Posted by Adam Jacobi
There is a tiny nation in the South Pacific named Vanuatu, home to less than a quarter million people, mostly of aboriginal descent. Though the country didn't gain independence until 1980, the islands have been inhabited for up to 4,000 years, which means the people are steeped in a rich, but largely isolated culture.
So when the American military arrived on the islands during World War II, the native people were amazed by what they witnessed. The soldiers were so technologically advanced (and non-hostile!) that the people began to assume that the marching, paperwork, and other daily rigmarole was actually ritual, all to curry favor with the gods, favor that was rewarded when goods just arrived via parachute at the island for the Americans.
The wonderment continues to this very day, as a mythical American soldier named "John Frum" is revered by locals, and he's the basis of both a religion and a political party in Vanuatu. These adherents, believing in the "rituals" they or their recent ancestors had personally witnessed from the Americans, began copying these rituals in an attempt to recreate the success and prosperity of the Americans that had come decades before. They carved guns from wood, made landing strips in the jungle, and marched in matching clothes.
This type of group is referred to as a "cargo cult," and historically, these cargo cults have been confined to South Pacific nations like Vanuatu. Shockingly, though, there appears to be another one popping up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and its leader is Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach Tim Brewster:
The Gophers are 1-4, but as coach Tim Brewster insisted Sunday, "we could be sitting here 5-0 right now." Brewster said he was pleased overall with how the Gophers played and the improvement they showed, but they blew an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost to a team that committed 10 penalties and made three costly turnovers.
Recall, of course, that Brewster has also demanded that his school spend more on football infrastructure, even as they enjoy the benefits of a brand new stadium. Brewster displays a replica national championship trophy in the locker room of this new stadium, and he frequently touts his proximity to the title-winning 2005 Texas program as a rare merit, proof of his ability to deliver the cargo of a crystal football to TCF Bank Stadium. His public persona is one of great bravado and confidence, as he's seen other, more successful coaches behave. In short, Brewster pretends -- at great effort -- to be a very successful football coach. And Minnesota is 1-4.
That, friends, is a cargo cult, right in the heart of America. At this rate, the only thing left for Brewster to do is hire a John Frum (any will do) as an assistant coach.