"Hey, the way things have been around here the past few years, this hasn't been a bad summer weather-wise."
Sparky Sun Devil nods his head in agreement and takes a swig of Gatorade as he and Wilbur Wildcat approach the first tee at Grande Valley Golf Course in Eloy.
"Brother, it's still hot," Sparky says. "I've been around since ’46, and when it's triple digits it's still hot to me."
"I've been around longer than you — incidently, whatever happened to that bulldog? I agree," says Wilbur as he lifts the driver out of his cardinal and blue golf bag. "It's hot. I'm glad those humans invented air conditioning."
"The bulldog? Last I heard he was trying to claim kinship with Handsome Dan up at Yale. He got rejected, though, I believe. He didn't have the right pedigree. Something about losing too many times to Arizona."
Sparky, having won the football game last year, tees off first.
Wilbur follows. Just as he's about to strike the ball, Sparky yells, "John Mackovic!"
The golf ball sails straight down the fairway outdistancing Sparky by 25 yards.
"Shoot. I thought that would mess you up," the Arizona State mascot says, his devilish grin gone.
"Hardly, man," responds Wildcat as the two briskly walk the fairway. "In tough times you've got to stand tall and be unwavering. We've been down before and come back; we'll do it again."
"Yeah, but you've got to be concerned."
"Of course. I don't like it that one of our best players, Clarence Farmer, has publicly stated in so many words that he hates his coach. I don't like it we're still talking departmental layoffs. I don't like it that we're getting more bureaucratic and losing some of the family atmosphere that has sustained us. But that's the way it is right now at U of A. We just have to ride through it."
Both mascots par the first hole, bogey the second and third. Sparky pars the fourth hole, while Wilbur bogies it.
"You had a tough lie on that one," Sparky says encouragingly.
Their tee shots on No. 5 are both errant.
"You haven't said much about ASU football," Wilbur says.
"Don't ask me what's going on," Sparky says. "You'd have to ask the dude who's writing this. He's halfway through this piece, and I haven't even mentioned the name Andrew Walter. Anyway, there isn't much to say because the media's been doing it for us. Preseason ranking. No. 2 selection in the Pac-10 poll. We're good, and they know it."
"Yeah, but we've never goose-stepped behind the rosy forecasts."
"You're right," Sparky says. "We still have some issues to address. What helps us is a lot of other teams have issues too, specifically at quarterback. I tell you there is one thing that kind of gnaws at me a bit."
"What's that?" Wilbur asks.
"That the best running back in the league is from Las Vegas, and he's playing in Corvallis, Ore., instead of Tempe. I believe the numerous coaching changes we've had has cost us from being the dominant Pac-10 program in a sister Sonoran desert city. After Frank got Gerald Riggs out of Vegas in ’78, we should have cultivated the city with the anticipation that Vegas' college-age population would grow and the city would start producing more Pac-10-caliber players. Oregon State's great middle linebacker, Richard Seigler, is from Las Vegas, too. Now everybody's stopping by Las Vegas. Washington got the city's top player last season. How much better would we be with Steven Jackson in the backfield?"
Wilbur and Sparky take a break after finishing the No. 9 hole. The beverage cart lady comes by with ice cold Gatorade. They drop to one knee, the only way a true athlete rests on the field of competition, and replenish themselves.
"Sparky," Wilbur says coming up for air between gulps, "we aren't as bad as your people think. If Mack can get one of those quarterbacks going, we won't be a pushover, and we won't finish last."
"Well, wherever you finish you won't be near us," Sparky says. "It's Devil time, baby; it's Devil time."