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Thursday, December 5, 2019

Football

College football at UH ‘completely different’ experience for Baseball Brit


Joey Mellows (left), better known as Baseball Brit by his followers, attended his first college football game at TDECU Stadium after spending the bulk of the year traveling the United States watching professional baseball. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Joey Mellows (left), better known as Baseball Brit by his followers, attended his first college football game at TDECU Stadium after spending the bulk of the year traveling the United States watching professional baseball. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Deep in the heart of Houston’s Third Ward, a wide-eyed Briton, far from his home across the pond, stared awestruck and amazed at what unfolded in front of him.

A large cannon fired Houston-branded shirts to tens of thousands of screaming fans, and the largest arrangement of booming tubas and trombones he has ever seen made their presence felt on the field as students in trenchcoats and cowboy hats ran across holding a large red flag bearing the old-school UH logo.

“They’ve got a cannon?” he asked, bewildered by the Spirit of Houston’s generosity during their self-proclaimed “World’s Largest T-Shirt Toss.”

In town for the Astros-Nationals World Series matchup, baseball superfan Joey Mellows, better known as Baseball Brit on Twitter, had never experienced anything like what he saw at his first college football game Thursday at TDECU Stadium as Houston took on No. 16 SMU.

“This is normal?” he asked, still processing his surroundings. “My brain is frazzled.”

The Baseball Brit persona, which came about after Mellows left his teaching job in China in 2018 to travel around Japan, Korea and the United States to watch professional baseball, has taken him all around the country to over 140 games of America’s pastime.

Throughout the way, Mellows became a baseball advocate on a mission to spread the sport’s popularity in Europe, especially his native England.

But college football was uncharted territory.

“I don’t know what’s going on half the time,” Mellows said as he watched fans cheer the Cougars on. “There is so much new stuff to compute and understand and learn about.”

It was not, however, his first taste of the gridiron.

“We have the NFL in London, so I kind of know what the rules are,” Mellows, who watched the Chargers top the Titans 20-19 at Wembley Stadium in 2018, said. “But this seems more localized than the NFL. It means more to the people that are here.”

Similarly to how he watched baseball bring people together across the country throughout his travels, Mellows observed Houstonions doing the same for football, namely in the Cougars’ student section.

“Anything that brings people together in this day and age should be celebrated,” he said. “I like to see people coming together from different backgrounds and having a good time, regardless of what it is.

“They’re happy and enjoying themselves. I think we need more of stuff like that in the world.”

As for how his experience at TDECU Stadium measures up to sporting events back home, Mellows is not quite sure.

“I honestly don’t know how to compare them,” he said. “It’s completely different. This is all new to me. My brain hasn’t worked out what is happening yet.”

Although he would still pick baseball over college football because “it gets people out, and it brings people together on a daily basis,” Mellows enjoyed his first game.

And one of his favorite parts? Houston’s special teams.

“There’s a tiny guy that kicks,” Mellows said, referring to junior kicker Dalton Witherspoon. “He had to rush his field goal, and I thought he kept a cool head to kick those points.”

If the Cougars are ever looking for a new kicker, however, they know who to call.

“I’m a soccer player, so I can kick it,” Mellows said. “I’m a little guy myself.”

He also took a liking to punter Dane Roy because of the senior’s age and his background.

“He was on my ticket today,” Mellows said of the Australian. “Somebody told me he was 30 years old. It seems like there are a lot of unique stories within each team.”

His recent time spent in the country and Texas was not his first rodeo here; he spent six weeks coaching soccer in the Dallas Fort-Worth area at 21. But Mellows would recommend his experience to anybody back home.

“It’s a great way to see America,” he said. “This feels very uniquely American to me, and everyone seems like they’re having a good time.”

At the end of the day, Mellows described it as best as any mustachioed British man watching one of the U.S.’s biggest sports in the heart of the South could.

“Bonkers,” he said. “Just bonkers.”

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