AU96′s pièce de resistance. Where’s the Kleenex? War Eagle forever.
Tag Archives: Tommy Tuberville
By J.M. Comer
“The last 10 years have been a great time in my life, both professionally and personally,” Tommy Tuberville said today. “It’s been a great place to coach and live, and we’ve had a lot of success along the way. I’m going to remain in Auburn and help the Auburn family however I can. I’m very appreciative of the coaches, players, staff and Auburn fans over the last decade.”
ESPN this evening is reporting that Athletic Director Jay Jacobs with “prominent behind-the-scenes boosters who once tried to hire Bobby Petrino” made the decision to get rid of Tommy Tuberville, the people’s coach.
The sports network is also reporting that someone on Auburn’s BOARD OF TRUSTEES contacted Mike Leach, coach of Texas Tech, on Tuesday night.
(Click here to see ESPN’s video report.)
Boosters and trustees are still calling the shots. Remember a little thing called SACS?
Also from our friends at ESPN:
Not long after the failed coup, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the regional accrediting agency, placed the university on probation. The agency cited the micromanagement by Lowder and the board of trustees, saying Auburn failed to prove that the university president has “ultimate control over the athletics program” as well as failing to prove that the board isn’t controlled by “a minority of board members.”
I saw it in the cold visitors seats at West Virginia before Auburn even took the field. An old bat, unfortunately an Auburn woman, in her fur coat with her grade-school son holding a sign that said “Hey Tuberville, are you smarter than a 5th grader? Just be smarter than Saban.”
Their feeling of entitlement was sickening.
Teach ‘em young to be bad fans?
I saw it in the old money fans sitting on their hands in the first half of that game. Auburn was winning! And they sat there like grumps. Why were they there? I think it was just to be seen.
Our coach, Tommy Tuberville was an enemy to those in power and idiots fans with short memories.
God bless you Coach. We’ll always have 6. We’ll always have 2004. You deserved better.
The brain trust at the Capstone Report have labeled us demagogues. It feels really good. And they typed “impuissance.”
Million dollar coach, million dollar band, million dollar word (used incorrectly) – Bama fans be rollin‘… out of the woodwork and into our comments! Hit after hit, comment after comment. You’d think we were giving away Sabanphetamine.
All because I said Nick Saban was their coach.
Nothing has ever generated more response.
I mean, I told them we hated them, but like ‘rtr’ pointed out, duh.
I told them that they would be cool with Nick Saban’s particular style of icing a kicker.* And they are.
I told them that they would be cool with the announcement that Nick Saban cursed his players for not running up the score enough to satisfy his ‘f—ing hatred’ of Auburn. And they are.
So what’s the big deal?
I hit ‘publish’ about 15 minutes after the game, which sadly means I had known we were going to lose for an hour or more.
Still, that post was not some teary-eyed hissy fit. (The difference between Auburn fans and Alabama fans is that we cry when we win and y’all cry when you lose. And throw bottles. And try to kill your children.)
I mean, did you read the first part?
I said Bama won. I said that it was the worst game I’d ever seen Auburn play (which is saying a lot, considering this impuissant season). It shouldn’t have been, but it was: a slaughter.
Bama fans – you won!
I didn’t expect it. It was a blow-out. 36-0.
I even told you roll tide!
So why comments like this:
hmmmm…can you say SORE LOSER! What a bunch of baloney! Give me a break, you guys win for six years in a row, can’t you just be proud of that and move on. I mean granted you haven’t won nine in a row like we did but you probably didn’t know that we won nine in a row because fans nor coaches went around holding nine fingers up, making a huge deal about it (THATS CALLED CLASS) So you had a crappy season, it happens to everybody. Yes you lost, yes you got SHUT OUT by Bama 36-0 but don’t start the mud slinging about Nick…I’m sure your wonderful Tuberville has never been obnoxious or cursed at the players or said he hated Alabama…nooooo surely not. Grow up! I don’t agree with the use of the wording he used but I’m sure he got carried away and was trying to pump his team up. But just remember this…when you lose, show your class
I’ve never been able to figure out if the lack of discernment and appreciation for context is more of a gene thing, or if checking your brain at your cheeks is just necessary to enter the cult. I suppose it doesn’t matter.
Let’s break it down.
