Monthly Archives: October 2007
By J. Henderson
It has been just four days since Auburn’s tragic loss to LSU. Today, we have only our anticipation for a victorious remainder of the season in which to drown our sorrow; in 1988, after a similar Auburn loss resulted in a small, localized Baton Rouge earthquake, we had an extra something else, an extra something special.
A 42-0 blanking of the Akron Zips hadn’t done it for us, but fervent worship at the altar of exquisite Icelandic rock ‘n’ roll? That could prove quite a balm.
Reykjavic Rock Revelation
Auburn philosophy professor and libertarian Roderick Long pedestals Iceland – at least kingless, medieval Iceland – as a fantasy novel of free-market-regulated representation and conflict resolution through arbitration.
No Thors, No Masters.
Anarchy, in other words.
He was working on his doctorate at Cornell when an Icelandic band called The Sugarcubes parked their tour bus amid the RVs and the roped off tailgates to play the Auburn Student Activities Center in 1988.
He was a Sugarcubes fan. He missed out.
To a certain extent, The Sugarcubes claimed anarchism, and with more than ancestral pride. (Their forbear KUKL released two LPs on Crass Records, the label extension of the early British punk band Crass’ anarchist experiment, living and recording for a time in Crass’ quasi-notorious anarchist commune.)
But their cultivation of the philosophy was much more aesthetic than political.
Still, had Long been there that October night – Thursday, the 20th – he would have heard the Viking legacy.
He would have seen MTV cameras straining to capture it over the big hair of bouncing Auburn coeds and he would have heard it in the deliberately obnoxious growls of a generically Euro also-ran named Einar Orn Benediktsson writhing in the shadow and echo of a 22 year old Nordic siren named, simply, deliciously, perfectly, Bjork.
It was a free concert sponsored by Auburn’s University Program Council during a time when bands skirting the norm were labeled ‘progressive’ rather than ‘alternative’, the second year in a row MTV had deemed Auburn worthy of its New Music College Tour. Originally just New York’s Living Colour and Britain’s The Godfathers were on the bill. However , The Sugarcubes, riding a wave of college radio success from their haunting single “Birthday,” had embarked on a small U.S. tour, and an MTV television special was planned in observance. They played “Saturday Night Live” the Saturday before the Auburn show, rubbing elbows with a cast that included the great Victoria Jackson, who was quoted in a Plainsman feature story written on her two days prior as saying, “I love Auburn. The only fun experiences I had in college were at Auburn.”
It is certainly not a stretch of the imagination to think that Jackson similarly sang praises of her alma mater to Bjork.
MTV Network executives contacted then UPC coordinator John Burgess not only in regard to adding a third act but to see if the Student Activities Building could facilitate the additional sound, lighting and film equipment necessary for what would now be a major production. It could and did.
Auburn beat out several other schools for the band, including Rutgers University and the University of South Carolina, based on its reputation from the previous year as well as the network’s awareness of the compelling juxtaposition of Icelanders rocking the Deep South.
The Sugarcubes played last and they did rock. Unlike Long, Auburn’s almost-famous rock’n’roll luminary Chet Weise was there.
“I was a freshman that night,” Weise said. “Young. Fresh. Exciting. Eager.
Their song “Motorcrash” had been on MTV so we were familiar with them. VJs compared them to the Jefferson Airplane because of the male-female vocals.”
Einar, the other singer, introduced the band as “the Icecubes from Sugarland,” saying
“We’re down deep south in Alabama. We’re going to play you some tunes.”
“God does not exist, but if He does He lives in the sky above me, in the fattest, largest cloud up there, He’s whiter than white and cleaner than clean, He wants to reach me,” is just one of the epic poems that for an hour soared from the beautiful voice in Bjork’s mouth like an eagle, a great bird of ice-ripened majesty that Einar’s screeches seemed hell bent on downing.
The following week’s Plainsman rang with similar reviews; Bjork – hypnotic, Einar – dork.
“Some concert goers called Einar a ‘distraction’ with his hardcore-like attitudes and vocals,” wrote The Plainsman. “Comments like, ‘I’m a peace chicken not a war eagle’ were not uncommon from Einar.”
