Thursday, Sept. 28, 2006 | 7:29 a.m.
(Editor's note: This column originally ran Sept. 28, 2006.)
John Charles Fremont was an American military officer, explorer, the first presidential candidate of the Republican Party and the first candidate from a major party to run on a platform opposed to slavery.
Oh yeah - he also had a cannon that became a football trophy.
On Saturday, the UNLV and UNR football teams - and their fans - will call each other names for four quarters for the privilege of proudly displaying the howitzer that Fremont lugged across the Sierra Nevada in the 1840s.
That would probably come as a surprise to Fremont. Heck, college football would probably come as a surprise to Fremont, considering he was old and gray by the time Princeton and Rutgers lined up 25 men a side for the very first game in 1869.
But just for the fun of it, let's imagine there was a recalled DeLorean that could take you back to the future. And that Fremont and ESPN's Lee Corso somehow wound up in the back seat together.
Imagine the conversation they might have.
Lee Corso: Nice beard. You look like Trev Alberts after we fired him (extending his hand). Sorry, we've never met. I'm Lee Corso. You probably don't recognize me without the giant mascot head.
John C. Fremont: John Charles Fremont at your service, sir. I was a major general in the Civil War until Lincoln fired me for confiscating the property of slaveholders in Missouri. He said something about preserving the Union.
Corso: Union? You mean like the Big 12? Now that's a union. Only we call them conferences. Fremont Fremont Why does that name sound familiar? You ever have a street named after you?
Fremont: That's what they tell me. A football trophy, too. Damndest thing. Some old coot by the name of Beano Cook told me that a bunch of college kids from Nevada have been getting together since 1969 to play a game they call football, and afterward, they give my rusty old cannon to the team with the most points. Or the least casualties.
Corso: Yeah, the Fremont Cannon. I think I heard of that once, when I was coaching at Indiana. Hey, you ever hear of Purdue? Or the Old Oaken Bucket?
Fremont: Pur-who? Old Oaken what? Can't say that I have, sir. But the crazy thing is that I thought I left that darn cannon in a snowdrift on the way to the Oregon Trail.
Corso: Oregon Trail? I've seen Oregon trail, too. Any time they play USC. Or the referees don't cheat. But let me look it up in the media guide. Hey, whaddaya know? You did leave your cannon in a snowdrift. That cannon they play for now is actually a replica, made by the Kennecott Copper Corp., Nevada Mines Division. Says here it's worth $10,000.
Fremont: Man, it must be made of gold.
Corso: Nope, brass. Says here there were only 13 original ones owned by the U.S. Department of War, and that you were issued one in St. Louis to protect your party from the Indians. I guess that was before Stanford changed its nickname, eh?
Fremont: Stanford? Never heard of him. But I did lose several battles to Stonewall Jackson.
Corso: Maybe you shouldn't have dumped the cannon.
Fremont: That's what you say. You ever try to drag 700 pounds of ammunition around Lake Bigler - or Tahoe or whatever they are calling it now - during a blizzard?
Corso: No, but it can't be as hard as walking around Norman, Okla., with this giant ear of corn on top of my head.