Pam “Roll” Todd, I am not a sore loser. Sore losers go with the bottles and guns of above. After publicly ridiculing your opponent, sore losers refuse to shake the hand that blocked the punts. In response to beat downs, sore losers say Brodie things, like “if you take away that one quarter…”
And Pam, what exactly about that post is baloney? Again — Bama won. Check. Nick Saban is your coach. Check. You don’t condone ‘the use of the wording he used,’ but you’re cool with the sentiment it expressed. Check.
So where’s your beef? I’m not sure …
But thanks for your concern: I am proud of our streak. Six fingers proud. And I’m glad you bring that up, because the thumb’n'fingers raping of the Crimson “soul” lo these many years is something I’ve meant to explain since this blog began.
Alabama fans started it.
Doused-yourselves-in-gasoline-struck the match-and-called-the-flames-classless started it.
This might take a second.
I was at the 2005 Iron Bowl. Ground zero. Ground into the dirt 11 times. I didn’t see Tommy Tuberville hold up four fingers – to Auburn fans – on the way into the stadium. I was at Tiger Walk, but I didn’t see him. Neither did 99 percent of the people there. But on that first touch down, I shot four fingers up in the air without thinking. And when the 3rd quarter ticked 3-2-1, I did the same. So did all the Auburn fans around me. We smiled at each other, because this time it meant something more. “Four, four, get’em up.” We kept them up on the way out.
It wasn’t orders, it was natural.
And it was nothing new. Flip through any commemorative “First Time in Jordan-Hare” book, and you’ll see photos of the same. Before the ’89 game, after the ’89 game.
What Pam and her fellows may not realize is that “four” has special significance in the numerology of college football. Four quarters, four downs, four years (in theory) as a player*.
(You’ll note that this did not occur in, funnily enough, ’04. Three fingers would have been weird.)
Winning the 2005 game meant an entire senior class never losing to Alabama – four in a row, then still rarefied Iron Bowl air. The last time that happened was a mini-golden era for Auburn football. Holding up four fingers at the end of that game’s third quarter was a non-verbal pun for victory. It meant something deeper.
Tuberville did it because the fans were doing it. It was a salute, a high five (literally, the next year), and as classless as an index finger “#1,” which is to say, not at all.
It was chummed into scandal by Bama fan extraordinaire Paul Finebaum, and the internet, a fact I noted at the time in a story I wrote on the emerging influence of football blogs (I interviewed some dude named Orson Swindle, and this Jay Coulter guy, and there was this Auburner thing…).
The slogan “Fear The Thumb” was not pre-printed. It did not become the phenomenon we know today overnight. It was born several days after the 2005 Iron Bowl in unique reaction to the feminine hysterics elicited from Bama fans by Finebaum … and Tiger Rags pounced.
But the resulting t-shirt, now a collectors item, was not a unprovoked taunt. It was a message, a proportional response to Bama fans saying Tuberville holding up four fingers (to Auburn fans) was classless (because Paul Finebaum said it was classless). It was advice: Don’t worry about that, don’t worry about four fingers. Worry about next year. Worry about the thumb.
I have only seen Tommy Tuberville hold up four fingers, five fingers, six fingers, or seven fingers to Auburn fans, and even then, only when asked. I have never seen him or heard of him holding up four fingers, five fingers, six fingers or seven fingers to Alabama fans, except when asked to… by a (classless?) Bama fan stationed in Iraq.
So from the description of this picture, I was expecting to see a seven finger pantsing of Terrence Cody. Instead, I see only Auburn fans. You know why? Because it’s at Tiger Walk. Not midfield. Not the Bama bench. (Should he have shouted ‘we’re going to lose!?’).
Alright, that’s settled. Back to Pam.
Mudslinging? There is no mudslinging when it comes to Saban. It’s already all over the place. And there was no mudslinging in that post. Again, you’re cool with the icing technique, and that’s fine, and you’re cool with Nick Saban’s special way of “trying to pump his team up,” and that’s fine, too.
It’s just why we hate you.
I wasn’t listening to it. Gary “let them play” Danielson is a joke. I think Eli Gold would have been more objective. But my wife couldn’t stand having it muted, so she listened. I paced and blocked it out, but then, you know, she’s like “Oh my God…” and I’m like “what” and she’s like, “did you hear that?” and I’m like, “no, what?” and so she rewinds it. And she plays it. And I sit down. We play it again.
I know it was a “semi-private conversation.” I know he didn’t think anyone was listening – that’s part of what makes it so sonofamother… – though of course Tracy Wolfson said it was the loudest she’s ever heard him. And she’s been hearing him for five years.
