In preparation for this weekend's game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, I wanted to get the inside scoop on how the Gophers work and what the Illini would need to do to win Saturday's game. I reached out to an expert through a friend and asked to speak with him about it. Without hesitation, my offer was accepted and we arranged a time to meet and talk with an expert on all things Gophers, Carl Spackler.
This afternoon, I made my way over to Bushwood Country Club to meet with Carl. His barn smelled of freshly cut grass and fertilizer. I knew he was taking time out of his day to meet and talk with me so I decided to set up in his "living room." I found it quite odd that his coffee table was topped with what looked to be a new type of grass, and I figured it was an experimental surface for the putting greens.
Just as I started to examine this odd grass combination, Carl walked in...
Carl Spackler: You know, that's a hybrid I've been developing.
TCR: Really!? It has a really interesting texture and smells kind of funny. What is it exactly?
CS: This is a cross of uh...Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia. The amazing stuff about this, is that you can play 36 holes on it in the afternoon, then take it home and just get stoned to the bejeezus-belt on this stuff.
TCR: Well, I appreciate the offer Carl but we'd probably only use it for golf if anything.
CS: Well it's your loss pal, cause I'm sitting on pounds of this stuff.
TCR: Good to know! So I wanted to ask you a few questions about the Gophers.
CS: Those little varmints...I hate those things like you wouldn't believe.
TCR: Oh as a greenskeeper I can only imagine! How does one go about learning how to deal with the Gophers?
CS: Like any good greenskeeper knows, you need to get yourself a license. A license to kill gophers by the government of the United Nations. Man, free to kill gophers at will. To kill, you must know your enemy, and in this case my enemy is a varmint. And a varmint will never quit - ever. They're like the Viet Cong - Varmint Cong. So you have to fall back on superior intelligence and superior firepower. And that's all she wrote.
TCR: That's great! Do you need experience or a reference to handle opponents like that?
CS: Well don't go bragging about this or nothin'...but I did get to work with the Dalai Lama himself once.
TCR: That's quite fascinating, but I don't think he's going to know how to beat the Goph...
CS: Oh yeah twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald... striking. So, I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one.
TCR: Big hitter, isn't he?
CS: Big hitter, the Lama - long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says?
TCR: I think I have a good guess...
CS: Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-lagunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."
TCR: Wow, that's really a nice thing to have in the future.
CS: So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.
TCR: Okay, so back to Minnesota...How are the Illini going to know what to do to stop the Gophers?
CS: Well see your enemy, your foe, is an animal. In order to conquer the animal, you have to learn to think like an animal. And, whenever possible, to look like one. You've gotta get inside this guy's pelt and crawl around for a few days.
TCR: Key insight. Since our head coach is probably looking "outside-in" on his job status at Illinois right now, how would you describe him winning the last 5 games of the season?
CS: Oh without a doubt it'd be a Cinderella Story...outta nowhere for sure.
TCR: Couldn't have said it better myself Carl.
CS: Hey before you wrap this up, I've got a question to ask you...
TCR: Go ahead Carl, ask anything you want!
CS: Well, you see I might swing by for the game and I was wondering...do you guys have a pool over there I could use?
TCR: Well our rec center has a pool, but we've also got a creek called the boneyard! I think that would be good for you.
CS: Hey that's great you know...really appreciate the help.
TCR: Not a problem! We really appreciate you talking time to talk!
CS: No I mean it, if you need anything else just let me know. You know, like we're buddies for life now.
TCR: Last question before I leave...what do you think Coach Beckman should say to his team before the game?
CS: I smell varmint poontang. And the only good varmint poontang is dead varmint poontang, I think. And in the immortal words of Jean Paul Sartre, 'Au revoir, gopher'.