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IT’S SPRING RIVALRY WEEK

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WHAT DID YOU GET ME

[SCENE: the practice facilities of Minnesota Golden Gophers football]

DEFENSIVE END: Nice day today.

TACKLE: Beautiful. Hey, how’s your mom doing?

[a speck appears in the sky above them, and slowly grows larger]

DEFENSIVE END: She’s good, thanks for aski-

VOICE: [faintly at first, but then growing in volume] wooooooOOOOOOOO

TACKLE: You hear that?

DEFENSIVE END: [nodding] Yeah, hey, look, let’s step aside for a second.

[a refrigerator-sized metal capsule crashes into the middle of the field, leaving a large, smoking crater]

[a moment of stunned silence, then a man bursts out, clapping]

P.J. FLECK: WOOOOOOOOO How about that landing, gentlemen?! MAGNIFICENT. You remember when Red Bull had that guy parachute from space? I’ve got some terrific friends at Red Bull, ELITE ACQUAINTANCES, and I told them: hey - I LOVE SPACE. It’s terrific. All my favorite movies are set there. Star Trek. Star Wars. STARSHIP TROOPERS. [slapping ground with an oar] GRAVITY, STARRING THE TRANSCENDENT AMERICAN ACTRESS SANDRA BULLOCK. Space is terrific. I wanted to jump from space, too. But I don’t believe in parachutes. Slows you down. It’s like negativity. I want to hit the ground running. JUST LIKE WE’RE GOING TO HIT THE GROUND RUNNING IN OUR CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON. So I had them design this capsule. Just like Superman’s. His planet blew up, but he made lemonade from that lemon, gentlemen, and he harnessed the power of our awesome YELLOW SUN, just like we will [he’s been doing burpees for the last 30 seconds of this, by the way] WEEK ONE AGAINST THE SUNY-BUFFALO BULLS.

WIDE RECEIVER: That’s... that’s great, coach.

CENTER: Really great.

FLECK: Now, I know you think the season’s a long way off. It’s only spring. That’s negative thinking, gentlemen, and the only negatives I want to hear about are my own test results from the radioactive spider that bit me last week!

DEFENSIVE END: did he just say-

FLECK: Spring isn’t downtime! We’ve got something special. Something ELITE planned to get you gentlemen motivated this time of year.

TEAM CAPTAIN: That’s right, coach, the annual Spring Game is this Saturday, and-

FLECK: I HAVE ALREADY SIMULATED THAT GAME EIGHTEEN TIMES IN MY BACKYARD HOLODECK. WE WON SIXTEEN OF THEM. No, it’s something even better, something fantastic. Gentlemen, I was at Home Depot the other day. Fantastic place. Raw materials. Potential. [hitting ground with oar again] I CARVED THIS OAR MYSELF WITHOUT THE USE OF TOOLS. I was working a double-shift there last night, I do it for fun, they pay me in nails, and they’ve got this great thing. Spring Black Friday! I love Black Friday. It’s shopping, but there are winners! Marvelous. Well, we can apply that same logic here. The Wisconsin game is seven months away. Their time will come. [hitting baseballs into bleachers with the oar] NO MAN CAN KNOW THAT DAY OR HOUR. In the meantime, we’re going to develop some healthy SPRING RIVALRIES.

CENTER: That’s great, coach, so you want, like, offense vs. defense? Seniors vs. juniors? How should we split up?

FLECK: GENTLEMEN WE WILL NEVER SPLIT UP. We are one, living, breathing, indivisible organism, with lines of communication unseen to the human eye, just like how trees in a forest communicate through microscopic fungal root systems I READ A THING ON IT ONCE. [turns to assistant coach] I did your taxes just now. Saved you thousands. NO, we will remain one unit. Our rival... is spring itself.

QUARTERBACK: Wait, what?

FLECK: I want you to look at that tree over there. See it flowering? It’s an immense display of hubris. It’s trying to show you up. That tree is your enemy. All trees are now. With their magnificent trunks. Soaring branches. THEY WERE INSTRUMENTAL TO THE SUCCESS OF OUR HEROES IN THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

QUARTERBACK: So, hold on...

FLECK, rattled: Let’s try something different. [a goose flies overhead] THERE. You! [points at player] I’m sorry, I don’t know names yet. I will call you LORD MEGALODON, THE SCOURGE OF THE SEAS.

TONY: My name’s actually Tony.

FLECK: AGREE TO DISAGREE, Megalodon, what do you think of geese?

TONY: They’re fine. My mom’s got a concrete one on her porch. Dresses it up in funny outfits for different seasons.

FLECK, frustrated but also clearly pleased: THAT’S FANTASTIC, A BIRD MADE OF CONCRETE. THE NATURAL WORLD MADE INVINCIBLE, AND FUNNY OUTFITS TO BOOT. I have absolutely no quarrel with this. Let’s try again.

WIDE RECEIVER: What about bees? I got stung by a bee the other day.

FLECK: I wish that I could say anything bad here, but they’re fantastic. Pollinate crops. Marvelous. Make modern agriculture possible. INDUSTRIOUS. They’re dying at an alarming rate. I’VE BEEN WATCHING BEE MOVIE THE ENTIRE TIME WE’VE BEEN TALKING.

[the players all turn around, and it’s true, it’s been showing on the scoreboard]

CENTER: Coach, it sounds like it’s going to be hard for us to develop a spring rivalry when you’re this positive about everything. We appreciate the infusion of energy you’ve brought to our program at a time when we really needed it, but it just seems like you like everything about spring. I mean, what’s left, the Easter Bunny?

FLECK: What did you say?

CENTER: The Easter Bunny?

FLECK: My god. That’s it. He’s a mythological creature. Adored by children everywhere. Brings hope and joy and eggs filled with delicious treats. Gentlemen... we have to capture the hearts and minds of this region if we are going to fulfill our championship dreams. Who already has those hearts and minds? THE EASTER BUNNY. And we are going to upstage him at his own game. FORM TEAMS OF SIX, WE’RE HITTING EVERY HOUSE IN THE STATE. GRAB EVERY EGG YOU CAN FIND.

DEFENSIVE END: Why were there eggs already scattered here?

TACKLE: Do we still have a spring game Saturday, then, or?

FLECK: [is training wildlife to sing like a classic Disney film, except they’re learning the 2004 Killers album Hot Fuss] FROM THE TOP, I’M COMIN’ OUT OF MY CAGE AND I’VE BEEN DOIN’ JUST FINE GOTTA GOTTA BE DOWN YOU’RE OFF KEY, HEDGEHOG

CENTER: Gonna be a great season.