Tag Archives: Bear Bryant

It’s Pronounced JORDAN: Brothur’s Club

Just a little distraction …


May the Auburn good guy / Bama bad guy meme (the faces people … coach after coach … the faces … ) extend into this next anxious era… and forever…

God’s will be done.

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The Duty


The duty of this eleven was

To put Tuscaloosa in tears.

There was Smith and Shafer and Johnny Glenn

And Brown and Williams too.

Many others with us came,

And wore the Orange and Blue

For eleven little tiger boys, lad,

For eleven little tiger boys.

Everyone’s mothers and their brothers

Just knew what they could do.

And eleven little tiger boys, lad,

Will break Tuscaloosa’s heart.

She is another that we will smother,

Before we drift apart.

The earliest surviving reference to the Auburn football team as “Tigers,” written by Walker R. Tichenor, Auburn’s quarterback, and youngest son of former Auburn president Isaac Taylor Tichenor, prior to the 1894 Auburn-Alabama game. Which we lost. But listen to the tone…

… and we were underdogs.

This Thanksgiving, I was thankful for Auburn’s genetic advantage in it’s rivalry with Alabama. Whether bringing eleven wins or eleven losses or five wins and six losses, Auburn will always enter the Iron Bowl as the underdog.

In the beginning, we owned them. When the fires of football, set by George Petrie, first engulfed the state, Tuscaloosa could but bend over before the gods of Auburn and pray for dark. Yet even then, in the bowers of innocence and conquest, the Tigers were a priori underdogs, presumed inferior, a mere college fighting… The University.

The wins came, as did the losses. The Bryant years were mostly misery. The Dye years mostly great. They’ve had a streak of nine. We’re on a streak of six. But Auburn, a tiny village, has never entered a game with Alabama, an entire state, without that Tiennamen Square middle finger and the support of heaven.

And it never will.


I often imagine the shift. What will happen? When the wins are even? When we take the lead? When our wins outnumber theirs by double digits? Triple digits?

Though we want it, though we await for it like Christ’s return, I once quietly feared that win column dominance would dull the blade that drew the nectar of ’72, of ’82, etc. I feared it would change us. But I fear no longer.

For over the course of the past six years, I have realized that the dynamic forged in the ’60s and ’70s – the wilderness of our fathers, a wilderness which our young hearts have never known, but that bore in them the hate on which we were nursed – provides them no alternative to the disgusting arrogance they’re known for.

That is who they are.

When the streak stretches to 10 … to 10 x 10 … they will bark and they will howl and they will return to their vomit. But they will never be able to tap the spirit of the underdog. It is a sixth sense kept from them by the facts of the world and by their sin.

Meanwhile, it is Auburn’s birthright. And that is why we will win the last Iron Bowl ever played, just like we won the first.

And that is why we have a much better shot of winning tomorrow than they do (and … shhhh … they’re just not that good).

And it’s why we’re better.

I quote myself:

Auburn is not pro-football, Auburn is not some damn, trendy logo team, we are Auburn University, we are Auburn, Alabama, we are the heart’s hail mary, the twice-blocked punts, we are 1989, we are 1993, we are 2004, hell, we are 1950, we are Christ-painted sunsets, we are hope in things unseen, we are Spirit – I kid you not, we are Christmas, and Coca-Cola, we are Tygers burning bright in the Forest of the Night…


It’s Americana, boys. It’s country boy goes to town.

“Always remember that Goliath was a 40-point favorite over David.” – Shug

So, gather ye freaking stones, men. Tomorrow, we ride.

War Damn Eagle. To everlasting hell with Alabama.

War Eagle Forever.

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Actor’s new memoir zooms in on deleted scenes of southern football integration

By J. Henderson

[You’ll pick up pretty quickly that I mostly wrote this for an audience mostly unfamiliar with Auburn football. So forgive the explanation of the Iron Bowl, Punt, Bama, Punt, etc… and full disclosure, as they say – I helped Thom with some of the research for the book. Fuller disclosure: this is long, but worth it I hope, so click the ‘keep reading’ link.]

Thom Gossom is telling me a story over the phone. I saw him tell it once on TV. He killed. Still, it’s better this time. It goes like this:

It’s the spring of 2004, a weekday afternoon in Los Angeles, inside a waiting room. It’s an audition for the television show Boston Legal. There is a black guy, about 50, sitting there, waiting to read for a part. That’s Thom.

He’s flipping through Sports Illustrated. There’s some svelte hipster, white, probably about 25, sitting across from him. The kid is wearing a vintage thrift-store t-shirt. It catches Thom’s eye. He puts the magazine down.

“… and I go, ‘hey man, let me see that shirt.’ So he stretches it out for me.”

The shirt reads: “Happy Birthday Bo, From Van Tiffin’s Toe: 25-23 – November 30, 1985.”

“I said, ‘Oh, wow man, d’you go to Alabama?’ He says, ‘oh, no, it’s just one of those vintage things.’ I said, ‘oh, so you don’t know what it means?’ He laughs a little bit, shakes his head no. He’s kinda freaked out a little bit, but you know, he’s really paying attention. I say, ‘well let me tell ya’ man, the ‘Bo’ is Bo Jackson.”