“I mean, let your hair down, hippies,” Einar said, encouraging crowd participation during a song called “Cat.”
Like her voice and career, Bjork’s stage banter was much more memorable.
“Between songs, Bjork said, ‘I hear you say War Eagle. But I say Peace Eagle,’ with her two finger peace sign held high,” Weise said.
(Imagine that for a second – imagine excruciatingly timid, nubile, uber-svelte-yet-hippyish Bjork, with her gravely fairy accent and notorious, precocious palsy, crushed under the weight of a 5,000 stares and feeling the Spirit move her to find the English that will in her mind reverse our consecrated, misunderstood battle cry, while her paw extends into a peace sign. Get that in your mind and inhale. Also, there exists the possibility that the “Peace Eagle” bumper stickers first distributed in the late 80’s by the Conscientious Alliance for Peace and revived in 2004 by the then Auburn Peace Project originated with the diffusion of this particular anecdote.)
Though claiming ignorance of Iceland’s anarchist past that freshman night, Weise would go on to summon the Bjork’s punk spirit and quaff the anarchy in her blood for the next decade, liberating local living rooms, bars and even feudal Europe with the unbridled rock ’n’ roll of the The Quadrajets and the revolutionary southern karate of The Immortal Lee County Killers.
Academically, he eventually authored a thesis for a graduate level Economics class on the subject entitled “The Institutions of Government, Law, Property, and Defense in Primitive Stateless Societies”; a similarly-themed paper by Roderick Long, fan of the Sugarcubes at the time he wrote it, is referenced as one of its many sources.
Do you feel it? The connections? The world shrinking?
“Ancient Iceland gave me hope,” said Weise. “It solidified my libertarian-anarchist views, not Bjork, and certainly not the other singer.”
“Nevertheless,” he said, “they are Icelandic, and given their punk rock past, they must be some [impressive] characters.”
Weise currently wields a custom six-string ax chiseled into an arguably Viking style.
The Toomer’s Connection
Jamie “Spazz” Uertz plays guitar in local Auburn metal legends Hematavore. He was still in middle school when the Sugarcubes came to town.
“I was in eighth grade and had a blast at the show,” Uertz said. “Some frat guys put some of us on their shoulders and took us down front.”
Auburn alum Ken Sanderson, then at the reigns of WEGL’s classic punk show “Mystery Playhouse,” got even closer.
“Yeah I took Bjork and the male singer from The Sugarcubes to WEGL for
an interview on the air,” said Sanderson, who now runs punk label Prank Records in San Francisco. Bjork promo drops are rumored to still be on file at the university radio station.
The concert special, entitled “Live from Auburn, Alabama: The Sugarcubes,” debuted on MTV’s “120 Minutes” and, according to Sanderson, continued to air for several years afterward. Rare bootleg copies of the show float through cyberspace via specialized peer-to-peer download networks.
“I remember seeing a clip on MTV and going, ‘Holy crap, that’s the Auburn show,” Uertz said.
Clips of The Sugarcubes in and around Auburn and Opelika intersperse the live footage of the production, including shots of the band posing inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. The show begins with a black and white, slow-motion pan up the west side of College Street in front of what, within a years time, would be Brand X Pizza. While on stage the band sips from plastic Auburn cups.
“They were later spotted buying stuff at Toomer’s Drugs,” Sanderson said. “You can’t get more Auburn than that.”
The next day, Auburn beat Mississippi State, 33-0, the second of three Tiger shutouts in a row. The last was a 16-0 shutout of Emmitt Smith and the Florida Gators in Gainesville.
Auburn would go on to share the SEC crown with LSU.
Bjork shares her crown with no one.
War Eagle, baby…
By J.M. Comer
This kind of column writes itself. Words are typed at a feverish pace. The brain is hot and throbbing. The cage that holds back the terrifying claws of that inferiority complex has been rattled. The red-headed stepchild gets pushed to the ground and dirt is kicked in his/her face once again. It comes with the territory when you support the Auburn Tigers.
Did you know that coaches are supposed to run and hide when cross-state challenges loom on the horizon? (* Release the Halloween metaphors! *) Like a vampire from the cock’s crow. The werewolf from the silver-packed pistol. Dr. Frankenstein’s monster from the peasant’s torch.
