Monroe, LA – It was an impromptu reconnaissance mission. It turned into a thought experiment.
It was too dark to stop in Monroe on my way out to Lubbock (I went to find a place to live). Left at 2:30 in the afternoon and drove the 16 hours straight, pulled in at dawn. While there I checked out Texas Tech’s tiny stadium (it looked like the Hoover Met from the interstate, I swear), I queried their fan base (the pre-season attention has them confused, even frightened), I even happened to cruise past someone named Michael Crabtree (Tech’s star receiver, I’m told), on Buddy Holly Ave (my tour guide told me he’d “lost what the game was about” – Crabtree, not Holly). After all, we’ve been picked to meet the Red Raiders in the Sugar Bowl, and we (7th) are making out with them (8th) in the latest Sports Illustrated preview. So gettin’ the scoop on what I guess protocol demands to be my second favorite team, at least temporarily, seemed wise.
But I really wanted to take the opportunity of this gasser of a trip to get a feel for Monroe, for ULM, some scouting, some sleeping with the enemy, really take some notes… which is what I did on the way home. No, I’m lying. There was no scouting. I was there for The Billboard. And you’d better believe that it’s still up, oh it’s up.
The kitchen and wait staff at the Copeland’s at Pecanland Mall Dr. were more than glad to help get me there. They noticed the Auburn hat right off. Even though we’re locking horns in three weeks, it was still very ‘the-enemy-of-my-enemy’ up in there, smiles all around, refills without even asking. It made me think of Chris Shelling Jr.’s preview:
LaMonroe Prediction=sweltering heat, short skirts, auburn wins. Expect some funny t-shirts and possible standing-O for the visitors.
“Just go out this way, take your first right…”
There are actually two of them. I just went to one, the closest one. The sunset was incredible. It was almost too dark to find it. But then. There. It. Was.
Wait! No, that’s not it! Oh hot damn, please tell me that’s Alabama, oh it is, it totally is! They’ve not only gloated over the win a la billboard for almost a whole year, they’re actually using the victory in their promotional campaign for ’08, “Hey Monroe, come out and support youurrrrrr Saban Slayers, first 10,000 kids get a koozie.” Oh man, beautiful.
OK, well hmmm, where is it… wait, there it is, yeah, yeah, pull over.
Ahh. Man, it’s even sexier in person. Here… take one with me, make sure the hat’s in it.
There you have it. Yeah, there was no reconnaissance, would have been fun, but I’m a busy man. But now let’s talk that thought experiment. Alright, now, I promise this is not arrogance, not cockiness… I am no foolhardy braggart… but I just want to ask: recent Iron Bowls excluded, has Auburn ever had (in theory) less of a chance to lose a game than this year’s opener against Monroe?
No. 1) … it’s the first game, the boys are fighting themselves, beating each other up, salivating, throw them some meat, we’re going to be ready.
No. 2) … after nine months in the oven, it’s the first real debut of Spread Eagle, which in just nine days time was effective enough to beat Clemson, the team this year picked to win the ACC (aren’t they?)…
No. 3) and most importantly … we’re going up in this first game with all of Tony’s Toys against a dinky-ish team that not only famously embarrassed Alabama on the field but a team who’s fan base will pay thousands to hoist their schadenfreude high over interstates and thoroughfares and will potentially use photos of their players scoring on faltering Auburn defenders to advertise War Hawk Football ’09. The coaches will surely beat these facts into the players.
So again I ask you: have we ever had more incentive to be up for a cupcake? Discuss.