Tag Archives: Shug Jordan

It’s Pronounced JORDAN: Brothur’s Club

Just a little distraction …

shugbearbrothursclub

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

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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.

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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…

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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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Thursday 7:42 p.m.

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Wednesday 7:34 p.m.

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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.”

“Oh…”

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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It’s Pronounced JORDAN: Hare Stadium

hare-stadium-73.jpg

Rare shot of Jordan-Hare Stadium, changing clothes. On Oct. 6, 1973, at the Ole Miss game, Cliff Hare Stadium officially became Jordan-Hare stadium, making Ralph “Shug” Jordan the first ever active coach to have his team’s home stadium named in his honor. Auburn won, 14-7. Photo by L. Parker.

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It’s Pronounced JORDAN: Like I said…

… it really is.

(Thanks to Kenny Smith and WAUD for the new way to start my days…)

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