In the wide, wild world of Paul Finebaum this is what a sensible coach does, apparently. (See today’s fetid column here.)
The gist: Duck and cover, Coach Tuberville, or tuck and run. The Dark Lord Saban is coaching a winning team at the Capstone. Did you know that this past weekend a Tennessee team with one of the worst defenses in the conference was beat by Bama? Anoint the Dark Lord Saban with Volunteer blood!
If you have the time to humor us Auburn fans, Mr. Finebaum, please tell us all something: Why would Coach Tuberville run from the rising threat of an improved University of Alabama program, take the head coaching job at Texas A&M, and then have to face an almost always superior University of Texas team each year? Isn’t this trading one Boogey Man for another?
Does Auburn’s five wins in a row against Bama mean anything? One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Auburn owns Alabama. Auburn owns Bryant-Denny Stadium. I’m pretty sure there’s a memorial plaque and a bouquet of crimson and white flowers on the field where Brodie Croyle and his daddy’s dreams for his son died.
As The Auburner points out on a great T-shirt, there are children in the great state of Alabama that know how to tie their shoes, can read the adventures of Curious George, make a peanut butter sandwich — but yet don’t how to deal with a loss to the University of Alabama because they’ve never encountered such a brain-twisting concept.
So, with all due respect Mr. Finebaum, can we actually wait and see what happens at the Iron Bowl before reaching the conclusion that Tuberville fears Saban?
How many more weeks do we have to endure this fear-mongering? Five more weeks until the Iron Bowl?
LSU, can you do a big favor for us Auburn fans? We know that we must avert our eyes from your gloriousness, as you are our Bengal Overlord. But can you whip the absolute dog mess out of Bama for us? Do you need a visual aid? Let me see here. Is there any video images of a tiger eating a peacock on YouTube? Nope. Maybe you can pretend this chicken on its perch is a peacock. I would like to imagine that such will be Mother Nature’s equivalent to the feeding time at Bryant-Denny Stadium in two weeks.
By J.M. Comer
It set in Monday morning. Around 8:30 a.m. EDT as I rode in toward work.
The dark cloud of regret rolled in.
WE HAD IT IN THE DAMN BAG!
I avoided thinking about Auburn’s cursed, final squib kick all day Sunday. I didn’t read any blogs, any recaps of LSU’s dumb luck. I avoided ESPN and al.com.
I watched the Washington Redskins game yesterday hoping that Jason Campbell on offense and Carlos Rodgers on defense would help soothe the pain. Instead, it conjured visions of Campbell to Taylor in 2004.
So I finally peeked at al.com this morning and, hate to say it, Kevin Scarbinsky wrote the truth for his Birmingham News column: “It was too much to ask of one college football team.” It was too much to ask for Auburn to knock off the Top 5 teams of Florida and LSU on their home fields.
Good God, I’m proud of our Tigers for trying though. Beating LSU felt possible at halftime on Saturday night and that was a grand feeling. I was ready to buy Phillie Blunts at the 7-Eleven at halftime and smoke them with friends after the game in homage to Coach Tuberville ’99. How presumptuous of me. I angered the football gods.
These games against LSU are taking years of my life. Win or lose, the dizzying highs and the terrifying lows of these yearly battles are killing me.
Last week, in the lead up to the LSU matchup, I didn’t write a pre-game anything. I was going through YouTube looking for humorous clips of LSU tailgating tomfoolery to mock (Note to reader: Go to YouTube. Type in the words “LSU,” “tailgate” and “drunk” in the search bar. Enjoy.) but then I came to the realization that LSU fans posted the video clips on YouTube and are proud of these antics. It took the wind out of my sails.
Well, maybe they are not proud of this one:
Heh. Heh. Heh.
The most gag-inducing moment of Saturday night for me occurred off the field of play. It was ESPN’s synergy moment when it plugged the recently published book “It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium” published by ESPN Books.
Holly Rowe, ESPN’s sideline reporter, said something to the effect that she was in Barnes & Noble earlier that day and “ran across” the aforementioned book and, lo and behold!, here’s the author, John Ed Bradley, down here on the sideline. What incredible luck! Let’s interview him! Tell us about this incredible book! Barf.
