Sparky Sun Devil and Wilbur Wildcat sit down in a booth at the Toltec cafe and order a couple of sarsaparillas.
“Hey, who's the new guy behind the bar?" Sparky says.
"Ah, he's just renting the place until the owner gets back," Wilbur replies.
"It's too bad Bob can't be here," Sparky says. "Nobody enjoys this week more than he does. That's why we call him ‘Coach Moran.’ He knows more about ASU and Arizona than the coaches do."
Wilbur takes a sip of his drink.
"So how's he doing?"
"He's hanging in there," Sparky says. "It hasn't been easy. But I'll tell you what, start talking college football with him, and he's as loud and as opinionated as ever."
"I don't know if I've ever met anybody who loves the sport more than he does," Wilbur says. "I remember one year, we were driving down I-10 and he popped in a radio broadcast of Billy Cannon's punt return for LSU against Alabama in 1959."
"Yeah, I heard that one, too," Sparky says. "I'll tell you a story. Usually, after a road game, writers will go out to dinner. But not Coach. He grabs some McDonald's and heads back to his hotel room so he can watch another game. "I guarantee you'll he'll be in front of the TV for our game today. I just wish he was in the press box with the rest of the guys, though."
"Boy, you guys have really had a tough year," Wilbur says. "What's gone wrong?"
"It all started with the Sam Keller-Rudy Carpenter fiasco," Sparky says. "A lot of the players preferred Rudy, but there were some guys in the locker room who were friends with Sam. Once we started to struggle, I think those players lost faith in Dirk."
"Is he going to survive?" Wilbur asks.
"Man, nobody knows," says an exasperated Sparky. "And I'm tired of talking about it. Can't we just focus on the game?"
"I'm surprised you want to do that," Wilbur says. "We would have beaten you last year if Mike Bell and Willie Tuitama hadn't gotten hurt. What chance do you think you have now? I mean, your most impressive victory this year is over Nevada."
"Hey, quit acting so smug," Sparky says. "When's the last time you played in a bowl game?"
"Ancient history, my friend," Wilbur replies. "Mike Stoops has turned this thing around. Once we send you back to Tempe with your pitchfork between your legs, we'll be going to a bowl and you'll be home for the holidays."
"Turned around?" Sparky says. "You're 6-5. Let's see how you guys play when you're the favorites. There isn't any pressure when nobody expects you to win. "By the way, what's up with Tuitama? He's already had a couple of concussions, and he sat out the second half last week against Oregon. Is he going to be OK long-term?"
"We hope so," Wilbur says. "But we're going to have to recruit a junior college quarterback just in case. We can't win if Adam Austin is our quarterback."
Wilbur orders a bowl of tortilla soup and changes subjects.
"How's Herb Sendek working out so far?"
"We love him," Sparky says. "Wait until you see the players he has coming in next year. It's the best recruiting class we've had in years."
"I hear he's not exactly Mr. Personality," Wilbur says.
"That's what we first thought, too," Sparky says. "But he's been great with our media. He has a dry sense of humor that he's letting people see. I think he was so young when he took the North Carolina State job he wasn't sure how to deal with the attention. Now he's more comfortable and he's opening up."
"I hope he does well," Wilbur says. "It'd be nice to have a little competition in the state."
The mascots finish their meal and head for the door.
They look back at the guy behind the bar and shake their head. Their sarsaparilla was flat, the soup was cold and they were charged too much on the bill.
"Man, I miss Bob," Sparky says.
"Me, too," Wilbur replies. "Me, too."