Thursday, March 31, 2011

shameless promotion (2.0): March 31, 2011

Editor's note: In the ongoing effort of this blog to fire Will Heathpromote its primary author's rapidly failingcareer as writer, we present this week's column from the St. Clair Times. As always, you are welcome to discuss the matter here or by finding us on Twitter. We thank you in advance for your feigning of interest.
Go wherever you want (just not there)

Picture the following scene: A group of friends wants to go out for a meal, to sit down, enjoy one another’s company and not pay too much.

If your friends are like mine, the conversation will almost certainly go something like this:

“So, what do you have a taste for tonight?”

“Aw … nothing special. Anywhere’s fine.”


“Nah … not really in the mood for Mexican.”


“Had Italian last night.”


“My wife’s allergic to soy.”


“Can’t eat red meat.”

“Are you kidding?”

“None at all. I gave it up for Lent.”

“It’s Sunday.”


“So Lent is the 40 days before Easter excluding Sundays.”

“Oh. Well, I still don’t want a burger.”

And this conversation will go on for another 15-20 minutes, until everyone is frustrated enough that they forgot why they all got together in the first place, and Andy asks if we can all just go back to his place and get something out of the icebox.

Such is the attitude in America when it comes to budgets, particularly in our own government. Ask anyone in America, Alabama and St. Clair County what is the No. 1 problem in government, and they’ll probably say “Government waste” or “too much spending.”

Our local representatives and senators know this, of course, which is why they’re constantly harping on the subject of government waste and overspending.

“You wouldn’t spend more than you take in at home,” they’ll say. “Why is our government allowed to do that?”

The thing is, they’re right. Overspending and government waste are huge, huge problems in this country, probably more serious than we care to imagine, because most of us are more concerned about what Charlie Sheen just said (oh, for a Charlie Sheen rant about government waste).

Go back to those same citizens angry about government waste, though, and ask them what needs to be cut. Where can we spend less?

“Aw … you know, cut out all that wasteful spending.”

“Like what?”

“You know … that pork stuff.”

It’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it? All of us want to see spending go down; only the most radical among us actually wants to see programs (like Social Security and Medicare) take hits.

So what’s to cut? NASA? Education? The post office?

What about the various grants issued through the federal government all the time? The state of Alabama — whose leadership is never shy about tut-tutting the feds for their wasteful spending — never turns down money from Washington, does it? Does anybody?

The two most politically expedient things in the world, in order, are lowering taxes and increasing spending. Both will be met with huzzahs from the general public … until 10 years later, when they find their government is in greater debt.

And by then, the people who instituted those policies in the first place will be long gone from office, probably sitting around somewhere trying to decide where they’d like to eat dinner.


“Are you kidding? Sushi? Who actually eats sushi?”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday tube: throwing it down with authority

In anticipation of tonight's big game vs. Colorado at Madison Square Garden, here are two of my favorite dunks from this season.

While there's technically no meaningful title on the line this week, two more wins would earn the first national trophy in the history of Alabama basketball. So yeah, I'll be watching with baited breath.
Roll Tide.

Monday, March 28, 2011

a belated Bama hoops post

Intended to post this earlier, but I sent this as an email to my brother Whit early Thursday, after our boys crushed Miami to punch a ticket to the NIT semifinals in Madison Square Garden. I'm re-posting here with a few updates.

So what does all this mean? The temptation, even in the celebration of the moment Wednesday night, is to grumble, "Yeah but ... it's JUST THE NIT."
And I guess it is. But it's more than that, right?

I see three very large things that emerged from last night and this entire NIT run ...

• The 19-0 mark at home. A bigger deal than even I want to say. For all the talk about Alabama not being a basketball school — and yes, football will always come first — deep down we all know that basketball can thrive here. And the fans this season seemed to really love this team; even ESPN's announcers noticed that the students seemed to really encourage our guys on defense, and the boys feed off that energy. To see the standing ovations for Senario Hillman (a senior), hear the roar of the crowd during the crucial second-half run, see the team and the coach high-fiving everyone on their way off the floor, that DOES mean something.

• The way the team played in the tournament. Be honest: this was an overachieving team pretty much from the jump. How could we have won 24 games with such a limited roster? The only answer: by sustaining a ridiculous level of intensity that our opponents couldn't totally match. And that was the danger after Selection Sunday: With no real title left to achieve, would that intensity level let down?
We have our answer now: the New Mexico and Miami games were basketball exactly the way coach Grant envisioned it played. Turnovers, frenetic energy and a breakneck pace. One of the best compliments to a coach is that his team gets better when it matters, and Alabama has done so. That's pretty special.

