THUY: This ... is! Garbage Football, a podcast in which I, Thuy, and my buddy Roger
THUY: dig up the most god-awful football games in the history of civilization, because we ... I don't know why we do this! Because we hate you, listener.
ROGER: We do. We hate you. We actually really hate you this week, because we have an extra-special ... bucket of ... I don't know, bucket of crap of a game for you.
THUY: [laughing] Bucket of crap of a game? What does that mean?
ROGER: You know what I'm trying to say, okay? It's a bad game.
THUY: You know, it's appropriate for us to have a podcast about things that suck, because we're what, 400 episodes in and
ROGER: Who even knows.
THUY: we have no idea how to start a show. Anyways, yes. Game 96249. Rog, this is the one you've been wanting to get around to for a long time.
ROGER: Yes. Normally I'd be worried about overselling one of these, but this one is good. This is better than the Typo Game.
THUY: Dude, no, nothing's better than the Typo Game. For anyone who hasn't heard it, you can go back in our archives and find the episode, I think it's just called "Typo Game." Basically, and I'll make this quick because I don't want to spoil too much, but basically, they were drawing up the rules for a long-distance game, the field dimensions had typos in them, and they ended up with a field that was one yard long and 1,000 yards wide. And they'd already filed the game permit, so they had to play it. Good times.
ROGER: Great times. Amazing times.
THUY: And I'm gonna disagree with you. Today's game is not as dumb as the Typo Game, but it is super dumb.
ROGER: Fair enough.
THUY: So, set the scene for us here.
ROGER: Okay. So this story starts about 13,000 years ago, in March of 4730.
THUY: Super-old game.
ROGER: Suuuuper-old game. Which, you can tell it's so old because the game number is 96249, back when they just gave a registered football game the lowest available number. This was before they went like "fuck it" and just started re-using numbers. Anyways.
ROGER: Washington and New Mexico decided they wanted a long-distance game between their two states, right? And they wanted to get cute. So they sort of made a hybrid of old football rules, and new football rules. The new part, of course, was that the field of play was exactly 2,340,170 yards long.
THUY: Obviously, the field wasn't actually mowed or painted or anything. There was a sensor in the ball that buzzed whenever you went out of bounds. So if you hit the sideline, bzzzt, dead ball.
ROGER: Yes. One goal line was the Washington/Canada border, and the other was the New Mexico/Mexico border. But it's tough to draw the field on a map, because ... the field was standard football width. Fifty-three and one-third yards.
THUY: So as a result of these dimensions ... ok, a standard old football field is about twice as wide as it is long, right? Well, if you do the math, and we did do the math, it turns out that this field is 43,878 times as long as it is wide.
ROGER: And Thuy, what made this game different from other long-distance game is that ... you know, when you have a field that covers 1,300 miles, it's probably a good idea to have lots and lots of players? Ideally, a few hundred? We can agree on that?
THUY: We can agree on that!
ROGER: They did not. They kept it to standard football rosters. 11 players on offense, 11 players on defense. Which is completely insane.
THUY: Right! Because, for one it's exhausting, especially if an offense sustains a drive for miles and miles on end. For another ... what happens if you blow coverage and a receiver gets past the secondary? And what if the receiver is the fastest player on the field?
ROGER: Right. If the ball carrier has outrun all 11 of you, what's left to do? At that point, it's not really a football game anymore. It's like a mix between a supermarathon and a camping trip.
THUY: It's bad football. Nobody wants to play it, nobody wants to watch it. Washington and New Mexico were banking on this not being a big deal, because the field of play was so narrow. So the good news is, you know, if a player does get past your secondary, you don't have to look all over creation for them. They're gonna have to stay inbounds, so the only question is how far they've outrun you.
ROGER: It was quaint. And, you know, we've talked about this a hundred times, but I can't stand "quaint" in game design.
THUY: And obviously, you and I stand pretty far apart on this. I like weird! I like it when the games get weird!
ROGER: And I do too! That's the thing, I do too. I just need it to be in service of something, you know? I see weirdness as a sort of a component, an accent, like a uh, like a seasoning, you know? Not a means to an end. Not a goal.
THUY: You're a purist.
ROGER: I am! I am a purist. Look. I mean, anyone can design a weird football game. But I demand some elegance, some real thought behind it.