How dumb does Holly Rowe think ESPN’s viewers are? Mouth-breathin’, drooling dumb I’m guessing. “I can reads book on footbaw?”
Curses to Halftime!
What is going on in the third quarter for our team? Look below at the goose eggs. The three losses against the Bulls, Bulldogs and Bayou Tigers — we haven’t scored a point in the third quarter.
Auburn vs. Kansas State: The Tigers sleepwalk to score 3 points.
vs. South Florida: 0 points.
vs. Mississippi State: 0 points. Rise and shine boys!
vs. New Mexico State: 14 points. An anomaly?
vs. Florida: 3 points
vs. Vanderbilt: 7 points
vs. Arkansas: 0 points
vs. LSU: 0 points
Something must be done about this.
By J. Henderson
The ache this morning in no way stems from a loss per se, but much more from the fact that we were downed by a ricocheted suicide attempt by a madman. The bullet bounced off his well-insulated skull and caught us between the eyes. I’m of course referring to “Less and” Les “Sense” Miles and it is our dumb-luck role as his latest enabler that rubs so raw.
The “dressed-for-the-arctic-in-the-middle-of-the-bayou” outfits are either coded messages to Michigan boosters or cries for help. The man is out of his mind. Did you see his on-the-field interview?
It made no sense.
Holly Rowe: “Take us through your decision there…”
Miles: “… on what?”
I myself listened to most of the game on the radio, only getting home in time to watch the last 5 minutes of the 4th quarter. And in the car and on the couch, there was plenty else to take in that did not make sense: calls from the sideline, specifically – unless it was just botched, which it may have been – our last squibbed kick-off; calls from the officials, specifically the criminal spot LSU received at the end of that third down screen we sniffed out in their final drive (I hereby dub 2007 “The Two Feet Game”).
But rest just as assured: that last play did not make sense. They didn’t need a touchdown, they needed a field goal. We weren’t caught off guard, my man Powers was right there.
Of course the win is satisfying for LSU fans… but there was no earthquake of euphoria last night – if anything, it must’ve been rather gusty there at the end for all the sudden gasps and sighs. Whether he’s in it for ego, or whether he’s flirting with full-blown dementia, your coach, LSU fans, has a gambling problem and his only taste is for Russian Roulette.
One of those chambers is going to have a demystifying, tear-jerking loss in it soon enough, and it’s gonna blow your brains out and there will be much clamor.
And though I wish we could have been the ones to be see it… to be there for it… I am, like everyone else, more than proud of this team.
Let us rally around them and together assume the remaining Saturdays with (extra) bone-rattling, (extra) spine-tingling assurance that it is great to be an Auburn Tiger.
By J. Henderson
The Auburn Tigers have an interesting relationship with the LSU Tigers, a relationship marked by unique commonalities beyond their virtually identical official nicknames and adjacent complementary school colors schemes. For instance, the team that succeeded the 1957 Auburn team as national champions (our first time) was LSU (their first time), a scenario that was all but reversed in 2004 when Auburn went 13-0 (should have been our second time) following LSU’s (12-1) National Championship run in 2003 (their second time) under Nick Saban, who now coaches Auburn’s arch-rival Alabama. Current Auburn tight-ends coach Steve Ensminger was born in Baton Rouge and played quarterback at LSU in the mid-70s and of course the fantastic Will Muschamp was LSU’s defensive coordinator under Saban. Also, brilliant, former Auburn coach Mike Donahue would in 1923 leave the Plains to finish out his coaching career in Baton Rouge (although with much less success then he enjoyed with the good guys).