• Most importantly, the fact that Alabama basketball is on a big stage. Maybe basketball at Alabama never stopped mattering to people like you and me (true believers), but the program hasn't received this kind of exposure since the run to the Elite 8 in 2004. The only answer to being left out of the big tournament was for the squad to prove itself in the little one. And they have done so, with emphasis.
And, with the news over the weekend that Jamychal Green intends to return in 2012, with Tony Mitchell and Trevor Releford coming into their own in March and a promising recruiting class coming down the pike, things are definitely trending upward.
It's not a national championship, but it's a pretty big step. Roll Tide.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

shameless promotion (2.0): March 24, 2011

In the ongoing effort of this blog to get Will Heath fired once and for all promote its primary author's rapidly disintegrating writing career, we present this week's column from the St. Clair Times. As always, please feel free to leave your own comments, either here or by finding us on Twitter. We thank you in advance for your feigning of interest.
Commercials make life too hard

Can life be nearly so difficult as it is in television commercials?

Recently a series of spots have run for a popular energy drink, whose contents appear to be the equivalent of a liquid 8-ball. The spots depict a succession of groggy people, attempting to wake themselves in the morning by making coffee.

Fine, but each ad depicts making coffee as though it were the labor equivalent of open-heart surgery. The characters in the ads fumble through the filters, spill water all over themselves and come very close to setting the house on fire, all while attempting to make a simple pot of coffee. Those who choose to pick up their coffee from a shop are stuck in long, miserable lines, staring at their watches in a crowd of other people who look equally miserable.

“Why do we go through so much hassle every morning for coffee?” a voiceover asks.

Wait, do we? Coffee is actually pretty easy to make, right? The entire process takes somewhere in the neighborhood of three minutes, and if you’re really obnoxious (like me!) you can even buy a coffeemaker with a timer on it, so you can literally wake up in the morning with a fresh pot already made.

(Note: Among my favorites of these ads is the one in which the woman needs to down an energy drink so she can walk on a treadmill — the treadmill that appears to be already in her house. Really.)

Another television spot promotes a giant blanket with sleeves, possibly the least necessary invention in the history of American society since the Pet Rock.

In a desperate attempt to prove the necessity of this product, the ad depicts a series of characters wrapped in ordinary blankets — which is to say, without sleeves — struggling mightily to perform simple tasks like answering the phone or eating popcorn. Because this ad is taking place in an alternate universe where taking one’s arms out from under the blanket means certain death.

The ad also features other, cheerful characters using the sleeved blanket while camping or watching outdoor sports. Suffice to say, if you met one of these people, you’d turn in the opposite direction and run as fast as you could.

Look, I realize it’s the job of advertisers to convince us that life could be made better. Most likely no one realized what a hassle was involved in standing up to change the channel on a television until someone invented a remote control. And surely no one realized how much better life could be with a giant paperweight until the portable DVD player came into being.

Even so, don’t we have enough real problems without inventing them artificially? Could life really be this hard?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

your 2011 football schedule, as penance

My apologies for the lack of blogging lately — I'd explain but I doubt you care. As penance, and in advance of tonight's NIT quarterfinal in Tuscaloosa, here is the 2011 SEC football schedule, which was released today.

Looks like fun, right? In the meantime, let's see if our hoop squad can take a step tonight. Roll Tide.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Andy: Indians and redcoats and muskets and cannons and guns and stuff

In today's edition of "Friday Andy," we learn the importance of studying history.

We'll probably have another road trip installment this weekend sometime. Until then, enjoy the tournament.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

my very late shot at a bracket

With only two hours before the tournament begins for real, here is my bracket for March. Just for the record, I instituted three rules for bracket-picking, when in doubt. If you're still picking, feel free to play along (note: these rules are for games you don't have a definite feeling about one way or the other).
When in doubt ...
Ask yourself if one of the teams has a transcendent player who might go crazy. Call it the Carmelo Anthony Rule (after Carmelo carried a so-so Syracuse team to a national championship in 2003). If you think Jimmer Fredette, Kemba Walker or Jacob Pullen (that's his name, right?) stands a chance of throwing his team on his back and grabbing the attention of the nation this March, don't pick against them or you'll hate yourself.
Seek the popular opinion and go the other way. I stole this rule from Simmons' NFL Playoff Gambling Manifesto because I think it works here. What's fun about picking every game just like everybody else? You're not winning anything that way.
Finally, if you still can't decide, just pick the team you want to win. Look, bracket pools are ultimately about having fun. And it's absolutely no fun to pick a team to win when you know in your heart you'll secretly be rooting for them to lose. That kind of cognitive dissonance can kill a person.

