speed. The worry is that normal fuel, which you want to explode quickly during flight and have a low flashpoint, wanted the exact opposite with the Blackbird. You're carrying so much fuel that the last thing you want to worry about is it self-igniting.

    SH: Because the whole plane itself is already well above that flashpoint, and the whole thing would explode, right?

    RM: Yup. That's gonna be a bad day.

    SH: This is kind of a theme with the Blackbird, right? That the physics you're normally working with are all totally different because of the speed?

    RM: Right. Everything is different. In that first six months of training, they had to break all your habits you had from your first ten years of flying. It's just different, and you can't react to things that would normally happen the way you would in other planes. It was a vector, not a line.

    They had this special chemical ignition they stored in a little fuel tank the size of a grapefruit that has this wicked chemical in it, triethylborane. It explodes when it comes into contact with oxygen. The way you get this engine going--because it was so massive-- was this special starting thing with two 454 cubic inch V8s and a gear drive that they would just jack up into the bottom of the airplane. And when you said go, they'd redline those Buicks and the big motor would start to turn over. You'd advance the throttle, give it the gas, and at a certain RPM you'd click the throttle over and it would let in this triethyborane that lit the fuel. It shot a big green flame out about 50 feet behind the airplane.

    SH: So if I'm understanding the whole startup process is kind of like this space age Model T, where you cranked it just to get the engine up to speed?

    RM: Yeah. It's just amazing, and points out a hallmark of the Skunk Works. Don't waste energy on something you have a solution for. You've got a lot of things to worry about already: how to keep the glass from melting at speed, how to keep the engines running at high speeds for long periods, how do you keep the fuel from exploding. If someone had a simple solution to something, then that's what they did. A very unique, very pragmatic approach. It was also part of the mystique of the thing, this fifty foot green flame shooting out from each engine on startup.

    When you took off you were the only thing moving on that base. It was so expensive to operate that they took no chances with it. You took off five minutes after the fuel tanker and half full on gas, and didn't even get to altitude before immediately refueling. You burned fuel at such a ferocious rate in that plane.

    SH: How fast were you burning through fuel?

    RM: You'd burn 80,000 pounds of fuel in about an hour and twenty minutes. That's a lot of gas. You're on the boom a lot, and that was why in-flight refueling experience was such a critical part of the screening process. You didn't have a lot of time to do it, and you had to get it right the first time. Three refuelings was common, but on longer missions you'd refuel six or eight times. Those were long days.

    You'd light up the afterburner right after that first refueling, and take it to full power for the next hour. That's pretty amazing, because no other plane can fly in full afterburner continuously. All other planes have either a three minute limit, or five minute limit on that, but you'd be going at full afterburner for an hour, hour and a half.

    SH: Oh my god.

    RM: It is an amazing machine. You start to climb up through Mach 1, and it's a big punch with a lot of air resistance. What we'd typically do is climb up, put the nose down just before Mach 1, and then lift back up and punch through it all the way to Mach 3.

    SH: And this whole time, the pilot just wasn't on the gas and stick: you were actually changing the shape of the engine itself in order to get more thrust out of the engine.

    There's a lot of stuff in the job that isn't in the shiny brochure.

    RM: That's right. Because the faster you went, the more ram thrust you got, which burns less fuel. So you did have to go faster to burn less fuel. Like I said, you had to unlearn everything you knew about other aircraft.

    SH: At that speed, things had to look so small, and pass by like stop signs, right?

    RM: It looked like a relief map you had in school. That's what earth looks like to you from up there, that's the perspective you had. It's gorgeous.

    SH: What was the most spectacular thing you passed?

    RM: There were a couple of times. One of the most amazing sights was flying out of England to the north of Russia to have a look at things up there. If you did that, it was a pretty long run. We'd refuel twice just to get up there. You would get a couple of sunsets and sunrises, because at those northern latitudes often you would see day to night, and then a terminator line, almost like a black velvet curtain where you can see how it's light on this side, and dark on the other side. It's the most amazing thing you can imagine to see that.


    Another one was at night. It's astonishing--you're above the haze, and in the atmosphere--how deep into space you can see from up there. There's all this meteor activity you never see on the ground. A lot of stuff's going on.