Here’s the deal:
It’s not the implications that he was running up the score. We wouldn’t expect anything less.
It’s not that he cussed. Damn right – I loved it when Muschamp boomed! it so loud the camera mics cought it.
It’s not even that he said he cussing hated us. I doubt most coaches would have admitted that to their players, even were they to feel that way. But it’s not that.
It’s the “because.”
It’s the if / then.
It’s him cussing exhorting his players to cussing “keep playing” at 29-0 … not for themselves, not for BCS style points, not for the fun or the love of the game… but because don’t they understand how much he fucking hates us.
That’s not a motivational technique. That’s a revelation.
We’ve always known it was us against them. We’ve always known it was good vs. evil. Our way vs. their way. Right vs. wrong. But to here it so starkly articulated was genuinely chilling.
We’re different Pam, you and me. That’s all I’m saying.
See ya’ next year.
* All I could think Karate Kid 2, Karate Kid 2 – the crain kick of Florida ’07 didn’t work twice. But that meant we were going to win. Mystic drum move! It didn’t happen (but the Kodi kata of ’09!). And speaking of Karate Kid – tell me who would play Kreese, Saban or Tuberville. Exactly! That’s my whole point, Bama fans! Your coach is the bad guy in every movie! I know it, you know it, Jerry knows it. And speaking of Jerry, I honestly didn’t even see the cut block or chop block or whatever block it was during the game – must have been pacing – so I’ll let him handle damage control. But again, the thing is, with Auburn, we see that – by a player – and we go, ‘oh, no, no, no.’ Meanwhile, you see crap — from your coach — and you go ‘hell, yeah.’ If it’s a player, it’s rejectable, correctable, typically isolated. If it’s the coach, it’s systemic. You have to get on board. And you do.
** Pam was one of the first. I started with her. But then like, 15 more came, and I even deleted some… but I stuck with Pam… thanks Pam.
*** We all know the legend of Brandon Cox, but who is the “one player to ever beat Auburn” lil’ Nicky fact dropped on his way off the field? What is that — a 7th year senior?
8 pans dressing
12 boxes greens
3 sweet potato souffles
24 lbs green beans
6 big bag carrots
12 lbs cranberry sauce
5 bags broccoli
1 case each strawberry cloud cake, chocolate dream cakes,
4 lemon meringue pies
4 pecan pies
320 dinner rolls
Can’t really remember much of anything. Proud the way we came out in the second half. I think Kodi is improving, despite the interceptions. Here’s how the rest of the season is going to go down, in case you were wondering.
We struggle against UT-Martin but eventually win by like, three touchdowns. We beat Georgia with turnovers. Bama makes it out of Baton Rouge. They pull a Bama win against Miss. St. with some fluke, but get banged up. We go into Tuscaloosa and beat them by 10 or more. Bama loses their last three. They get split in two by Tebow in the SEC championship game and go on to whatever bowl and lose in a squeaker. We go on to whatever bowl and win in a really good game that gets a lot of media coverage for some insane play. ’08 gets pressed into the books as 9-5.
Tuberville – I can’t even believe I’m bringing it up – goes nowhere. I’ll be honest. In the midst of the Franklin trauma, I caught myself in a one second day dream about what it might be like with…
But he’s owned up to it and I think he’s learned from it. Honestly, I think he could have two seasons like this and come back for a third. I think he’s earned it. I love him. Sue me.
I am very thankful I saw the first half of that game. My clothes were actually uncomfortable on me, so tingly with adrenaline was my skin. I was hoarse within ten minutes. Seventeen to freakin’ three. We dominated. Bradley called at half. “Talk to me.” He’d been at work. He knew the score, knew most of the stats. But hadn’t seen it.
We look good, baby, we look good. I can’t believe it. I don’t know if it’s a pretzel and I’m just so damn hungry its filled me up, or if it’s a t-bone and I’m legitimately stuffed. Yeah, he looks good, man. Yep, been in the whole game. He looks comfortable, yeah, it’s good. I don’t know what’s happened. Whatever, we look good, we look good. We kicked a freakin’ on side kick! Oh man, War Damn Eagle. Alright, call you later.
And then the second half. And Bradley thinks I’m a liar.