With that in mind, please enjoy my bracket. And the rest of March.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tuesday tube: a familiar foe

Hosting a first-round NIT game vs. Coastal Carolina isn't exactly what we envisioned at this time last week for our basketball team. Nonetheless, the game is not without storylines. The biggest: the return of Cliff Ellis, who hasn't visited Coleman Coliseum since this night.

Fortunately for Ellis, Jason Reese is now long gone, as is Gottfried and that entire bunch. Let's hope the experience is no more pleasant this time around. Roll Tide.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

an NCAA tournament thought: dazed and confused

OK, so Alabama did not make the NCAA Tournament. I'm not too worked up about it, not even about the fact that the University of Georgia — who Alabama defeated twice in its final 3 games — somehow made it in as a frigging 10 seed. We can all sit here and whine about that, but the fact is our team had multiple chances to prove it belonged in the field and, those 2 games vs. UGA excepted, failed every test. So while we could whine about being snubbed; hell, we could even do like The Warbloger did 2 years ago when Auburn didn't get in and construct a convoluted argument about how mid-majors "should've been better in high school."
Or we could just take our medicine like men, and understand that this is simply another step in the process of a rebuilding program.

Anyway, that's not really what I wanted to opine about, now that the field of 646568 is set. It's about understanding the field; specifically, nobody does.
At some point as we were nearing this process, I was attempting to handicap the tournament and realized I have utterly no clue if any dominant teams exist, and who those teams might be. Ohio State, Kansas, Duke and Pittsburgh are the No. 1 seeds. Quick: tell me something insightful about any of them. I bet you can't.
I know I certainly cannot.
And those are, in the estimation of the selection committee, the top-4 teams in the nation. What about teams like Bucknell, or Xavier, or Belmont? Can you tell me anything outside of their seeding?

There exist a few very good reasons for your (and my own) inability to say much of anything intelligent about these teams, and they are related to the nature of collegiate basketball. Observe ...
— College basketball has the weakest opening of any major sport in America. No "Opening Weekend" to speak of; for most of us, college basketball might catch a few minutes of our attention around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it doesn't really start until after the BCS games, and then we don't really pay much attention until after the Super Bowl.
— College basketball is enormous. Do you know how many teams play Division I football? Roughly 120. Do you know how many teams play Division I basketball? 346 schools in 32 conferences. This is why college basketball analysts so often struggle to say something intelligent about the entire landscape. How can anyone have an intelligent opinion about a product with 346 different entities?
— Because of that proliferation, fans have an equally tough time distinguishing between them all. Very few people can call themselves college basketball aficionados — most of the rest of us just go off what we know, which we don't really know ... it's more like what we think we know. Like, I know Gonzaga has been good for a while. They just usually are. So I'll probably find a way for them to be in the round of 16. Because I think they must be good, since they usually are.
But what do I know? I spent most of my February paying attention to Alabama and the teams Alabama played (read: the SEC). Everything else I had to get either from Sportscenter or talk radio analysis, or the blogosphere. And I have a job, which limits my ability to care about much of anything.

— There's one other thing about college basketball that makes it somewhat unknowable, and it's the tournament itself.
Just hear me out: I'm not anti-playoff; in fact, it would be great to see college football do something that allowed its athletes to compete in some form of postseason that could bring the same level of energy to its denizens as the NCAA Tournament does for college basketball.
Having said that, one of the reasons very few have an opinion about the college basketball landscape going into the tournament is this: Most people haven't bothered to pay attention until now.
And why would they? College basketball's regular season is, for the most part, about separating teams who are "half-decent" from those that are one notch below. Duke and Kentucky thrashed North Carolina and Florida Sunday in their respective tournament championships. But so what? They will, all four of them, appear in the NCAA Tournament this week.
It's a cynical argument to make, but a month-long do-or-die postseason effectively nullifies anything that happens during the regular season. Which is why, tomorrow, I'll probably sit down to fill out a bracket and realize I have no opinion about at least 3/4 of the teams I see.

Except Alabama. I have an opinion about them.
(Oh, wait ... we didn't get in. Damn it all ...)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Andy: proud waves your banner in the sky

Certainly, a huge game today for our basketball squad — effectively a road game (in Atlanta) with a chance at the NCAA Tournament on the line. For inspiration, here are Andy and Barney singing the Mayberry Union High fight song.

(Note: Yes, I'm very aware that MUH's colors in the song are orange and blue. Just go with it.)