Auburn’s ever-growing rivalry with LSU has a (not too) recent history of annual significance in the SEC, and even national, rankings, with the two teams often playing spoiler to one another’s chances at championships. Auburn won the first meeting in 1901, which was played in Baton Rouge, by the score of 28-0 but split victories nearly evenly with the Bayou Bengals up until the series was suspended in the middle of WWII. The series was not renewed until 1969 and that year was the beginning of a five game string of Auburn defeats, the good Tigers not winning again until 1981, Pat Dye’s first year on the Plains. Though there was no game in the prodigious ’71 season of Sullivan-Beasley, the 70s were, when the two met, all LSU, and for every tale of ecstasy involving two blocked punts in the Birmingham December of 1972, there is an almost equal number of almost equally visceral recounts of sopping wet October misery in Baton Rouge mud, as LSU was the only team to take down Auburn’s Amazin’s and they numbed us, 35-7. It does rain in Tiger Stadium.
But over the past two decades the rivalry has become even more compelling thanks to peculiar game-day circumstances and occurrences so clockwork they are now almost expected (a former co-worker of mine attributed this phenomenon to the Satanic element he presumed prevalent in LSU fan ritual – the fact of the roaring blaze that America watched destroy the Old Field House next to the stadium during the 1996 game in Auburn was a principle tenet of his theory).
While the series itself has no established nickname (I suggest the T.O.T. Violence Bowl – Tiger on Tiger), many of the individual games have been retrospectively christened with splashy titles such as “The Cigar Game” (owing to a stogie-fied victory celebration at mid-field by visiting Auburn in 1999 – the game was played on Tommy Tuberville’s birthday, as was the so-called “Extra Point(s)” game in 2004, which Auburn also won) and “The Whistle Game” (in which Auburn quarterback Patrick Nix was sacked for a safety when he stopped play after hearing a whistle, which was blown not by the officials but by someone in the stands, almost certainly an LSU fan), which was played the year following “The Interception Game / Pass, Bengals, Pass” which is one of the two most famous games in the series, and easily gets Auburn fan’s vote for the best.
The Weather Channel’s forecast for Hurricane Ivan as seen on the old Jordan-Hare jumbotron the week of the 2004 LSU game…
I started too late on my plan for this week, which was to write a feature on each of the two currently-most celebrated games of the Auburn-LSU series, finishing on Friday with a memoir of “The Interception Game”, which is certainly one of the wildest comebacks in the history of college football, one that inspired my Dad to tear his shirt off, run outside, and beat his chest like Tarzan while screaming “War Eagle.” But I doubt I will have the time and will instead simply insert a replay of the Miracle itself (pardon the music):
And so this “installment” will for now stand alone as an investigation into the game with the most bombastic nickname of them all, the game that first rises to the top in contemporary discussions on the topic of Auburn vs. LSU voodoo, the game most malleable for ESPN pre-game featurettes (by which, as we shall learn, the myth surrounding it was actually created): “The Earthquake Game.”
The so-called “Earthquake Game” was the first time I cried over football. It was October 8, 1988. I was 9. The game was on ESPN. My Dad, my uncle and I sat there stunned, an empty Pizza Hut box in front of us cracked open as if it was laughing. I hopped out of the recliner and ran up-stairs to gag spit and tears into the toilet in the dark. My Dad knocked on the bathroom door and tried telling me it was just a game – but Auburn was awesome, we weren’t supposed to lose, we hardly ever did, but now we had. I think I blacked out until the Iron Bowl.
Beyond my first true taste of mortality, the ’88 game is most notable for the retroactive apotheosis of the peculiar incident to which it owes its nickname.
HERE’S THE STORY…
The 5th season of “The Cosby Show” premiered on October 6th, just two days before the game, which was in Baton Rouge, and Cosby – Cosby – had actually slipped in the ratings, down 19% from the previous year, though it of course still controlled 40% of the audience share. So weird things were happening and Theo’s voice-change was about to rock America.
ESPN was pressuring LSU to move the scheduled 6:15 pm kickoff to earlier in the afternoon; an afternoon game meant more money for everyone but the vaunted and cherished nocturnal punch to the Death Valley home field advantage, which LSU’s 1988 media guide called “the most dreaded in America”, would have been compromised.
LSU said no way.