Oh man, fresh off the vicarious Friday night with Coach, fresh off the Finebaum-Franklin not-really-that-bad tell all, what was it going to be? What would happen? What twists and turns in the cold Appalachian Thursday, what blood would fill our veins and how?
Thursday is over. And the truly tragic ink of the L has dried quickly. The first meeting with West Virginia – lost. We have to live with it.
A quick thought on a contributing factor, a nauseating trend: The quarterback debate has raged, the Franklin fiasco unfolded, but this anguished season has also been marked with what now, eight games in, appears to be habitually shoddy 4th quarter clock management. For years the dice have been rolled properly against all odds and Tuberville would vanilla the hell out of the 4th quarter and we’d hang on to win or come behind at just the right time. This year, the Plinko is screwed up. Maybe it’s just me, but a strange complacency seems to rule our come-from-behind strategy, as if a 5th quarter will flicker on the scoreboard and eventually make wise an uncalled timeout or a decision not to go for it – only four yards – down two scores with six minutes (or even eight minutes on the possession before!) left and facing a most unpleasant and unstoppable greased midget able to spin broken plays into 30 yard runs at will. There was just no way, no way in the world we were going to score twice the way things were going.
But… be that as it may… I am thankful for that half.
It’s the most excited I’ve been this season, the warmest I’ve felt. Which is sad, in a way. But I choose to be happy. It’s not our year. But we have our quarterback. And we will have our game.
By J.M. Comer
Part Two of a three-part series. This is a blog with entries from two Auburn fans. This particular series of stories should not to be considered a serious journalism endeavor. And this blog is our impressions on all-things Auburn. For example, we like to use flowery language and poke fun at Bama. Please see Exhibit A and Exhibit B. Oh yeah, for good measure: Exhibit C. This blog entry should be considered my impression, as a fan, of spending a few minutes with Coach Tommy Tuberville and Assistant Coach James Willis. I thought that I would share my thoughts on the scene of Friday night, where I saw glimpses of the past, present and hopefully the future of our Auburn football program. What I took away from the experience? I think our Auburn program is in good hands. I hope that Coaches Tuberville and Willis would not hold it against me that I did not mention that I am a co-author of this blog, on the off-chance that they would stumble across The War Eagle Reader some rainy February afternoon. Maybe I should have mentioned it. I also didn’t bring up Tony Franklin. I thought it would be best to let that one lie buried in a grave. For good or ill, here we go. Please see Part one of this series if you are just tuning in. War Damn Eagle!
Image CC by Flickr user Henley24.
Ike, Thomas and I lined up against the fence at Southern High School. Halftime was drawing close, and Ray Cotton’s team, the Meade High Mustangs, trailed 7-0. The Mustangs were driving on the Bulldogs of Southern High, looking to tie it up. The senior quarterback and Auburn verbal commitment stood tall under center. Calm. Cool. Collected.
The three of us were grinning from ear to ear, sneaking glances out of the corner of our eyes at the Auburn coaching staff down the field to our left. I kept dropping my head and shaking it, looking at the ground. I couldn’t believe it. Coach Tuberville was only a few yards away. I had yelled “War Eagle!” to the coach earlier and I was the happiest guy in Maryland at that moment. You folks in living in Alabama don’t understand. People in other far-flung states are hungry for the sights and sounds, anything to capture the orange-and-blue memories of Saturdays in the South. Here was the living embodiment of Auburn football. The steady hand guiding the rudder during the storm. Right there!
A sidenote: I’d only met Coach Tuberville once before. I waited tables at Cock of the Walk when his family came in one night in 2000. It is a catfish house in Opelika. If you haven’t visited, I’d suggest you give it a try. Good fried seafood. As part of the waiting staff, I wore a pirate-like red shirt with leather laces up the front and a flat-brimmed black hat with a long, red feather. The getup was supposed to reflect Mike Fink, a larger-than-life longboat captain on the Mississippi River in the 1800s. He fought Indians. He wrestled. He drank too much and waved a Bowie knife at unlucky opponents. Then there was me, the 165-pound skinny be-Finked graduate with an English degree passing out hushpuppies. You couldn’t even take me seriously. I flipped your cornbread in the air as part of the act. Will the cornbread land in the skillet? Will it hit the floor? The circumstances at the time weren’t exactly conducive to a serious person-to-person meeting of the minds. All I gathered from the exchange of catfish and cornbread for money was that Tubby’s kids were well behaved and didn’t fill up on too much soda before their meal.
