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ERASE THIS GAME: MISSOURI 42, FLORIDA 13

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AN EXCHANGE OF LETTERS THROUGH TIME AND SPACE AND EMOTION

Rob Foldy/Getty Images

Dear Spencer,

I am writing to you from August 2015, a world in which Florida is still paying Will Muschamp to work in the SEC and Jeff Driskel is still an FBS starter. In this time, you and I continue to have a reputation as two of the most pessimistic, self-loathing Gator fans around (a distinction we can revisit in a bit), likely a deserved label, as I've just finished watching the entirety of the 2014 Florida-Missouri game. I did so knowing the outcome and having been warned on several occasions that I wouldn't enjoy the experience. You went to this game in person without either of those benefits. My first question is simple: why?

- Ryan

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Dear Ryan,

The word "why" in Spanish translates to something fascinating for me: For what? It implies that in any moment in life, you're in service of some purpose, or at least slave to some impulse that you, the hapless pilot, must follow. It's a naive word, because it assumes purpose. 95% of life is done without intentional, well-designed purpose. This makes life a lot like Will Muschamp football. I guess there was no purpose to going to Mizzou/Florida, at least one you'd admit to past morbid curiosity. It was like being asked if you want to see a dead body. You don't want to say yes, but there you are, walking toward it nonetheless. Your feet answer before your mouth do, and that's mostly how I ended up at the game. In short: I thought I might see Florida football die, and that seemed like something I should see, but I was wrong. Florida football was already dead by that point. This was the Weekend at Bernies edition of Florida football, propped up with sunglasses on at the helm of the boat and only waving to bystanders when a friend pulled its arm up and flapped it around a bit.

- Spencer

P.S. Like that movie, it was funnier than it had any right to be.

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Dear Spencer,

My preferred image of Will Muschamp football is as a long dead knight, sprawled in some forgotten forest and decomposing in a suit of armor. This brave fool was not nimble enough to move efficiently in his heavy steel, nor strong enough to lift a sword. But, much like this Florida team, Sir Threeandout could blunt almost every one of your attacks; as awful and lifeless as the Gators looked on offense, Maty Mauk -- 6/18, 20 yds, 1 interception -- looked equally inept.

Admittedly, it didn't mean much in the end. The knight's armor wasn't absolutely impenetrable, and his only form of attack would have been to fall on his opponent and crush him. (I think that would have been a pick six, or several of them.) And then there's the other thing working against Sir Threeandout, the plague destroying his body from the inside: special teams.

- Ryan

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Dear Ryan,

There are unscientific things I believe in despite all evidence and one is that you get the first play of the game you deserve. I respected this game for its immediate, clear signal that Will Muschamp would fail in new, thrilling ways, ways unforeseen to even the burned retinas of people who'd wasted hours watching his shit product on the field. It felt like something solid you could touch in the stadium. An invisible rock you could grab, the tangible sense of incompetence. Like a Florida version of Howard's Rock, which we could all slap on the way down the hill before tumbling into a rocky, spike-strewn pit. You think of Muschamp as a knight. I think of him as a great stone mason, but a horrible architect whose built deathtrap houses that fell in and killed every last person in them.

By the way, when that kick return happened I guffawed and realized that I was the only person who thought this was funny. You think you're normal and thinking things that everyone thinks, and then you go to Florida Field and sit behind someone who honestly still believed there was hope. This only made me laugh harder. I think a few years ago I would have been more polite, but I nearly got into a fight with the dude in front of me by going "REALLY?" when he said "Come on, Will, you got this?" I should leave the house more often.

- Spencer

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Dear Spencer,

That's probably at the heart of why some Florida fans are pissed at us; we don't root for good things to happen to the team no matter what. It comes off as petty and spiteful, but I've always thought of it as...clinical, maybe. We have tested this football strategy on 200 rabbits. All 200 have died. If I'm not rooting for it to work on test rabbit 201, it's because I want the tests to end.

Speaking of innocents sacrificed in the name of failed science, let's talk about Jeff Driskel in this game. Two moments stand out in particular. The first is this sack:

Four offensive linemen watched three defenders pile themselves on top of Jeff Driskel's body. Driskel was helped off the field and went straight to the locker room, and then came back out to start the third quarter. This is a familiar sports trope; QB gets hurt, QB picks himself up bravely, and QB heads back into the game.

This, however, is different.

Sacked Jeff Driskel knows the deal. The deal sucks, admittedly, but it's logically consistent. Sidelined Jeff Driskel watching Treon Harris throw off his back foot to an area where there are four defenders and somehow wind up with a touchdown?

Hell, even he thinks this shit is funny.

- Ryan

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Dear Ryan,

You have to appreciate the game's scripting. Even the desperate, shutout-breaking TD was an accident.

And a bitter cosmic comment on Driskel's entire career. You spend the better part of three quarters disintegrating in front of a horrified audience, and your replacement comes in, makes the most irresponsible game decision imaginable, and gets a TD.

If Driskel threw that ball he would have broken his femur and then been run over by two Mizzou defenders on the way to a 103 yard INT return. And then a Russian satellite would have fallen on him.

Ryan, you should just know this: Driskel re-entered the game after his fumble for a TD, and I told my brother-in-law "He's gonna throw a pick six on this series." It was like watching a giant thunderhead creep into the picture and saying, "well, it's gonna rain." It was an absolute certainty. I've never seen visible waves of pure fear coming off a player before. He was glowing.

- Spencer

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Dear Spencer,

Watching this game eliminated any lingering bad feelings I had about Jeff Driskel. Gainesville had become the haunted mansion you have to sleep in for an entire college career in order to inherit your weird uncle's fortune. Driskel did the smart thing and bailed. It's better to live in Ruston than die in Central Florida.

The final score of this game was 42-13. In some ways, that's fitting - when your opponent scores on a kick return, a punt return, an interception return, and a fumble return, 29 points is an almost merciful deficit. In others, it's misleading.

The best thing you could say about the Missouri offense was that they made no horrific mistakes and took some advantage of swings in their favor.

- Ryan

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Dear Ryan,

I don't remember much about the fourth quarter. The word funereal sort of comes to mind, but in actuality the stadium emptied out pretty well toward the end. That's why it wasn't funereal. There are people at funerals.

It felt like watching a high school jamboree. These were the third-place teams playing, and most of the other fans there were waiting for something else.

- Spencer

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Dear Spencer,

One last question: if the Florida you watched was already dead, who beat Georgia two weeks later?

- Ryan

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Dear Ryan,

Answer: IT NEVER HAPPENED [whoooooooooooooosh]

- Spencer