Nothing we can do now but wait and hope. Go get it, guys. Roll Tide.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

shameless promotion (2.0): March 10, 2011

Note: In the ongoing effort of this blog to get its primary author firedpromote its primary author's failingcareer as a writer, we present this week's column from the St. Clair Times. As always, feel free to add your own thoughts, either here or on Twitter. We thank you in advance for your feigning of interest.
We could all stand to shed a tear or two every now and again

Among the many classic scenes in the history of the TV show “Seinfeld,” one seems to keep coming to mind this week.

It’s a later episode — entitled “The Serenity Now” — in which Jerry — generally portrayed as aloof, snarky and emotionally detached — learns to tap into his emotions. After losing an argument with his girlfriend, his eyes begin to water, and he’s informed that he is “crying.”

“This is horrible,” he says. “I care.”

The scene, like much of the rest of the episode, is intentionally absurd. But the issue of crying continues to be a pervasive and divisive one in society these days.

A few days ago, the NBA’s Miami Heat lost a tough game at home to Chicago. Afterward, head coach (at least for now) Erik Spoelstra said the loss hurt his team badly.

“There are a couple of guys crying in the locker room,” Spoelstra reportedly said (he has since back-tracked and said no one actually cried after the game).

The outcry was immediate and anguished.

“How could professional athletes CRY after a regular-season game?” one analyst asked. “IT’S JUST A BASKETBALL GAME! JUST ONE! MAN UP!”

After my ears recovered from the shrieking, I found myself nodding in agreement. I mean, who cries after a sporting event?

Oh, that’s right. Me.

Poor Tim Tebow caught so much flak in 2009 for openly blubbering on the sidelines in the closing moments of his Florida team’s SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama. Guess it’s a good thing no cameras found me in the stands, weeping like a dad whose daughter just won an Olympic gold medal.

But hey, we’re all entitled to a little emotion, right? At least that’s the only time I’ve cried lately.

Yes, as long as “lately” doesn’t include the last time I saw “Field of Dreams.” Or listened to Chris Rice’s “Untitled Hymn.” Or watched Jim Valvano deliver his famous “Don’t Ever Give Up” speech.

As long as those things aren’t involved, yeah … I’m an emotional wrec … er, rock.

Come to think of it, Valvano’s speech actually encourages people to cry. Here were his words:

“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. … Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought.

“And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

Maybe it’s not such a terrible thing, after all, to care too much.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

basketball thoughts, pre-tournament

I was thinking of ways I might open my 2011 retrospective of Alabama's basketball season (barring a spectacular run in this week's SEC Tournament, this team is likely bound for the NIT) when I remembered something I wrote a couple years ago about an Alabama team.
(T)his team was never really that great. A month of back-slaps and high-fives ... was just enough to take away that chip-on-the-shoulder edge Alabama had played with all season. And without that edge, Alabama had flaws that any quality opponent could expose and expose repeatedly ...

Those words are significant because I penned them right after Alabama's football team lost in the Sugar Bowl to Utah. The '11 Tide basketball team shares some traits with that '08 team: both came out of nowhere and came within an eyelash of winning the SEC title (both ultimately lost out to Florida), both were mean and physical on defense and both played with an edge that enabled them to transcend some of their flaws.
But both were teams that needed that edge to have a chance to win. The '08 Alabama football team didn't have a great quarterback, wasn't particularly deep and needed to take early leads in order to dictate the style to its opponents. The 2011 Tide on the basketball hardwood has one very obvious flaw — a complete and total dearth of perimeter scorers — and it tries its damnedest to cover that up with defense and athletic ability. For most of the season, it's been good enough.
(If you think I just wanted to post that video again, you're absolutely right.)

Trouble is, when Alabama had chances to prove it belonged in the field of 68 — and transcend those bad losses early in the season — it's failed. It failed on the road against Arkansas in a game that could've been won with better game management. It failed on the road vs. Vanderbilt in a game that could've been won with better officiating.
And when we had clinched our division — after that game vs. Arkansas — and had a 3-game stretch that might have really impressed the committee, we turned in a stinker of an effort vs. Auburn (the cheapest win in Alabama history), surrendered a double-digit lead on the road vs. Ole Miss (another bad coaching/bad officiating combo) and got our doors blown off in Gainesville (the most predictable thing that's happened all year). From that perspective, it's tempting to look at this season and be disappointed.

But that perspective is a micro-view of the season. On the whole, here is what this team accomplished this year: it won 20 games for the first time since 2007; it finished with the best record in its division and was playing for a regular-season conference championship for the first time since ... I don't know when (last SEC title was 2002); it beat Kentucky, Tennessee (on the road) and Auburn (twice) and will play in some kind of national tournament for the first time since an NIT trip to Massachusetts in 2007.
And it accomplished all that with an offense that is both poorly conceived and completely lacks outside shooting, almost like winning a National League batting crown with half an arm.
Come to think of it, that's actually pretty good.

