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After much speculation it was made official this morning. Alabama has hired Jim McElwain, most recently of Fresno State, as the Offensive Coordinator.

The talk can now begin as to how great he is going to be or how he’ll never cut it in this conference. Talk amongst yourselves.

I was personally excited about having Michael Scott in town after hearing about UA’s jet in Scranton but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

The goings on at EDSBS today have really got me thinking. College Football is a very big love of mine as has been stated here over and over again. The rivalries are a very large part of that experience. Beating Tennessee, LSU, or Auburn are big deals. They are not earth-shattering events mind you, but a win puts a little pep into my step and a loss makes it a hard to smile, but only for a while in either event. It is also fun to tell silly jokes about your rivals, but it appears to me that some take it too far. I can include myself in that category because I am passionate and I love to argue. It is not hard to carry it too far, which is something that happens far to often it seems, especially on threads of college football blogs.

I don’t hate any person because they pull for a team that opposes the team I root for. Hate is a strong word and it gets thrown around far too much. I want your team to lose when it plays mine but that does not mean that I believe you are a loser or winner either way. How you behave makes that definition. I try, and often fail, to follow the guidelines of “win with class and lose with pride.”

What goes on a lot between fans of Alabama and Auburn is especially disturbing to me. Auburn is often referred to by Alabama fans as “little brother.” I am sure that this moniker is just as insulting to them as “bammer” or “UAT” is to me and my ilk. Not name calling here but it seems to me like that little brother is an accurate description because in my observation there is always a need, most especially in success, to compare itself with Alabama. “You were on top once but never will be again- you worship a coach that was a drunk and has been dead over twenty years- all your national championships don’t even count – and you live in the past” are all ways of saying that Auburn is better than Alabama. I don’t believe that the rest of the college football loving world looks at Auburn’s recent success and says those things about Alabama. Granted, there are a portion of Alabama fans that don’t help matters but they are, form my observation, not the portion of the fan base that I generally come into contact with (which is a large part of the reason I refuse to listen to sports radio). There never seems to be a reckoning with their own past. While I am sure that there is, every time it comes to my attention it seems to be about how bad Alabama is.

Here is an admission: I was once a student at Auburn. I also actually enjoyed my time there and left with good memories of the place. See, I wanted to be a veterinarian when I finished high school. I enrolled there, moved into a place, and actually went to all the home football games in the fall of 1991. I went so far as to pull for Auburn while I was at them.  I wasn’t ready however, for college life. I left after a quarter and moved out west to work for a couple of years and thus ended my time as an Auburn student.

When I returned home to Tuscaloosa, I had every intention of returning to Auburn and finishing a degree but one thing led to another and I stayed in T-town to finish my education. While I grew up an Alabama fan it wasn’t hard for me to pull for both schools for a period of time. In fact it was kind of confusing for a while; I cheered when Auburn shocked Florida in the Swamp in ’94 and had a great night when Alabama came from behind and beat Georgia that same year. Things really started changing in ’95 when I enrolled full-time at Alabama and went to every home game though I admit that the Iron Bowl was hard that year because I still didn’t know who to pull for. I watched it at a party and just kind of sat in the corner taking it all in without emotion. It wasn’t right. I felt that Alabama had always had my allegiance but at the same time I would be untrue to the campus and people that had taken me in as a baby-faced freshman.

The final straw came in ’97 when I made my first trip back to the Plains since my days as a student. My future wife and I and some other friends were at the Iron Bowl and Alabama was leading a game the experts said they had no chance to win. It had been a long, hard year after Coach Stallings left and Alabama had been in Atlanta to represent the West in the Championship game. I had gotten caught back up with Alabama and being in Auburn as they were doing the improbable had me thrilled. At halftime I went to the concession line and as I was standing there these two Auburn fans were standing behind me and talking about “kicking some of these Alabama fan’s ass if they didn’t stop being so disrespectful.” I was taken aback. We were just cheering our team, we wern’t insulting your mother.

It was at that point that  I really started noticing the resentment and vitriol that came from a segement of the fan base. The bitterness had gotten to me.

Now, I can’t claim to be innocent in all of this. In the waning moments of the ’04 game I did start a “13-0 and no where to go” chant and told an Auburn fan leaving the game to have fun in New Orleans and thereby taunted him about the fact that Auburn was going to the Sugar Bowl instead of the National Championship game. His reply: “have fun in Shreveport asshole.” Touche sir, touche. But that incident excluded I have always tried to handel myself with class, win or lose and I have to admit that it is a little harder with Auburn though.