    We flew across a huge thunderstorm that covered half of Montana. Looking down into it from 75,000 feet and seeing lightning going for hundreds of miles across the top of this giant storm was just awe-inspiring. Sometimes it was hard to pull your attention back into the cockpit because it was just mesmerizing to see that stuff.

    Once we were coming down off the coast of California and letting down across San Francisco and hit this huge thunderstorm. We had to go down into it because we didn't have enough gas to go anywhere else. There was incredible turbulence as you penetrated the thunderstorm, and the aircraft is just bouncing viciously around. St. Elmo's Fire is just rolling across the canopy. It was kind of like the first scene in the original Alien. To get down, pop out the other side, and see our tanker waiting with gas was an incredible sight.

    Every flight had something like that to remember.

    It's astonishing--you're above the haze, and in the atmosphere--how deep into space you can see from up there. There's all this meteor activity you never see on the ground.

    SH: And part of the job is knowing your brain isn't prepared to handle that, and doing your job anyway.

    RM: Yes. Because when things go wrong at that speed, they go wrong in a hurry. You can't overreact. That was the whole point of our training, to weed that out, because everything's going so fast that if you overreact you could put yourself into a position you couldn't recover from.

    SH: And you're doing this for eight hours sometimes, which had to be mentally exhausting.

    RM: Oh, you were just drained when you were done, and you weren't done until you were done. Landing was a challenge, as well. You didn't have good visibility with a very small window, high angle of attack when landing, and then trying to get it down at a reasonable speed. That aircraft had big chines around the airplane that block out your view of the ground. You had to just look to the side and go by sight. Once it got to the ground, you popped the big chute, and that was the last thing you were looking for. Your crew buddies would meet you at the bottom of the ladder with a beer.

    SH: Beer for everybody afterwards?

    RM: Yup. Then you'd debrief for an hour or more, not just about the mission, but about the plane. You have to remember that these were all hand-built, so you had to go through things with the other pilots and engineers like "I had this happen, and it's not in the checklist." Then another pilot would say, "I saw something like that before," and go back and try to correlate it. You were all working on it together, and there were no secrets. You'd say "I screwed this up" to everyone in order to grow the knowledge base.

    SH: What was your schedule?

    RM: You'd deploy for six weeks, and then be home for six weeks. You'd go to Japan, then come home, then you'd go to England for six weeks, and back and forth. While deployed, you'd fly twice a week or once depending on where you were. At home, you'd fly once a month just for proficiency's sake. You'd fly the T-38 every day and go into the simulator three times a week. You didn't fly the SR often, though, because of the expense. Almost every flight was operational, which is unusual.

    SH: Other pilots who flew the SR-71 did not describe the plane as "fun." What was it like for you?

    RM: You had a feeling for the mass of the airplane, even when you were on the ground. During the climbout you could always really feel it, so it was a great pilot's airplane. It's got a stick in it, just like a fighter does. You were always sitting on the front edge of your seat, just waiting for the next surprise. You're maneuvering things, you're moving fuel around, you're doing everything to optimize it and get as much speed and fuel as you can. That's something you love to do as a pilot, to be able to counter something and move through it.

    Flying it when it was subsonic? It was actually a pretty honest airplane. You had a lot of power and light weight when you were low on fuel and ready to land. It was a thrill to fly. When you pushed those throttles up, it would just run away from you, and you had to stay in control. A good-handling jet. Like I said, it had limited visibility, but you could yank it, bank it, pull it around, and bring it in for a nice smooth landing.

    When you were supersonic, you were just in a vector sitting on the pointy edge of it trying to maintain control. It was solid, reliable, and we had a lot of confidence in it. You knew it was going to bring you back. I had a couple of fires, but I had a lot of respect for the engineers.

    SH: What was the diciest moment for you in the plane?

    RM: I had an incident heading north out of England. We had just had a refueling point off the coast of Norway, and it was in January so it was dark almost all day. I climbed up to 72,000 feet in our second climb and had an engine fire. We shut it down, turned around, and started dumping all that fuel for an emergency landing at our assigned spot in Norway. (We did all of this planning ahead of time for where we'd land in an emergency.)