Some other thoughts ...
— The parallels between Anthony Grant's and Nick Saban's abilities to coach defense are downright scary. It's just such a joy to see this team on the defensive end: between their individual effort and the way Grant constantly shifts his formations (sometimes subtly, sometimes drastically) it's a real treat for people who really like basketball. It doesn't make for particularly interesting action — Alabama typically thrives on grinding games that end with scores like 65-58 — but it's tough and hard-nosed, and those are two attributes I appreciate, particularly from a team that isn't particularly talented.

— If there's been a great individual story on this team, it's the "breakout" season by Jamychal Green. For most of his first two seasons, Jamychal looked like someone who was used to being the biggest kid in his middle school, the one who suddenly becomes a high school freshman and is shocked to find out everyone else is as big as he is. Green finally figured out a skill-set for himself — he's a decent jump shooter and has a pretty good handle — and it's translated into a 16-7.5 season for him, good enough to warrant some outside consideration as Player of the Year. You get the sense when you watch him that he's still something of a head case; his teammates are cognizant of any pushing and shoving in his vicinity all the time, and coach Grant takes him out quickly if any trouble starts. But he's playing his best basketball this season, and that's one of the reasons we're winning.
— The most frustrating player on the squad is the mercurial Tony Mitchell, who won SEC Player of the Week honors after the Arkansas game and promptly disappeared for the next 10 days before making a brief cameo in the UGA game. I'll say this and this only about Tony (and only because I don't want to criticize the character of someone who's still in college): When Tony attacks the rim like he means it, he's unstoppable. I mean it.
— Realize I'm a little late to the party here, but Alabama should be commended for the job it did renovating Coleman Coliseum (which I hadn't seen up close until this winter. It's a good looking, comfortable setting ... and this year, at least, it was deafening in there.

Which may be the best news of all out of this season. Roll Tide, guys, and good luck in Atlanta. Go be champions.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tuesday tube: laissez les bon temps rouler

It's Fat Tuesday, which means it's time for me to post some videos of great Alabama moments on the Bayou.

Have a nice Mardi Gras, and, in the words of a monotone guy I once saw at church, get excited about Lent.

Roll Tide.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

weird trips (an exercise in catharsis), part 1: the night they tore down the posts in Baton Rouge

While searching for ways to pass the time through the offseason — and possibly keep my friend Amanda from occasionally complaining that I'm not blogging enough — I mentally stumbled on a cache of untold stories (at least as far as this blog is concerned) about some of the genuinely odd road trips my friends and I took during our undergraduate years. While it is very true that pretty much everyone took some odd road trips in college, this is, after all, my blog, so my stories are the ones that get to be told. And besides, you'll see pretty quickly that many of these are unique, even for a broke college kid.
(One other note: If this bores you, feel free to skip to something else. What do you want from me? Football's not coming back until August and "Lost" is off the air. And I don't have the energy for a basketball post just yet.)

First up on our tour: Nov. 4, 2000, the night Alabama finally lost to LSU in Baton Rouge, snapping a win streak that stretched all the way back to 1969. It was my first trip to Tiger Stadium, the first time I ever saw goalposts come down in person and one of the first truly bizarre road trips of our collegiate experience.

The lead-up: Every Alabama fan has been trying to forget the 2000 season since the day it ended. It was supposed to be a coronation: Mike Dubose's Tide, off an SEC championship and Orange Bowl berth, was ranked third in the nation to start the season. We had all made up our minds that it was a national championship season in the making, only three seasons removed from a losing season in 1997. Instead ... well, you know. By the time LSU week got here, our championship contenders were 3-5, a mark that included losses to Southern Miss (21-0!!!) and Central Florida (on Homecoming) and a sixth straight loss to Tennessee. The coach had already been fired, the NCAA wolves were knocking and we all couldn't wait for the season to be over, so we could move on.
Meanwhile, LSU was trending upward. Under first-year head coach Nick Saban (yep), the Bengal Tigers had rebounded from early-season losses to Auburn and Florida and a ghastly home loss to UAB (you read that right) and were 5-3 by the time Bama showed up to party. Saban's team was out of contention for an SEC title, but everyone was pretty sure his program had turned.