Back to the game at hand: Ray Cotton’s coach decided to let his quarterback stretch his legs.
Cotton was running around the corners. And when he wasn’t doing that, he was pounding it up the middle with success. He didn’t have too much help from the rest of his team of Mustangs at this point in the game. Receivers were dropping the ball. Cotton wasn’t helping himself much either. Some throws were too long. He was throwing to imaginary 6’5″ receivers. Push it forward young man!
We kept glancing over at the studious coaches, trying not to be too obvious. And then Assistant Coach James Willis walked over to say hello.
Ike and Thomas knew who it was instantly. I have to admit, I didn’t have a clue that the man had 344 career tackles at Auburn. I grew up a Tennessee Volunteer fan until I attended Auburn University in 1997. I still am catching up on the Pat Dye years. My coach in the ’80s was Johnny Majors. Don’t hold it against me, dear reader. I hate Alabama twice as much as most folks.
“War Eagle, I’m James Willis,” he said, offering his hand in kinship. I shook it. It was tough as granite. I’d never shook a hand before that felt like steel.
He asked us what we thought of the young quarterback on the field. And then he listened. We chatted for a few minutes as we watched Cotton lead his team to score 6 by pounding it in from the 1-yard line. The Mustangs then missed the extra point. Coach Willis commented that they should have went for 2 points and Thomas and Ike agreed. I’d been away from the high school game for so long that I’d forgotten what a risky endeavour the kicking game was at this level. But I felt like a great football mind as Coach Willis walked away. Not some psuedo-stalker in an Auburn hoodie and jeans.
A state trooper on the sideline came up to us and said that we could come on the track since we were with Auburn University. “Um, no, sir. We’re just here to watch the game,” we mumbled. (This was a reoccurring thing. Everyone thought we were scouts for Auburn. I guarantee, in no way did we look the part. But people on both sides of the field noticed the small Auburn contingent. That’s for sure.)
Enter the Tiger: Tuberville
Tommy Tuberville walked over to us just before halftime. He had a few short minutes before he had to leave. That he took the time to say “hello,” well, it was beyond great. Afterward, we all sat in the stands and wondered if Nick “I don’t have time for this shit” Saban would have done the same.
My first impression of Tommy Tuberville? Focused. Friendly. Knowledgeable. His eyes reminded me of some of a farmer’s eyes, tobacco farmers that lived near my grandfather in the Cumberland Gap. They all had a slight squint from spending hours and hours in the sun. Or maybe Tuberville was more like the men I’d see at Hardee’s when I was a kid in Tennessee on my way to visit my grandparents or to church on a Sunday morning. They’d be dressed up and talking about what happened on the football field Saturday as they drank their coffee and flipped through the paper. Good-natured men, lean from working hard all week, enjoying their time together. (They were Volunteer men with their Bill Dance Orange T hats with the back netting. And God, they hated Alabama.) I’d always watch and listen to them all as my family ate our gravy and biscuits.
I’m saying this because I felt like those men when we were shooting the bull with Coach Tuberville. The talk was light and easy.
(I’m gushing. Gentle reader, please forgive me. This doesn’t happen often, that you meet your team’s head coach. If you want an unbiased analysis of Tuberville, you will not find it here.)
But a lot of the short conversation is still a blur. I was making sure that I didn’t say anything stupid. And I made sure not to talk about the 800-pound gorilla beating its chest, swinging from the scoreboard: Tony Franklin.
Sometimes all my efforts to not stumble over my words didn’t work. For example, I brought up the A-11 formation that The New York Times wrote about last week. I tried to describe it to Coach Tuberville, failing miserably.
“It has a center and two guards. And all the other guys on the offensive … are … um … eligible receivers … there’s a loophole that the California high school coaches are exploiting … yeah … two quarterbacks. I forgot about the two quarterbacks on the field.”
He graciously helped me save face by suggesting it must be like Texas’ “Q package,” which he then described to us, mimicking the moves of the quarterbacks and describing their options.
Also, Coach Tuberville quickly, but gently, corrected Ike for thinking that Southern High was running the Veer formation on offense. He said that Southern was actually running the Delaware Wing-T.
Also, Thomas criticized the throwing motion of Alabama ‘s recruit, A.J. McCarron. He commented that McCarron held his non-throwing arm in an awkward position, looking like a chicken wing or a baby T-Rex arm. “Does he hold that arm like that to block defenders?” Thomas wondered. Coach Tuberville had nothing to add to Big Sexy’s musings. Later, Thomas exclaimed, “Man, that was going nowhere.”