    Well, they said that base was closed for weather. Now we had to scramble for another base. We found one that was close that turned out to be a snowpacked runway at night. We had a bit of anxiety going in there, as you could imagine. The airplane had never been landed under those conditions, but that was the case with a lot of things that happened to that airplane. We got it down and landed on the snow, and I had no idea how it would respond, but the chute slowed it down just fine and we pulled into the hangar. These Norwegian Air Force guys had basically seen a spaceship land in their field.

    The commanding officer came to us and asked "What do you need?" I told him, "A telephone and a beer." I called the embassy, we had to repair it at the field, and two days later it was back in England.

    These Norwegian Air Force guys had basically seen a spaceship land in their field.

    SH: But just so I didn't miss the most important point: you landed an SR-71 with one engine on snow safely.

    RM: Yeah.

    SH: Did you know when your last flight was happening?

    RM: The answer is kind of an interesting yes and no. There came the time to move on, and we had a good deal. We got to take it to the National Air Show in Washington, DC and put it on display there. That was going to be our last flight.

    As we took off from there and came back around for a pass, the right engine exploded. We had to dump gas, and set about thirteen acres of Maryland on fire as we did that. That was kind of interesting, just spewing flaming fuel and titanium pieces around.

    SH: This was rural Maryland, right?

    RM: No, no, actually we were pointed at the White House out of Andrews Air Force Base. It was funny listening back to the voice tape because I start by saying "Well, we'll go out over the bay here and dump this fuel." About thirty seconds later I say "Screw it" and just dump it. We defoliated southern Maryland, but we got it back on the ground, which was great. After all that happened, I absolutely remember shutting it down. My legs started shaking uncontrollably with the adrenaline from it all when I knew it was over with. My co-pilot never flew again, either.


    I had to have another qualification flight after the accident review as part of the process, though, so it turned out to not be my last flight

    SH: Would you say that you miss it?

    RM: No. It was special, but I knew the day I was done. I remember sitting in the La-Z-Boy in the van on the runway waiting to get in the plane and thinking, "I'm not as excited as I should be to be doing this." I flew the mission, went in, talked to the squadron commander, and then went to my staff job. I've never looked back.

    It was an honor and a privilege, and I loved being a pilot, but what's left after that? I was done.

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  • 03/10/14--10:38: BLAKE SIMS: IS HE SEC?

    We ask the simple question: is this thing SEC, or not? Our first subject is the likely starting quarterback at Alabama, senior Blake Sims.

    Position: quarterback. A ding on his resume before he even starts, since quarterbacks are easily the ninth or tenth most SEC position out of all eleven starting offensive positions. They're only saved from being last, since a quarterback could conceivably prove his value by handing the ball to a running back directly, or perhaps making a savvy read on an option. Wide receivers are the devil's prancing billy goats, and can only validate their existence momentarily by throwing themselves heroically into the knees of a defensive back.  -4000 SEC Points

    Does he talk? No, because he is at Alabama and is forbidden to speak, not just to reporters, but to anyone at all for his first two years on campus at least. This is really, really SEC of him, because talking is for ladies and effete Yankees who can't drive stick and napkin the grease off their pizza. +3,999 SEC Points

    Will he run the damn ball? He is "mobile," and can run, but know this: even when he is forced to run, he will feel bad and wrong about it because that is the proper thing to do. He may even tap his chest after a thirty yard scramble for TD and mouth "my bad" at the bench. Additionally, he will slide after a short, tasteful gain, and walk leisurely back to the huddle. All 40 seconds of the clock will be used, in accordance with common good taste and gentlemanly mores. -238 SEC Points

    Does this mean he likes passing the ball? Oh heavens, we hope not. Like most quarterbacks, he's just happy to be on the team, even if he has to play a thankless position that falls below punter in trustworthiness. No points because that's just the way things should be and you don't get credit for that.

    Is he going to celebrate, ever? No. He will hand the ball to the referee, proceed to the bench, and think about how they could have given the defense more time to rest. Handshakes and demure helmet pats ONLY. +200 SEC Points

    Can he stop shaming his parents and pick an honorable position like linebacker? No, sadly, and don't even say that shameful slander about the quarterback being the linebacker of the offense. That's Mike Shula talk. -500 SEC Points

    Does he have something on his iPod about sweet cold ones on the lake in the moon with the girl by the Southern Moonlight? Unknown.