How we got there: The trip to LSU actually came together the way all great college road trips do: insanely.
First, it's important to point out that we purchased tickets to the game from ebay; and, if memory serves, my friend Amanda — who I'm assured will be emailing me soon with her own memories about this — actually bid on a block of 7. I distinctly remember sitting online, watching the clock tick down on the sale date, chatting with Amanda on AIM (back in the days when AIM was en vogue). The page refreshed, we were listed as the winners, and both of simultaneously typed, "HELLL YEAH!!!!" We were on our way.

The trip: Of course, winning the bid now meant we had to find a large group of people who would be willing to buy tickets to Alabama-LSU. Lucky us, it's not that hard to find people willing to go to Louisiana for the weekend. The group that came with us was actually much larger than our ticket pool.
This, of course, brings to light the most interesting aspect of the trip: Like most good Bama fans going to a game in Baton Rouge, we arranged for accommodations in New Orleans ... and by "accommodations" I mean our pal Tim reserved 3 rooms at an Econolodge in Metairie. Three rooms for a group of roughly 20. Do that math a moment. Yeah.
(Note: I won't get into the sleeping arrangements, because everyone's married now and it would be uncomfortable. But, as Robert Redford said in "The Natural," Some mistakes you never stop paying for.)
Now here's where my memory gets a little fuzzy and I may be making portions of this up: We were originally supposed to be sitting in Tiger Stadium in a group of 4 (the rest of the tickets were somewhere else) and our group was myself, Peter, Amanda and Tim (the guy who booked the motel). However, in a twist that only makes sense if you know the guy, Tim decided Saturday morning that he hadn't participated in nearly enough Bourbon Street debauchery the night before, and informed us he was staying, freeing up his ticket. That meant our seating group now included our mysterious friend Pam, who nobody really knew at the time (we knew she was eleventy feet tall and that was about it). And we were running late.
Lucky for us, Baton Rouge, like every other college campus, is a frigging traffic quagmire on game day. We wound up parking illegally somewhere roughly 15 minutes before kickoff, and sprinting to our seats (somewhere in the upper stratosphere). On the way, someone shouted, "Y'all sure are in a hurry to see an ass-kicking."
Without breaking stride I shouted back, "Aw man, we OWN this stadium!"
I was, um, wrong.

The Game: The recap I found online filled in some of the gaps, but here's what I remember: We actually played pretty well that day, even took the lead early in the fourth quarter (capping a drive that was briefly interrupted when two students broke free from the bleachers, mooned the Alabama sideline and attempted to sprint away (it was not, shall we say, successful).
Aside from the game falling apart in the fourth quarter — like everything else that season — I have one other random memory from the game: a critical sequence in which LSU appeared to have fumbled a punt that we recovered. An Alabama player on the punt team definitely collided with the returner and caused the fumble, but initially the ruling on the field was that the defender was blocked into the returner (hence, no penalty). Bear in mind: at the time, instant replay was not a thing in college football.
So the refs huddled to discuss the play and — at least from our vantage point high above the earth — appeared to look at the jumbotron (absolutely illegal) before (correctly) ruling that our player hadn't been blocked into the returner at all. It was and still is the right call, but they arrived at it the wrong way. Ah well ... that's just the way things went in 2000.
Anyway, LSU eventually took a 30-21 lead late; we mounted a last-ditch comeback and had an onsides kick (just like 1998) that ultimately resulted in nothing. LSU 30, Alabama 28 was the final.

The Goalposts: Undoubtedly the funniest part of the game was the prospect of LSU snapping its 30-year hex vs. Bama in Baton Rouge, and the ensuing celebration that would undoubtedly take place. People who watched the game on television told us later that CBS showed a close-up of the goalposts at Tiger Stadium ... which were coated in Vaseline, roughly an inch thick, in an attempt to discourage potential climbers.
Furthermore, as the fourth quarter wore on, and it became obvious LSU was going to claim that special win after all, the public address began to make the obligatory announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, for your safety and the safety of others, at the conclusion of tonight's contest, please stay off the playing surface." The prevailing response: "BOOOOOO!!!!!"
Honestly, I remember being giddy. I had never seen this in person. We weren't going to win anyway, so what was the point?
The students, of course, immediately flooded the field as soon as the clock hit 0:00, attacking the goalposts the way a zombie horde would attack a Celine Dion concert. The Vaseline, it should be noted, deterred them for approximately .0087 seconds. And as the posts began to wobble, the PA piped up again: "EYES UP, PEOPLE ... GOALPOSTS ... ARE HEAVY."
Eventually they did come down, of course, both of them. And as the elated fans were parading their new trophies around the field, the PA piped up once more: "FOLKS ... IT'S BEEN A GREAT NIGHT ... CAN WE PLEASE ... PLEASE JUST CLEAR THE FIELD AND LET'S GO HOME?"
One Bama fan summed up the experience better than any other, exiting the stadium as the mob worked feverishly: "TEAR IT DOWN!! IT'S YO MONEY!!! TEAR IT DOWN!! IT'S YO MONEY!!!"

