Blood, Thunder, Badgers and Beer!

Mark Gregory reveals his unlikely sporting pleasure - as a new season dawns across the pond.

Question. Which sport boasts a warrior horseman brandishing a flaming spear, a deranged deacon riding a Harley Davidson, oh and also… a real life swooping golden eagle, amongst its many team mascots?

Clue, it’s the sport which is so fervently followed, that last year it set an all-time attendance record with a colossal crowd of 156,990 attending just one game! An event hosted in a Tennessee venue so gargantuan, that you could feasibly plonk both Wembley and the Nou Camp slap bang into the middle of it, and still have room to spare!

For some truly insane reason Bristol Motor Speedway hosted the biggest ever game – University of Tennessee vs Virginia Tech – Sept 2016. By the way, that green postage stamp with the US flag half a mile from your seat, is actually the field they're playing on.

It’s the game that's launched some of the unlikeliest names in sporting history. Check out the magnificently monikered - Jadavion Clowney for example. And that's just for starters.

A sport in which huge teams of ‘Spartans’, ‘Gamecocks’, ‘Badgers’, 'Buffalos' and ‘Vandals’ do battle to prevail and lift a trophy from a whole cabinet of zany cups.  Ranging from ‘The Little Brown Jug’, to ‘Paul Bunyan’s Axe’, and, I shit you not....  The ‘$5 Bits Of Broken Chair’!

Yes, these things are all common to one of the most popular spectator attractions in all of America. Welcome to the wacky world – not of the NFL, but of… U.S. College Football!

As you may have guessed, on this occasion I’m not here to seriously debate the merits (or otherwise) of a system which reaps multiple billions of dollars in revenue every year from the performances of unpaid 20 year old hopefuls, but merely to herald the new season, now just days away. In the process, hyping myself up for a fantastic fun-packed four months of fevered fervour, preposterous pageantry, crazy crowds and genuinely great and gruelling games.

Never a sport to be backward in coming forwards - The Clemson University 'Tigers' enter Memorial Stadium by rampaging dangerously down the infamous ‘Hill’, as 82,000 orange balloons head simultaneously skyward.

Yes, it all returns next weekend, but if you’re still perhaps inclined to bemoan the perceived ‘stop-start’ nature of American Football and all the ensuing breaks in play, I need only offer two words in response…. fridge and beer!

You might also venture to question why one hour of time in American Football must equate to at least three hours in the real world? To this, I say two things: 1) To be honest that’s really great value isn’t it? And 2) It gives you three times longer to make those all-important trips to the fridge. For more beer. Maybe grab some nachos while you're out there too eh?

Best of all, if you have access to ESPN in your TV package, it means that you too can enjoy all the hurly burly razzmatazz of this, the world’s most magnificently eccentric sport. I promise you’ll never see anything like it, anywhere else, ever. Certainly not once you’ve clapped your disbelieving blinkers on Dartmouth College mascot – ‘Keggy The Keg’.

Next time, I may even attempt to explain how I discovered this quite bonkers game and why I became such an evangelical fan. Till then… “Go Keggy”!

Mark Gregory 

The very actual "Keggy". See, amazingly I wasn't joking.