Ike made fun of me for wasting time talking about the weather with Tuberville. (“This is the first cold night here in Maryland this fall. It was hot last week, which is weird for October.”) The weather is my go-to subject whenever there is a brief lull in a conversation. What a waste of breath.
The Iron Bowl was discussed briefly. Tuberville squinted, then smiled. He flashed six fingers for the camera. He knows what makes our hearts soar.
We thanked Coach profusely for spending time with us and then it was time for the coaching staff to depart. I kept thinking about how, if I were in Coach Tuberville’s shoes and was enduring a similar football season, I would have been uptight, looking over my shoulder for real and imagined enemies like Dick Nixon. That he was loose, calm, friendly with us was amazing to me. The man has a plan. If you were a recruit with doubts, wouldn’t you be reassured by the man’s presence, standing tall and steady, watching your team?
Row of Cotton
The second half was about to start. At that point in the game, you could see Cotton’s potential. He could throw. He wasn’t afraid to pound it through the scuffle of linemen. But the Mighty Meade Mustang’s offense was stalling in the red zone. At one point, there was a miscommunication between Cotton and his center. With the ball near the Southern Bulldog 5-yard line, the ball was hiked past the young QB all the way back near the 20-yard line. Yikes! The Mustangs failed to score and make it a 14-13 contest before the half. But Ray Cotton’s Meade High Mustang team would gather their thoughts at halftime. (It appeared that there was no visitors’ locker room at Southern’s home field. The visiting team conferred in the endzone at halftime and discussed their game plan. Keep selling those foodstuffs to fund your facilities, Southern High!)
But Ray Cotton and his Mustang teammates would launch a comeback from the 14-6 deficit in the second half. It would prove to be an inspiring spectacle.
Part three tomorrow. 100% Cotton!
By J.M. Comer
Part one of a series of stories this week. I present this story to you as what I experienced on Friday night. Coach Tuberville and his assistants did not know that I am part of a blog and their comments were made from coach to fan. I’d like to share some of what I saw, as an Auburn fan. War Damn Eagle.
He sure looks like Jason Campbell, doesn’t he? said Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville.
He does, Coach. He’s even wearing his number, I reply.
He is, isn’t he? Tuberville says, as Meade High School quarterback Ray Cotton (#17) wings a pinpoint throw toward our side of the field, falling incomplete 15 yards down the field possibly because of the young, chilled hands of a cold receiver.
Ray Cotton towers over his teammates. A full head taller than a vast majority of his team and the other on the field. Are we watching the future of Auburn football?
I’m leaning on the fence surrounding the field with my two close friends and Auburn men, Ike Blake and Thomas “Big Sexy” Jones. Our gamble had paid off. Auburn Head Football Coach Tommy Tuberville is talking football and shooting the bull with us on the other side of the waist-high fence as we watch the Mustangs of Meade High School play the Bulldogs of Southern High School on Friday night.
It’s the first cold, clear night of the fall in southern Maryland. That wonderful crisp feeling is in the air. Everyone is wearing their jackets. And Mustang QB Cotton, an Auburn verbal commitment now wavering because of Auburn’s misfortunes, is trying to lead his team to their first win in four tries.
‘Want to go?’
The subject line of the e-mail from Ike on Monday morning asks if Thomas and I are interested in going to see a high school game Friday night. The Washington Post‘s “Recruiting Insider” blog is saying that Ray Cotton and his father, Raymond Cotton Sr., are questioning the events of the past two weeks. Tony Franklin has been fired as Auburn’s offensive coordinator, and Chaos rules the Plains of Auburn. Our team has lost to Vanderbilt and Arkansas in consecutive SEC games. Fingers are pointed. Questions hang in the air unanswered. “What is going on?” “Who is leading the charge?” “Is Tuberville’s job secure?”
Not exactly what you want to see if you are looking out for your son’s future on the grid iron. You can understand Papa Cotton’s misgivings.
The WaPo blog entry says that Coach Tuberville and other Auburn assistants will travel to see Ray Cotton play against Southern High on Friday night just south of Annapolis, Md. Ike is proposing to Thomas and me in his e-mail that we travel down for the 6:30 p.m. EDT kickoff time after work and watch the game and possibly, just possibly, meet Tuberville.