They were coming into the game 2-2 and were eager to drown the pain of two consecutive on-the-road losses to Ohio State and Florida (their 1988 schedule, at least from I where I sit, seems herculean to say the least), drown it in Auburn’s blood, and wanted every inch of leverage they could get. The Louisianans had not won a home-game (0-4-2) under sunshine in 7 years. 2nd-year coach Mike Archer was quoted the day before as saying “They could’ve offered $5 million and I would not have moved this game. To play in [Tiger Stadium] at night is the most important thing to this football team.” According to their then starting guard, Ruffin Rodrigue, “LSU football is night,” and Birmingham News sports columnist Kevin Scarbinsky even referred to LSU as “Team Dracula.”
Still Auburn coach Pat Dye was nonchalant about the whole business.
“We’re not looking for any excuses,” Dye said. “We’re not going to let the fact we’re playing in Baton Rouge affect us. Noise is always a factor. I’ve been in that stadium where it was as loud as it could be. I’ve also been in that stadium where you could hear a whisper across the field. That stadium won’t make one tackle or complete one pass.”
As for that last bit, on that night, LSU fans, to this day, might beg to differ.
Down by six and with no timeouts and 1:47 left to go in the game, LSU quarterback Tommy Hodson, who was described in one recap as “looking like a high-schooler for 3 1/2 quarters,” zipped a do-or-die 4th down bullet, over the zone-playing heads and fingers of one of the most ferocious Auburn defenses ever, to tailback Eddie Fuller who was waiting in the back of the end zone for his third chance to catch the game winner, a chance he got. He got it and he caught the ball. The extra point, kicker David Browndyke’s 69th in a row, was good. It was the capper to a 74-yard game-winning drive, in which the till-then anemic LSU offense finally crossed the 50 yard line, something they’d failed to do all night.
The stadium erupted, I vomited.
Final score: LSU 7 – Auburn 6 and that was the end of it.
The two teams wound up sharing the SEC championship, LSU with a final record of 8-4, Auburn with a final record of 10-2, losing again only to Florida State in the Sugar Bowl, and, for a few years, the ’88 game was just another exciting game, just another memory – good for LSU fans, bad for Auburn. But somewhere along the way – likely at some point in the early 90s – the ’88 game was reborn in the minds of LSU fans, Auburn fans, football trivia fans, and sports marketing gurus as “The Earthquake Game.” Since that time, vibrantly fuzzy mental snapshots of the new child have engulfed the nostalgia of interested parties in a thick lore of near-Biblical proportion.
The gist of the legend is that on the night of October 8th, 1988, the noise and commotion of the celebrants in Tiger Stadium produced a minor earthquake. I was curious about what had actually happened, what had actually poisoned that night, and set out to perform an autopsy on the small piece of my soul 19 years deceased. I didn’t remember hearing about any earthquake, but I was young, and I just remember the pain.
However, when I decided to take a look back on the contemporary coverage of that exciting, if personally nauseating, game, I found no reference to an earthquake in any of the reporting that followed, no “Can You Believe This?” sidebars, nothing. Though 1988 was a pre-Internet reality, I knew that the old wire-services were still pretty fast and therefore thought it odd such a spectacular anomaly would have escaped the scoop, unless knowledge of it was not, in fact, widespread.
But there was nothing to be found in the pre-game newspaper build-up nor post game coverage of the ’89 game either, none at least in the papers I had time to peruse for details (The Auburn Plainsman and The Birmingham News).
But after searching the internet I did manage to find the name of the seismologist credited with the discovery of the quake. And I found his e-mail address. It was at that point that my focus for this eternal post shifted from what happened to what didn’t happen, because the structure of the modern earthquake meme at its most extreme lends itself to visions of delirious LSU fans actually immediately aware of the event, if not, in some way, actually channeling it. Not that anyone in the stands would revise their memory to include descriptions of a Hollywood-style earthquake (minus causalities), but much of the current net-buzz specific to “The Earthquake Game” seems easily rendered into a conception close to it.
For instance, the very name of the LSU blog “And The Valley Shook“, in addition to evidencing just how important the game has become in the LSU psyche, almost implies a game-changing phenomenon, invested with the supernatural, and immediately perceived as such by LSU fans, rather than an after-thought piece of trivia, and that is what it once was.
Still, for LSU fans and even Auburn fans (if for the mere fact of being apparently the only Earthquake worthy opponent LSU has ever faced), the sublime aspects of such a story are irresistible and they were irresistible to ESPN.