“He says, ‘oh, Bo Jackson?’ I said, ‘yeah man, this guy, Van Tiffin for Alabama, he kicked a field goal at the end of the Auburn-Alabama game that year and won the game and everything.’”

Thom said he explained a little bit more. The game was played on Bo Jackson’s birthday. It was his senior year. Tiffin’s kick was voted by Alabama fans as the greatest play ever in Birmingham’s Legion Field. It was a big deal. It was a knife in the gut to Auburn fans.

The kid goes, “Oh, so Bo went to Alabama?”

“Naw, man, Bo went to Auburn.”

They kept going.

“He was like ‘man, they take that stuff real serious down there don’t they?’ And I’m like, ‘oh man, yeah, if you went into the wrong place with that t-shirt on, you’d be in trouble like hell.’”

Ha ha ha.

“And so he asks me, he says, ‘well how come you know so much about it?’”

Thom tells him.

“I played football for Auburn.”


The kid gets quiet, then he looks the black guy in the eye. The black guy, Thom, looks back and says:

“Yeah, man, you’re about to get your ass kicked.”

Ha haaaaaaaaa haaaaaaaaa!

Ok, I wanted to start off with that story. I think it sets the stage, so to speak. Now let’s talk Thom. You might not know Thom’s name, but you probably know his face. He’s an actor, a “that guy.” As in, “oh, that guy.” He’s a black that guy, a good one, well respected.

For me, it was In the Heat of the Night. I snapped my fingers and said “that’s it!” That’s why he looked so familiar. Officer Ted Marcus – 20 episodes, his big break.

“People will tell me they recognize me, but they don’t recognize me from role to role,” Gossom tells me in between conference calls with his publisher (he’s got a book coming out). “I take that as a compliment.”

He’s been a salesman here, a pharmacist there, a coach, a dude. The detective in Fight Club? That’s Thom. The judge on Boston Legal? Thom again. The CEO in the new Citibank commercial, holding up a box with that “we did it, team” look on his face? That guy, Thom Gossom. He’s been at it a while.

“They might be small roles, but I try to take them all seriously.”

“I guess you didn’t have to try very hard to take things seriously back then,” I say.

“No, back then it was pretty damn easy.”

Back then was the early 70s. If you rewind his career back to back then, back to college, back to Alabama, back to when national culture and especially southern culture was being completely recast, that guy, Thom Gossom, found himself as one of the leads in an action-drama of singular significance.

Because Thom wasn’t just a black guy back then, he was a black football player; “1970s Black Football Player in Alabama” is the most serious part he’s ever played.

photo by B. Ashmore

False Start

Thom was a wide receiver, arguably the most segregated position in today’s version of the game (Chris Shelling Jr. recently joked in an e-mail that “Auburn’s Next Top White Receiver” would make great reality TV. “Hicks Poor and Justin Fetsko could host.”).

He was a star on the one stage our mutual home state of Alabama continues to care about above all others, but at a time when the spotlight of that humid autumn sun really brought out the color in your skin. Thom Gossom was the second black football player at the first Division I school in Alabama to break the gridiron’s color barrier.

That school was not the University of Alabama.

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I Believe

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Filed under General, Iron Bowl 365

Bama and Coke, Back Again. Coca-Cola, too.

This is disappointing.

Pepsi signs above Legion Field were always that extra mark of the beast sealing Bama’s deal with the devil (Pepsi is aligned with the devil, Coke with the Lord and Auburn always with Coke and the Lord)… and that they served that stingless syrup at Bryant-Denny was more evidence that they played girl ball. The world was perfect.

But now I’ve lost at least one outlet for my disdain. And yet I take comfort in knowing that though switching to the better brand is obviously a good thing for them, mojo-wise, it can hardly do much until they actually get a better coach. That is, I doubt we’ll be seeing any Bama / Coca-Cola version of the Florida / Gatorade commercials any time soon. [By the way, guess which of the four teams that Florida didn’t beat in that heralded first-year spell under Gatorade poured them their biggest loss ? This guy… 28-17. Not that I’m a Powerade man, even though it’s Coke-owned. I mean, I drink it, but Gatorade is obviously more classic. Brand-loyalty is a complicated lover. I mean, Mt. Dew is Pepsi-owned, but it’s OK, same for Sunkist I think, though I associate it more with Coke.}

But of course, I gain another outlet, as I must take drastic issue with Ian Rapoport’s insane lede:

“Once again, Alabama football fans can enjoy the same beverage coach Paul “Bear” Bryant helped make famous.”

I suppose… I hope… that this is simply gotta-make-deadline pandering: the same Alabama fans who think that the terrorists attacked on Sept. 11 because it was/is Bear Bryant’s birthday — oh, and they’re out there; Finebaum had one on as a guest a few years back, a real Bama luminary no less — probably do think that Bear Bryant was integral in making Coke the most recognized brand in the world.* The terrorists were probably Pepsi drinkers, so yeah… I mean, they probably were.