    Has he ever defaulted on a truck loan? Not yet. It's in his daddy's name either way, or, in some cases, a booster who only goes by "Fat Lefty."

    Is he going to just take one play at a time and play a man's game every weekend in the nation's most physical football conference? You bet your ass he will. +500 SEC Points

    Is he too full of Bama? By definition he can't be, because there ain't no such thing. He is from Georgia, however, so the watch for a sleeper cell quarterback can't ever be too vigilant. (See "Operation Muschamp," UGA's successful plan to kneecap the Florida program from the inside.) Points undetermined.

    Will he kick a winning field goal to beat Auburn? Given the track record of Alabama kickers recently? This is is not only entirely possible, but perhaps advisable. He'd be happier, too, since he'd finally be playing something like a real man's football position. +40 SEC Points

    SUM SEC-NESS: One point of SEC-ness, putting him on the positive side...for the moment.

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    That's the point of Cosmos: you are tiny, nothing lasts forever, and you should be in awe of humanity's presence on the planet only occupying a sliver of a second of the final minute of the astronomical/historical year of the universe. It's also about how Neil deGrasse Tyson has a time-traveling immortal spaceship that looks like the world's coolest shoehorn, and how you don't, and that's what you get for not being in Carl Sagan's weed-and-Pink-Floyd listening circles at Ithaca.

    [/Tyson leaves you freezing and asphyxiating on one of Saturn's rings, laughs]

    So if humanity has to have a resource-swallowing extinction event, please let it be Texas and Texas A&M upping the ante on each other's stadia until, like gaudy concrete tumors, they swallow the entirety of their host cities of Austin and College Station. If I-35 is in the way of expanding DKR to 200,000 people, then YOU LET I-35 RUN THROUGH THE AISLES OF SECTION 700 AND CALL IT AWESOME. Knock down a hospital if you need to. It's Texas. There's room to build another one, like over there, for example.

    The 500 foot Manziel statue may seem excessive at first, but wait until the Vince Young Colossus blocks out the sun and makes rickets a reality for many in East Austin. It'll make that little jackass look like a damn toothpick in cleats. Moving Lady Bird Lake into the third deck of the stadium won't be easy, but when the Aggies turn the entire second mezzanine into the world's largest wood-fueled barbecue smoker, well, one has to respond. One simply MUST.

    And it'll end with fighting, famine, starvation, and other Cormac McCarthy turn-ons, but it beats the alternatives. When the last man lies gasping on the ruins of it all, and alien real estate surveyors walk up and ask him "What was this?", one can only hope he answers with his last words: "It was...AWESOME." Then the aliens will high-five Neil deGrasse Tyson, and get off in that weird clippy spaceship listening to Flaming Lips.*

    *The actual band, because there is no way Wayne Coyne isn't getting off this planet on the first ship available.

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    We really do have an old stack of photos someone rescued from a trash bin for us--mostly old AP photos, some old Hollywood promo photos, and random NASA ones. When we get bored, we scan a few and share them, like this photo of Bob Devaney and Bear Bryant switching hats at the 1966 Orange Bowl dinner, and then demanding more bourbon and sliced meat be delivered to their table.

    That fedora is not the dreaded baby fedora, either. That's just what a normal-sized hat looked like on Bob's extremely large head. Alabama won the game 39-28, a score people only cared about in theory because bowl games used to not matter at all, and were merely an excuse for everyone to go someplace warm and screw around on someone else's dime. You could even get drunk with the other coach, and wear his hat in a goofy photo without someone getting all up your ass about not maintaining focus, and maybe drunkenly burying the front end of your rental Caddy twenty feet into the side of a South Beach oyster bar.

    P.S. That's not a euphemism, because we are certain some coach did this.

    P.P.S.That coach was probably Bear, and he probably made friends for life with everyone in the bar after an exchange of cash and several rounds of drinks purchased for the house.

    P.P.P.S. These two really needed to play against each other more often.

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