THUY: OK, but why?
ROGER: What do you mean, why?
THUY: I mean, it's not as though you're pressed for time. You've got all the time in the world for what you like and what you don't.
ROGER: Listen. Listen. Even if I have a million years
THUY: Even if you have a trillion years!
ROGER: Even if I have 100 trillion years! Or more! That doesn't change the fact that I just spent all day watching a shitty game, time I could have spent watching a good one.
THUY: We're forever gonna disagree on this, I think. But! I think an argument could be made that in some respects, Game 96249 did have some elegance to it.
ROGER: I have to admit, it really did. A field 53 yards wide that goes from Mexico to Canada is, on its face, ridiculous. But I will happily admit that its confines are strangely brilliant in a way.
ROGER: It's hard to imagine much more geographic diversity than what this game has. There's plenty of opportunity for some good mountain football in Idaho, plenty of big lakes to navigate, and then when you go south into Utah, there are these big salt flats. There's just nothing there, it's like playing football in a whole bunch of nothing. And then, of course, you've got the deserts in Arizona.
THUY: And scattered throughout, you've got a little bit of farmland and a few small towns. But what I love about this field, at least in theory, is that it forces you to just march forward into all this geography head-on. With most long-distance games, there aren't really any defined sidelines, or at least they're really wide. So if you see a mountain or a lake? You go around it. But not here, You've only got 53 yards of wiggle room. So you just have to grit your teeth and go.
ROGER: And that brings us to your favorite thing!
ROGER: Water ball! There are a few decent-sized chunks of this field that are nothing but water. For example, if you look at uh, there's this one reservoir in Idaho that just kind of swallows two and a half miles of the field.
ROGER: So this is how that went down. Washington had the ball at the north coast of the reservoir. They throw it deep into the water, the wall just kinda plops in and floats at the surface. But the ball's still live, right?
THUY: It didn't touch the ground.
ROGER: Right! What ground? It didn't touch the ground. So what you're left with is a two-mile mad scramble for the ball. It's a live ball the whole time.
THUY: And this is where I'll agree with you. I've watched the replay, this play is exhausting to watch. It's just, like, four hours of splashing around and aimless laterals. It's trash football.
ROGER: And there were a lot of those, too. In the 1900s they were building dams all over the place, so of course you end up with all these giant bodies of water in the middle of nowhere that have no business being there.
THUY: But that aside, I really do love certain pieces of this field. I really do. Up in the mountains, you can tell they kind of tried to position the field so it ran along the ridges, just to make it a little easier. But in other parts it's just like ka-choonk, ka-choonk, ka-choonk, all up and down.
THUY: This would go on for miles and miles, actually hundreds of miles. I mean, as a football fan, would I want to watch this? No.
ROGER: Hell no.
THUY: Hell no. I wouldn't want to watch it, but I'd love to read about it. It's like baseball.
ROGER: There was also an element about this you were talking about before the show that I just loved.
THUY: Which one was that?
ROGER: Oh, with the names of all the
THUY: Yes! Yes yes yes. So, I love the juxtaposition of all this natural beauty, you know, the magnificent horizons, the beautiful mountrain ranges, et cetera, with these ... unbelievably shitty names people gave everything.
THUY: Like! Like, oh, here's a town next to a bunch of water. Let's call it "Big Water." Oh hey, here's some Meadows. Let's call it "Meadows." Oh look, it's some more meadows over here!
ROGER: Ah shit, Meadows is taken! What do we call it?
THUY: New Meadows!
ROGER: Yeah, Meadows is too crowded! There's like 50 people in it! Time to build a new one!
THUY: My favorite though, my favorite is, what was it
THUY: YES! Circleville. I guess because it's got a bunch of crop circles?
ROGER: Yeah but like, there are a million places in this country with crop circles. You don't get to be Circleville just because you have like 12 of them! It's like if you just called your city Ground.
THUY: It's funny, because you know, you look at Los Angeles and it's like "oh, City of Angels! That's a cool name." Or Cincinnati, named after a Roman general or whatever. Chicago comes from a Native American name for a local plant. But these guys in this part of the country were just like, "uhhhhhhh"
ROGER: "Uhhh, there's some circles, we're Circleville now, fuck it, it doesn't matter, I'll probably be eaten by a bear tomorrow."
