Walk-On, the new book from former Auburn star Thom Gossom, was finally released last Tuesday — perhaps you remember hearing about it in my recent novel.
There have been some other write ups and last week, Paul Finebaum took a break from his busy career in erotica to have Thom on his radio show. Paul, of course, took the opportunity to insinuate that Auburn just really hates black people, that it always has hated black people, that it will forever continue to hate and loathe and belittle black people. Keep them down. Bench them. Second-string them.
He refers to Auburn as “… a school that’s always had a rap with the racial issue…”and as having “a reputation as a bad place for black players over the years.” He wants to know if “that’s been rectified” and also “why every time there’s a black quarterback down there it’s an instant controversy, one of those may be going on right now…”
Keep in mind this was while discussing a book written about, among other things, Auburn’s leading role in integrating college football in the state of Alabama.
Here’s the math:
Kodi Burns + second string = Tommy Tuberville, racist.
Oh, also keep in mind that Kodi Burns is not only the current fan favorite for the starting job but the latest in a long string of black “fan favorite” quarterbacks going back to the early 80s. Pat Washington, Reggie Slack, Dameyune Craig, Jason Campbell and now Kodi — Campbell, Craig, and Slack are arguably the three most popular quarterbacks in recent Auburn history.
(To his eternal credit, Thom defended Auburn, saying no, no, you know, it was hard everywhere, Paul.)
But it was Paul’s peculiar contrast of Thom’s experience as the second black football player at Auburn, (which began six years after Auburn integrated) to what must be his understanding of the Bama experience… in particular, to the famous spectacle surrounding the initial integration of the University of Alabama… to the Hug in the Schoolhouse Door, to all the funshine and rainbows filling Tuscaloosa in the early 60s… that really caught my attention:
“This is not a pretty story,” Finebaum says of Walk-On. “This is not, ‘hey, I walked in the door with the national guard and everyone embraced me…‘”
No football player in the state of Alabama, red or yellow, black or white, ever ‘walked in the door’ flanked by the national guard (any national guard action, and it was only at Alabama, would have been, oh, seven years prior). If they had, it wouldn’t have had anything to do with protecting them from fanmail or PDA.
So what the hell is he talking about? Whatever it is, taste it — it’s grain fed revisionism, of the sort only Bama fans can churn, and oh so similar to a certain strain — a fascinating phenomenon of Bryantism — that kept popping up during my research for Walk-On … but more on that later.
Just know, for now, that if you’ve ever felt paranoid for thinking that Paul would rip out a kidney and slap it on the table for the University of Alabama.. don’t.
Because when Finebaum writes:
For long-time chroniclers of college football, it has been agonizing to witness the devestation of the Alabama dynasty – once among the proudest in the lore of the sport.
… he is first and foremost writing about himself. And he would do anything in the world to end that agony… fantasize about institutional racism at Auburn, bend over for Dr. Saban… anything to maybe, just maybe, help, one day, take the edge off…