It’s been a tough year if you are an Auburn fan. You can only look to the future at this point or you will drive yourself crazy with the hand wringing. Championship dreams are dead. So why not think about just West Virginia? Just like countless of athletes have parroted over and over, contest after contest, year after year: “We’re taking it one game at a time.”
Let’s beat the Mountaineers and see where it takes us. But why not also think about (for sanity’s sake) good years ahead? Will Ray Cotton stick with a beaten and bruised Auburn Tiger program? He gave his word. But Auburn is a different product right now. Is Auburn selling him a faulty program?
Cotton’s decision will give a glimpse into his character, I’d say.
But first, we should take a look at what he’s made of on the field. Can he play football?
Although Coach Tuberville won’t be able to talk to Cotton right now (damned NCAA rules!) he can be a boots-on-the-ground supporter. And on Friday night, his presence loomed large.
Friday night lights in Maryland
It’s the first high school game for all of us in years.
Southern High School’s Wingate Field offers a sharp contrast to what you are used to seeing in the South.
It’s the first thing Thomas noticed as soon we walked in. “Look how small the home stand is!” Thomas played football for Central High School in northwestern Alabama in the late ’80s. His observations on all-things football hold a lot of weight with me because he’s played and observed the game for a while. (Later, Coach Tuberville made, pretty much, the same comment when looking across the field to the home stands. “It’s a much different atmosphere than football in the South, isn’t it?” We couldn’t agree more.)
The visiting stands are half full with the fans from Meade High, sitting on a hybrid of wood and aluminum. The bathrooms are three blue porta-potties, thankfully far away from the seats.
The home stands are built into the side of a hill (which is kind of cool/weird) and are filled. Southern High has turned out the fans tonight.
Awesomely, the concession stand offers Chick-fil-A, but things are a little pricey. Someone says so to one of the women behind the counter. She snaps, “Do you like using the bathroom in those plastic johns?!?! We’re trying to raise money for a bathroom here!”
We’ve missed a good chunk of the first quarter because of work and traffic. I wonder if any other Auburn fans in the area will be here, as we walk to the visitors’ side. And as we round the bend in the track, I see our coach in a dark blue heavy jacket and silver hair. And yeah, the ears. He’s looking sharp. He is standing and observing the game some assistants a good 30 yards away from off the high school team.
I can’t contain myself: “War Eagle, Coach!”
There is a lull in the game as Coach Tuberville slowly turns with a smile.
“We got us some Auburn fans here. War Eagle!” he says. Others of the coaching council turn around.
There’s Assistant Coach James Willis too. Ike and Thomas are beside themselves.
Mission — success!
Part Two tomorrow: Talking with Coach Willis. Talking with Tubs. Cotton rules the field. War Damn Eagle!
Update on Ray Cotton
The Gold Mine reports:
Quarterback Raymond Cotton, one of Auburn’s biggest commitments for the 2009 signing class, was favorably impressed that Tuberville and assistant coach James Willis flew to Maryland over the weekend to watch him play.
Cotton told AuburnSports.com that he’s still firmly committed to Auburn and plans to visit campus to watch the Georgia game over Nov. 14-16.
Cotton committed to Auburn when he played at Faith Academy in Mobile, before moving to Fort Meade, Md., after the Coast Guard transferred his father to Maryland.
“I like Auburn, but not just because of Auburn’s campus or how big they are, but I know two guys that are going to be there, Coach Tuberville and Coach Willis, and that’s what I want to go do. I want to go play for them,” Cotton told AuburnSports.com. The Web site said Cotton is not taking calls from other schools.
It was the first I’d actually watch watched with my Dad in a long time and it was in the lobby of the Shreveport Holiday Inn Express. I didn’t make it in time for the first quarter. Dad went Jim Fyffe for me on the phone. The opening drive, it was glorious. And fun. And powerfully Auburn. Dad was having fun, I was having fun letting him have fun, I was playing Stan White, color-commentating off Dad’s reports, I do good impressions. My wife rolled her eyes, but she was having fun. The glorious kid was having fun. I stepped on the gas. We were back in the technically south, just crossed into Louisiana, humidity, pine trees, hallelujah. Let’s get some food and enjoy this last night together, War Eagle, baby. Then my ear went wet with bile – they stopped us on the one. Wetter still when Foot Lauderdale broke up with me after the Fannin TD. Ominous. Gloominous. We stopped them on the one on their last drive in ’93? They stopped us on the one on our first drive 15 years later? 13 to nothing? Friends, I knew we were in trouble.