The other note-worthy aspect of this month old news is, as The Auburner points out, its relative ironic timing to the incident bookending the latest Auburn-on-Bama shoppenfreude {please link and credit — new term for rivalry-specific Photoshopped e-meme — hmmm, maybe BumperLink would also be good. BumperFlickr? Punnier, not quite accurate}.

*[Speaking of Coke history, I swear I’ve got a scan from an old 1950s Plainsman that recounts Toomer’s Drugs as the first place Coke was sold on tap. I can’t find it right now, but until I do, here’s something that at least kinda backs me up, though he says they sold the first bottle, scroll down…]

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Toomer’s Rumors and Boomers – 1.28.08

*** Saban and Shula almost bump into each other. Shula would drop him like 4 million bricks.

*** And Lord, speaking of confrontations, word on the street is that Paul Finebaum was tongue-lashed by Elizabeth Gottfried, wife of Alabama basketball coach Mark Gottfried, at the Auburn-Alabama game Saturday afternoon in Coleman Coliseum, probably just as Kenny Smith (and his Yankee) and I sat down at Homewood’s new Little Auburn aka Mama Goldberg’s.

My favorite rumored slice of the exchange is Elizabeth’s “we have 5 kids, we have 5 kids!”

That’s a fine way to celebrate Bear Bryant’s Deathiversary…


Saturday night interstate up in Birmingham, Birmingham, War Damn Eagle-Ham. (r/t/y/j/k/a/j/f/ Kenny Smith)

*** Chef John Hamme of Ariccia, the swank restaurant in the Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center, was recently featured on an episode of the Food Network Challenge. Hamme prepared “Pancetta Wrapped Bayou La Batre Shrimp with Rikards Mill Yellow Corn Grits and Grilled Heirloom Tomatoes” for “The Great American Seafood Cook-Off II.” Hamme and Co.’s Warm Tomato Tart was named “Official Dish of the Year of Alabama Food Winner” by the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel in 2005. Represent, Represent!

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Toomer’s Rumors and Boomers – 1.27.08

bearbryantcover.jpg*** It seems so very appropriate that, on the 25th anniversary of Bear Bryant’s death, Alabama would beat Auburn…

… in basketball.

Speaking of, nobody guessed the right answer to my Bear Bryant Deathiversary Trivia Question. By that, I mean that nobody even ventured a guess. Thanks for the memories! But going on the assumption that people really do want to know, but were intimidated to silence by such an academic hurdle, I will go ahead and spill:

The two blue-chip recruits that committed to Auburn on Jan. 26, 1983 are Jeff Burger and Brent Fullwood, two of my favorites.

*** From an article published yesterday in the Kansas City Star:

“They could hear the sound for blocks, the sound of Dennis Franchione being fed to the wood chipper. Nearly a thousand Alabama fans gathered in Tuscaloosa in December 2002 and spent a Friday afternoon throwing anything with Franchione’s name or face on it into a machine that turns timber into dust.

They called it therapy. Eight days earlier, Franchione had left Tuscaloosa on the Texas A&M jet and never looked back. The man who was called a coaching genius and a savior of programs had made promises. They had trusted him.

When the wood chipper was not violent enough, the group started a fire and fed it more Franchione memorabilia. Bobble-head dolls sizzled and popped. Photographs curled and turned black and disappeared into the glow. The crowd circled the fire, dancing and cheering.

“The guy was a liar and traitor,” remembers local columnist Paul Finebaum, who has covered sports in Alabama for 25 years…”

But Paul, so is Nick Saban. In fact, people used those exact words to describe him just a year ago. You mean you feel that way about Francione because he lied and betrayed Alabama

Speaking of Finebaum, it must’ve been rough on him yesterday. In his latest, blindingly ironic column, Paul neatly excuses the past 25 years of Bama ball with one of his own quotes from “The Last Coach”: it was ordained in a no-mountain-without-valley sorta way. He argues that Alabama fans don’t live in the past, they remember excellence. He ends the column by claiming that Alabama, because of Saban, can finally look forward to good times… and then essentially denies the possibility that excellence can ever return, because “there was only one Bear Bryant.”

But before that: “The question has been hotly debated over many years in relation to whether Alabama can ever escape the long shadow of Bryant. The question ought to be why would Alabama want to.”

I think you just answered that question, Paul… flame on…

*** Even with the good news that Auburn is back in the thick of things with Enrique Davis, peculiarities still surround his reasons for de-committing, which were supposedly centered around Fear of a Spread Eagle. And yet apparently Oregon was being tossed around as a new contender for his loyalties even before Tony Franklin and Eddie Gran visited Davis last Wednesday. Not to belabor the point, but, again, as Ike pointed out, Oregon runs the hell out of the spread offense. Ducks running Jonathan Stewart ran for a team record 1,722 yards (more than 6 yards a carry and a 11 touchdowns), numbers bold enough for him to decide to forgo his senior season for the NFL draft. So was it the spread, or something else?

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