The aftermath: This one is pretty straightforward: LSU carried the momentum from its win to a Peach Bowl berth vs. Georgia Tech, who they walloped. The next year they won the SEC; two years after that, they won the national championship (that Saban guy, it turns out, is a pretty good coach).
As for Alabama, the misery of 2000 wound up carrying over for the rest of the decade, as we've documented here endlessly. Since LSU broke the Tide's win streak in Baton Rouge, they've pretty much dominated Bama on any field: with last year's win in Baton Rouge, the Tigers are 8-3 vs. Bama this decade. Although everyone pretty much agrees the playing field is much more level since Nick Saban moved to Tuscaloosa.
The group that made that trip to Baton Rouge is a pretty diverse one. Most notable are Peter and Amanda, who argued incessantly pretty much all the way to Louisiana and all the way back to Tuscaloosa ... and have now been married for nearly six years, and have a two-year-old daughter.
Everyone knows you shouldn't let the good ones get away.

One addendum: Per my request, here is my friend Amanda's version of the story ...
Ebay was still pretty new then, and I was really into buying tickets on Ebay that season. I found a group of 7 tickets, and I found a group of people so I was pretty sure that I could bid on them. We ended up paying about $70 each, so $70 x 7, about $490 including shipping. I ended up having to walk from the bank to the post office to buy the money order with $490 cash, plus the cost of buying the money order, so I made Peter walk with me since I was carrying that much cash.

Tim Roberson reserved a hotel in Metarie, which was for more than just our party of 7. I think he had 7 hotel rooms. Our party of 7 was me, Peter, Will, Alison Britton, Sealy, Pete, and ?. Others on the trip included Lane and Valerie, who ended up spending the entirety of the game in a casino, even though they were both underage at the time. Buddy, Lori, Lisa, Blair, Heather Deal, Eric Elliot, Eric St. Clair, probably Scoob and some of the C.C. folks. I remember Buddy carrying a Big Ass beer down bourbon street. Keener and Clint Hathcock were also there, as was Daniel.

Peter borrowed his dad's Saturn for the trip, and in Peter's car were him, me, and Will. I'm sure we had to listen to that stupid orange CD (which Peter tells me was Nickel & Dime), and probably Smalltown Poets, too. Alabama hadn't lost a game there in over 30 years, as I remember it. We drove to Metarie, checked into the car, and then we drove into New Orleans to eat dinner. Peter was about to kill someone because he was so hungry. Peter was getting so testy that we started arguing as I told him how to drive. He told me to be quiet since I was his ride back home. After I said I could fly back home (meaning go to the airport and book a flight), he loudly muttered "yeah, on your BROOM." We ended up eating at some random Wendy's because that was the first place we could find, which I think was near the Superdome. Peter was meanwhile was putting curses on the city of New Orleans

We ate dinner, drove back to the hotel, and met up with everyone else, then drove BACK into New Orleans. At this point, somebody was driving somebody else's car and we ended up on a ferry on the Mississippi River trying to turn around (Sealy driving Valerie's car?). We ended up getting a huge table for 20 people, and it was so late we all ended up getting dessert. Will was sitting at the head of this very long table, and the waitress was flirting with Will. After some of them had started to leave, she hands Will the check, and it's something along the lines of $328.78. This meant that we either had to pay in cash, or somebody had to pay on the credit card, so it took about 20 minutes for everyone to leave because we're trying to divide everything up.

At this point, it's midnight, and Will sees some friend of his (or was that the next trip?) It's midnight, and we go to Cafe Du Monde and we EACH order the biggest Iced Coffee / Latte concoction you've ever seen, which meant that nobody was going to get any sleep all night. We hung out there for a while, discussing whatever we discussed. Then, we met back up with the other people who Peter was having to drive, and we got back to the hotel around 2 a.m.

Will and Peter refused to wear pajamas and instead slept in your clothes, which I thought was really weird. Sleeping arrangements were not as planned. In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, That's all I've got to say about that.

At 4:30ish in the morning, Will curses, jumps out of bed, and walks out of the room. Amanda and Peter finally go to sleep.

