Zoomer was decked out in a Nike forest green unitard with school bus yellow striping. Coupled with his eerie luminescent purple night goggles he looked like one of those poisonous tree frogs of the Amazon Rainforest that secreted a toxin that, when licked, made the licker start babbling in Esperanto. "You know Ducky, these raindrops hitting my head are starting to sound just like Andy Kaufman playing the bongo drums." Zoomer loved Kaufman and every year during the Coaches Retreat he would always do the Mighty Mouse skit Kaufman did years ago on Saturday Night Live.
Earlier in the evening we had seen the Oregon State squad working up toward the meeting spot only to get sidetracked in the juvenile 'cow tipping' game. They eventually headed back to Corvallis after running out of money, but one report came back to us that a very pretty Holstein cow with moony eyes the size of saucers had cleared $120 in gratuities from the generous Beaver linebacker crew.
As I sipped my piping hot Bloody Mary spiked with Ouzo, which happened to be Zoomers favorite winter chill warmer upper, I felt a gush of wind as Chief War Duck descended from the heavens. A 6'6 and a wingspan of 14 feet he was quite an imposing sight. While Zoomer looked like a poisonous frog, Chief War Duck looked like a dragon from a child's nightmare until you looked closely and noticed that constant silly grin and warm caring eyes.
"Damnit CeeDub, your gonna collapse our platform if you're not careful" exploded a tense Zoomer.
"Sorry I'm late gang. Benny the Beaver and I had to give the players some ground rules not to violate this evening before they started. Then I had dinner over at Benny and Bernice's. Nobody makes hot groat cakes like Bernice. Anyway, they needed cheering up with all they've gone through lately."
"Why is that CeeDub?" I asked.
"Well, as you know, Benny lost his licensing last year to an upstart named Fierce Beaver. On top of that, with Risser leaving the OSU presidency, there have been many hush-hush meeting in Corvallis. They've even hired the new President at OSU but haven't announced it to the public. They're waiting to make the announcement this Saturday in order to pump up the Benton County Legions."
"Let me guess, said Zoomer, "it's either Kevin Mannix or Bill Sizemore."
"Way worse Zoomer. OSU really wants more publicity. They want their foot in the Hollywood front door like we have our Duck Print in Manhattan. So two weeks ago they secretly hired Anna Nicole Smith to replace Risser and she turned around and wasted no time in getting rid of the Beaver as a mascot altogether. She found it 'offensive."
Both Zoomer and I sat dumbfounded. I immediately wondered if she had any eligibility left since it wouldn't count against the 85 scholarships and she'd immediately help Erickson's offensive line woes. Could a college president still be allowed to play? ‘No way!' I exclaimed outloud.
"It gets better, said CeeDub, "since they don't have the funding to totally scrap the beaver mascot, they're planning to just white-out the buck-teeth and tail. It's a done deal that next years Oregon State mascot is a NUTRIA! To top it off, they've got this sponsor from Prineville signed on as a major sponsor. You ever heard of Dick's Country Auctioneers? Well this good ol' boy ponied up $1 million dollars to Oregon State so long as the mascot is called "Dick the Nutria". Sad thing is that a nutria is dumber than snot and they had the gall to ask Benny if he would consider going in for a tail reduction and teeth filing. Poor guy had to be sedated. Bernice is a wreck too.
Well, it looks like our two warring armies have arrived. Benny and I briefed them already. They can trash talk anything they like without escalating to physical violence and above all, they cannot disobey Rule Number 1. Gotta run boys. See you later."
And, with that he stretched his mighty wings and glided down to the field below to where the five players from each team had gathered face to face.
Richard Siegler wasted no time with a sharp remark aimed at freshman Haloti Ngata. "Ngata.... Your mama's Kahlua Pork tastes like Folgers Instant Crystals and chicken."
The gentle, soft-spoken Ngata lobbed back a prediction at Beaver QB Derek Anderson. "Mr. Anderson, do you mind if I call you Mat instead of Derek since that's what you'll be when I fall on you Saturday? A 'mat.'"
Zoomer and I looked at one another. We knew he would improve greatly over the next several years.
"Hey Mitchell," said RB Steven Jackson. "Is it true the main reason you shave your head is so you don't look like a Hobbit? Friends say when you go with a 'doo' you look like Frodo's friend Sam!"
The initial hit rocked Kevin Mitchell, but he's got quick reflexes and fired back "We'll Stevie, that fancy little 'do' you wear makes you look like you should be singing back-up with the Supremes."
"You little Duckies look like a bunch of silly sissies!" gleefully screamed Mike Kuykendall.
It should have been a fatal move on Oregon State's part to put a Bend boy head to head with Keith Lewis, but as Lewis got ready to unleash a game-breaking tirade of trash talk, the entire field was lit up by a bright light in the sky. Much like the one Batman needed during an emergency call. Both sides screamed in terror and ran blindly to the cover of trees. Several even lost their lunch since the vision in the night was indeed sickening to both sides. There in the night sky was artists Rafael Lemure's caricature of Rick Neuheisel with giant beaver teeth smiling down from the cloud cover that acted as a silver screen.
"If there's anybody who knows how to wreck a good time its that fun-lovin Coach Neuheisel." muttered a resigned Zoomer as we packed up and prepared to climb down the towering oak.
"We should call him Rainyday Rick since he has a knack for raining on other folks parade. Oh and by the way Zoomer, did you ever hear what was Rule Number 1 the players weren't allowed to use?"
"It an insult that cuts to the bone Ducky, replied Zoomer, "It's so mean spirited that it would mean an automatic bowl suspension for the offender and even additional sanctions against the program. Rule Number 1 stipulates that absolutely under no circumstances was either team allowed to say...."You play like a Blazer."
"Wow, it just hurts hearing those words. These are college kids and fine young men to boot. Nobody with any sense of decency would ever stoop to such depths. At least I would hope." I offered.
We trudged through the muddy field and back to the Zoomer's VW Beetle that looked a lot like a poisonous tree frog from the Amazon Rainforest.