ROGER: There's just something so darkly funny about this game. I mean, just the pace of it is so frustrating. An offense would spend a week just trying to get over one mountain. Turning over the ball on downs, getting it back, fumbling, getting it back, just crawling up at an excruciating pace. And they're exhausted, and they throw a pick, and boom. Defensive back runs it a mile backwards and it was all for nothing.
THUY: Or shit, 500 miles even. There was
ROGER: Actually, actually, I should note here that you were allowed to use motor vehicles as long as you didn't have the ball. So it wasn't, like, game over once a player ran it back like that. You could catch up with them. You just had to grab a car and go looking for them.
THUY: And that could take a while. At one point, a Washington player managed to sneak downfield from outside Spokane all the way to Utah. And he only got caught because he just ran out of places to hide.
THUY: And, I mean, this is where we really get into how much of a torture chamber this game is. The drive chart is just ... it's an absolute goddamn nightmare. If you turned off the game and turned it back on in a year, the line of scrimmage might be, like, 50 miles away from where it was.
ROGER: And that's really nothing! That's no movement. 50 miles is nothing when you consider, first of all, the field's like 20 times longer than that, and second, it might move 50 miles the opposite way the next year.
THUY: And that, Roger, sets the stage for the ... maybe one of the most frustrating things I've ever seen as a football fan.
ROGER: Same. Oh Lord, same. You wanna ...
THUY: All right, so it's now the year 5518. The game is now 788 years old.
ROGER: They've been playing all this time.
THUY: All this time. For almost 800 years, the ball's been going up and down and up and down ... and usually, very, very slowly. It's so hard for either offense to build the sort of momentum that would allow you to drive, you know, even a hundred miles down the field.
ROGER: But Washington is finally doing it!
THUY: Yes! They've finally made it into Arizona. It's just, something clicks. They're in the desert, ripping off huge plays. Half a mile run. Quarter-mile pass. Just boom, boom, boom, one after another. And then ... they just fell off a cliff.
ROGER: That's really fun to say. Because you know, we're always figuratively saying, "oh, they fell off a cliff." Like, their offense stalled out or something. No, they fell off a cliff for real.
THUY: Washington literally fell off a cliff and into a gorge. So they've got another cliff staring them in the face. They turn the ball over on downs, but of course, now New Mexico turns around and sees the other cliffside staring at 'em! The game's stuck.
ROGER: Right. They can't just run around the side of the cliff, because that would be out of bounds. They can't climb up, because it's a 300-yard vertical free climb, which is something you can only complete if you're one of the best free climbers on Earth. And it's impossible if you've got 11 people right behind you who can just grab you by the ankles and yank you back down.
THUY: So on this field that's more than two million yards long, these two teams are stuck in this little speck of 250 yards.
ROGER: How did this happen, Thuy?
THUY: There's really no satisfying explanation. This game was on the drawing board for years and years. They surveyed every bit of it, and they'd always intended for the field to pass through just slightly west.
THUY: This was kind of the crown jewel of this game. The rock faces were more forgiving there, because there was this valley that sort of fed into it. It still would have been the most challenging part of the field, but it absolutely would have been doable.
ROGER: I'm calling shenanigans.
THUY: Hmm ...
ROGER: Yeah, "hmm." Because look, we know how meticulously they planned this game. We know how important that spot was. An entire committee spent years planning this? How could they possibly have messed that up by accident?
THUY: Well, if somebody knows, they're not telling.
ROGER: Maybe one day we'll find the answer. In the meantime, this game is still in progress. It's one of the oldest and longest-running games in Arizona, and in year number 12,258, it's still going strong. And if you ever have the unexplainable urge to watch 22 players duke it out to no apparent end in the bottom of a canyon, you can always see it for yourself, football channel number 96249.
THUY: I would rather do anything else in the world. But! We have a mystery on our hands. Why is the field lined up wrong? Simple mistake, or sabotage, or what? If anyone out there has any info that'll help us crack this case, shoot us an email. We'd love to talk to you.
ROGER: Help us solve the greatest, dumbest mystery of our time.
THUY: So that does it for this episode of Garbage Football. We'll be back Tuesday, and don't forget, premium subscribers will get a bonus episode on Friday. I'm Thuy.
ROGER: And I'm Roger. Peace.