HAL MUMME SIGHTING! SCREEN! SCREEN!
New Mexico is home to Roswell, the alien sighting capital of the world. What better place to host a comeback for resident alien and onetime Kentucky coach Hal Mumme?
We love Hal, and evidently so does Fox Sports' Pete Fiutak, which puts him way up on the list of coaches who'll have the biggest impact in their first year.
We don't doubt this, since in his first year in Kentucky Hal embraced Kentucky's tradition of "football as freaky performance art" and took it to soaring new heights. We expect this of aliens, but Hal made leaving his homeworld worth it in ways that exceeded predecessor Bill Curry's attempts at running an option offense with Tim "The Flash" Couch.
(Seriously: we saw it in person, and Estelle Getty could give Couch a decent challenge at time it took to get around tackle. Estelle might give Tim a decent run on toughness, too, and that's no knock on Tim. She bossed Bea Arthur around, a man's man if we've ever seen one, and seemed to have Sylvester Stallone under control in Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. And in case you've avoided picturing Bea Arthur naked up to this point in life, you just imagined it. You're welcome.)
First, there's the matter of hair: Hal was going bald in a Benedictine tonsure kind of way, so rather than man up and shave it-the Jordan approach to avoiding questions of hair loss-he took the combover route.
No shame there: plenty of good men have embraced the combover, and some-Gene Keady-have created real art with theirs. The key is growing out one side and combing it over the other. Hal, who would set up triple screens if he could, insisted on innovating where no innovation was needed and grew both sides out. The result, as the picture clearly shows, was a man who looked like he has three midget hairpieces fighting for territory on a single head. Pair that with the wraparound Oakleys, and he went from being merely "silly-looking" to "hold my drink I'm going to piss myself" funny on game day.
The other reason we love Hal Mumme: he created the Cirque de Soleil of football offenses. Strategy and winning took a backseat to showmanship and flair, and as a huge fan of coaches playing like they're gambling with your wallet, we couldn't have loved him more. In his short but momentous tenure at Kentucky Mumme performed the following masterpieces:
1. Ensuring his team would give up long yards on special teams by punting out of bounds every single time their offense stalled. Shanked fifteen yard punts alternated with sixty yard returns, and the game resembled the old Sega "College Football National Championship" game where a single juke to the left sent the whole coverage team one way, leaving your teeny cursor of a guy free to eat a Hot Pocket while waltzing to a TD. But it's exciting!
2. Calling twenty screens a game. I've never seen anyone call the onslaught of screens Mumme called. Never. He would make Mike Leach blush with the number of screens he called.(Wait, strike that. Leach coached under Mumme. They're basically the same coach with different hair.) When they played Florida, Spurrier looked sensible next to Mumme's fiending for the screening, which made him seem...exciting! This sometimes resulted in twenty yard gains, but mostly dug them into second and longs they never dug out of, leading to the inevitable draw on third down, which leads us to...
3. Goin' for broke, Mumme-style! In case this sounds a lot like the way you call Madden or NCAA games when you're playing your brother-in-law...well, it is! Punting is for the weak, so no matter what the numbers on the sidelines say, go for it on fourth down. The fans love it when you do that. Makes 'em all excited. Or gives them strokes. Either way, it's exciting! Especially if you call a double reverse QB screen! Wouldn't it be fun if it worked! Of course it would!
Of course it usually didn't work, which is why Mumme pounded the SE Louisianas of the world while losing shootouts to Tennessee and Florida. The numbers looked great, but after a few years the artsy crowd at Lexington tired of the going-for-it from your own five and forced him out, though Mumme did complete the performance by leaving a mess of violations behind him to coach at...SE Lousiana.
This leads us to conclude only what we can from the evidence: Hal Mumme taught himself to coach from video games. The aforementioned evidence aside, remember who succeeded Tim Couch: Jared Lorenzen, the 280 lb. QB who resembled...wait...wait...the invincible mega-QB you could create in the "create-a-player" segment of many games, including NCAA2K. I laughed my ass off holding down the controller as my QB expanded to the size of a Kodiak bear and tossed passes like they were Tomahawk missiles. Evidently, so did Hal, which brought us the Round Mound of Touchdown, a.k.a. The Pillsbury Throwboy, who unfortunately could not unlock life's secret "cheat code" to get the 99 speed we always gave our Leviathan signal-caller.
(Nothing was more fun than running the shotgun QB option with that guy, by the way. Watching a 7 foot tall, 300 lb. computerized behemoth flatten a linebacker with the NCAA 2K "Jet Li boneshattering stiff arm" before outracing the corners to the endzone in a 72-0 game in the second quarter may have been one of the highlights of my early twenties. If translated to the real world, he could bench 800 lbs. and run a 3.9, the illegitimate spawn of Mike Vick and Larry Allen with the accuracy of Steve Young. He was Death Incarnate with a single-bar facemask. And yes, my marriage survived this.)
So here's to New Mexico State: vive la difference! And good luck cleaning up the mess you'll be left with when it's over. It will be a lot like Cirque de Soleil: a clown, people running everywhere, and some special effects. There won't be fire like Cirque, thought there will eventually be a fire-ing. And like going to Cirque de Soleil, you'll probably come out of there feeling slightly dazzled as well as slightly cheated.
Oh, and don't be surprised if Hal asks you to install jacks under the field to make it shake when the other team has the ball. It's a feature of the "Homefield Advantage" on NCAA 2005, and if he's still a console-playing guy, I bet Hal's already wondering how to make it all work.