You will never find a more optimistic Auburn fan than the me that I am. The glass is half-full when there is no damn glass. The glass has been shattered by my Jericholoosa-tuned trumpet. On my faith alone, the Auburn Guard marcheth into the orgasm of hail-mary immortality.
And so it was with fear that I diagrammed the new feeling that logged into me as Vandy’s final punt was downed on the whatever. And it was with loathing that I named it “doubt.”
I mean, I pushed. I strained. I wanted it. I wanted to believe. But I looked into my Dad’s eyes and they said no. They said ‘are you kidding?’ They said, ‘backed up on our goal line? This team? It’s over.’
He was right. And it seemed, please Lord, help me understand, fated. The mugshot of their backup? He looked like a decent person – the perfect anti-example to Hattiesburg Macaulay, who I knew we’d beat – and I hate playing against decent people.
Before the game, I tried hard to ignore the potential irony of watching it in Shreveport. Knock on wood. Afterward, I was overwhelmed by the irony of my thinking that watching it in Shreveport was ever ironic. Because not even the Petro-Sun would want a team so tragic.
Given the context, the loss – the disease – we saw Saturday night was possibly the most debilitating in recent Auburn history. It was shockingly upsetting. Even in our palsied unsubstantiality, we, Auburn, the eternal Davids of the echoing green, were cast by ESPN as a greedy, corporate Goliath coming to rape and pollute the recovery of poor, populist, once-comatose Vandy. And per Bristol talking points, the Commodores went green on our ass – to the tune of a single extra-point off the uprights. Everyone clapped and signed the petition and felt good about themselves at our expense.
My post-loss habits typically involve a deep breath, a shake of the head, another deep breath, a stretch, and a moving on. Upon the interception, it was head to hands, face down, glasses off. I didn’t feel a lump in my throat but I thought, for the splittest second, I might. It wasn’t because it was a loss. It wasn’t because it was to a lesser team. It wasn’t because it was to Vandy, Saturday night’s bizarro-Auburn… (I mean they threw, they ran, the black quarterback takes himself out of the game for the white hero hurdler to come in and save the day. Freaky)…
It was because, like you, I’d never seen us look so bad.
You can tell I’m struggling here. It’s taken till Wednesday to get around to this. And it’s not very good. I think I could have taken the entire week off, actually. There’s the pain, but there’s also the endless maze of theories and attitudes to process, to approve, and I just don’t have the time. (Chris Shelling Jr.’s is drugs – drugs and Franklin. “He’s just disheveled. Have you seen that hair?” No, I said, he’s just laid back, such a nice guy, I mean, that one time I met him in practice, he so took his time with me, you know? He would have gone to Mellow Mushroom with me or something, you know? Spent the whole day with me. “Yeah, and that day probably would have ended in Meth.”)
Personally, I think that for whatever sad, unintended reasons, it has something very much to do with the scenario divined by the refreshingly unpretentious brain trust behind Smart Football, one already linked into orbit by better and more diligent bloggers than me … (superb, Jerry…)
At least the fallout has dampened the kindling of our quarterback fire – noticeably absent in The Wake, at least to me, at least in the blAUgosphere, is the premature apotheosis of Burns and the Todd-aimed bitching – but our coaches seem to be tapping dysfunction straight from the vein.
Despite Tuberville’s makes-sense insistence that the spread could beat back the pimps of Sabanism come signing day, the offensive woes of 2008 seem almost karmic, a seek-ye-first punishment for what we all (not so) secretly feared to be a season-too-soon bailing on Borges. Meanwhile, nice guy Al roams our nostalgia in Auburn pajamas, probably just as crushed as we are.
My one comfort since the drive back through the martian crags of West Texas has been to isolate and objectiy the pain, philosophic like, for what it is. Doing so brings visions: six points to LSU, one point to Vandy. A touchdown… we’re a touchdown away from 6-0… a touchdown away from 6-0 playing like this. And yet we’re in a new strain of apocalypse… it’s fascinating… it’s 2004.
I’ve got to wind things down.
The Arkansas game promises to be epic in the narrative of the Auburn Oh-Thousands. I hope we destroy them, leave none alive.
May the ravens that feed us in this time of crisis unveil a 7th bloated corpse on the 29th of Novemeber.
God be with you. War Eagle. Believe.