The next day we drove to Baton Rouge. Can't remember if Pam rode with us or not. We saw a bunch of Alabama fans in limos and such on the way. We walked around campus some, found something to eat, and then it was time for the game. We sat in the upper section. I have little memory of the ball game, except Clint Hathcock (I swear it was him) (editor's note: it was not) shaking his shaker and chanting "it's your money, tear it down" as he was coming down the stairs while the LSU fans were trying to tear down the goalposts. Outside the stadium, LSU fans were heckling us "round the bowl, down the hole, roll tide roll."

We stopped at a Fuddruckers to eat dinner, and then went back to the hotel. We decided not to go back to New Orleans since we were late getting back and we hadn't slept the night before.

This trip also offered a clear signal that Peter and Will would not make good roommates. As soon as Peter heard Will talk in his sleep, Peter jumped up, grabbed a pen and paper, and wrote down the exact quote and the time (2:08 a.m.)

I don't remember much of the ride home. We had some type of strange conversation on the way back.

Peter realized when we got back that he lost his "brain" (his PDA) and didn't find it until May or something. There was also a rumor when we got back that Blair was hoarse because she and Peter had "hooked up" on the trip, even though the two were never in the same room, even in public. Peter realized after quickly denying the rumor that he could have had some fun with it, since he had a clear memory of the entire trip, but there may have been periods where her memory would be, shall we say, fuzzy.

Come to think of it, maybe losing his "brain" altered his life, since he might never have actually talked to people, run for president of Wesley, asked me out, changed his major, or preached his first sermon if he were still playing solitaire on that.

What am I leaving out?

All in all, a good road trip, but not as funny as the trip when Will took a vow of silence and tried to use a pay phone at the same time. Still one of the funniest things I've ever seen that I'm not sure I actually visually witnessed.

Other random memories
Tim Roberson having a cow about people paying for the rooms ahead of time
7 rooms with 49 people in them
$70 for hotel room, $70 for tickets
That's all we've got until our memory is further jogged.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

shameless promotion (2.0): March 3, 2011

Editor's Note: In the ongoing effort of this blog to get its primary author firedpromote its primary author's failingcareer as a writer, we present to you this week's column from the St. Clair Times. As always, please feel free to leave your thoughts here or find us on Twitter. We thank you in advance for your feigning of interest.
Unity in the fallout?

There’s 40 acres
And redemption to be found
Just along down the way
There is a place where no plow blade has turned the ground
And you will turn it over
Cause out here hope remains …

Caedmon’s Call

A funny thing happened last week at Toomer’s Corner.

Actually, we should back up. The truth is that multiple “funny things” have happened at Toomer’s Corner in the past few weeks, mostly relating to one “funny thing” that wasn’t at all funny. In fact, the poisoning of the oak trees there (probably fatal, though some encouraging signs have emerged lately) was the opposite of funny; it was evil.

The aftermath, however, was something virtually no one could have expected.

See, the great thing about a rivalry like the Auburn-Bama rivalry is the passion and intensity. Our teams compete against one another like crazed animals, and we scream at the top of our lungs hoping we’ll beat one another’s brains in. I’ve been to more than a decade’s worth of Auburn-Alabama competition now, and the experience is something special that words can barely capture.

There’s a catch, though: Passion and intensity are also two of the rivalry’s most disturbing qualities. And it seems like it’s getting worse as time goes by.

In the immediate aftermath of the horrific shootings that occurred in Arizona last month, political pundits and public officials wondered if it wasn’t time to examine the health of our discourse in America. With improved technology and more immediacy allowing us (encouraging us, really) to react viscerally to every story we saw, were we spiraling out of control?

Auburn and Alabama fans seem to have reached a similar point, culminating in the attack on Toomer’s Corner. We all should’ve been slapping each other on the back and marveling at an incredible two-year stretch of football played at the highest level; instead, we spent the time accusing one another of cheating and finding reasons to ratchet up the hatred.

Ultimately, we came face to face with an ugly truth: For too many of us, this rivalry isn’t a fun escape from our real lives — this is life, and we are wholly consumed by it 12 months out of every year.

And that’s why what happened in the immediate aftermath was encouraging. A large portion of the Alabama fan base, as disgusted as everyone in orange and blue, chose to link arms with their Auburn brethren across the state, creating groups like “Tide for Toomer’s” to help raise money to support the cause.

A few even showed up to a “Toomer’s Tree Hug” in Bama gear, in a show of solidarity. And what’s more, the Auburn fans there embraced them … literally. It was a touching display in a rivalry that has precious few touching displays.

For a few minutes, at least, there were no Auburn or Alabama fans, just a group of people standing up for common decency.

It won’t bring the trees back to life. But it might have brought this rivalry back from the brink.