It shouldn’t be. One of my two very best friends in this world is an Auburn grad and fan, as are several people that I am proud to call friends. But you see, when I was on the other side of it, as a student there in Auburn, the teasing from my friends back here was minimal. I didn’t feel the need to justify Auburn to them. It was (and is) a good school. In my flawed observations most of the ill-will flows east to west in this state. I really believe that is because while Bryant was coach Auburn very rarely mattered. Not in the overall picture any way. Everyone believed Alabama was going to beat them and they usually did. That type of domination doesn’t sit well  with the little brother.
So now we have come to this modern age. Alabama has struggled. Auburn has become, to a point, what their fans want them to be. They have had several good seasons, they have won several big games, they have had generally good talent and dare-I-say great coaching. Most importantly I think if you polled them they would say they have done what has not been done at any other time by them and only once by another team, beaten Alabama six times in a row (I know Suwanee  did it but that was so long ago I don’t think it counts). Not only did they beat Alabama but they were favored in everyone of those wins except the first. They have been the better team. Times are definitley different. Little brother has grown up.

The funny thing is though that no one (at least not many) Alabama fans have given up and cashed in. There is still a belief that we can pull up out of this mediocrity and there is good reason to believe that; top notch facilities, a proven coach, excellent recruiting, and a fan base that still cares and lends both its cheers and (maybe more importantly) its money (for legal fundraising and capital improvements – not buying players). I personally don’t think that any team will be able to dominate again in the way that Alabama did in the 70’s but by looking at USC, Oklahoma, and LSU it is obvious that once mighty teams can rise again. I also don’t believe that we are crazy to think that. Obviously Auburn would like for us not to rise again. I think it has to do with the fact that the two teams have never been dominant at the same time. I haven’t checked facts on this but I am pretty sure that they have never met while both were undefeated. Maybe it is fear that our success would mean their failure but I don’t really understand that. I can imagine nothing better for the respective schools, the state, or college football in general if the two teams met in late November undefeated.

I guess my question really is this: Can’t we just all get along?

Orson did a tremendous piece on how Coach Bryant’s passing gave him a glimpse of his father (who Orson describes as slippery). It was a beautiful and well-written entry and enjoyed (at least if you judge by the comments) by most who read it. While it focused on Bryant’s passing and the impact it had on his father it was not, at its core, an article about football, most especially Alabama Football or their bitter rivalry with Auburn.

While it did take a while, it became an argument between rival fans in the comment section and I admit that I got caught up and entered the fray. It started when a frequent poster who identifies himself as TIGERinATL took a shot at Alabama fans and their “living in the past” attitude. Several, including myself fired back. Those retorts cheapened the spirit in which the post was written and I apologize for doing that.

What it did was make me want to clarify, not justify, my feelings about the legendary coach. And after all, I am the only one I can speak for.

I remember Coach Bryant. I remember him on the sideline and on his TV show and I remember pulling up next to his car on our way home from greeting the team as they returned, victorious, from State College, PA in 1981. It was a big surprise to look over and see him there, his hat pulled low; he was obviously worn out after the day events. It didn’t stop me from waving and a very gracious Mary Harmon returned my wave and I am sure that I smiled for a week after.

The week before he died my mother saw him on campus(she was in grad school) and when I asked why she didn’t get me his  authograph she replied, “he looked tired and I didn’t want to bother him.”

I was in the 4th grade. When one of the parents came in and gave us the news I thought it was a joke. When the truth sunk in I was devastated. Most of my school went to the lunch room and watched coverage of the funeral. It was surreal. Like thefirst time I can remember Alabama losing (to State in 80) I just couldn’t believe that it had happend.

The point here is not what Coach Bryant really was; he was a man, nothing more nothing less. What he contributed or took away from I’ll leave for other, wiser people to debate. For me he was the epitome of winning and he was larger than life. He gave people in this area a lot of pride in their state, their school, and themselves. If for no other reason he deserves to be remembered.

I made a comment below Orson’s post that if we are wrong in remembering dead people that have done much for us and by us I mean me, then we should start taking monuments and memorials down in our Capitol.  I do not pretend that Coach Bryant stands up with the ranks of Washington, Jefferson, or even Kennedy but that doesn’t mean he should not be honored. See, those men were not perfect, none of them. But they each did something great.

No matter how many times Auburn beats Alabama in a row or how “delusional” you feel we are, the fact that Coach Bryant meant a lot to me, and many many others will not be cheapened by your comments.

Color me stoked. It seems that the boys over at Roll Bama Roll have been tracking planes today. Their conclusion is that John McNulty, the Offensive Coordinator at Rutgers, is from Scranton and since the University’s plane was in Scranton today that McNulty is at least interviewing. I’m not buying it though; if your gonna go after someone you might as well get the best. The best in Scranton, without question, would be Michael Scott.

There is no doubt he would be a great fit. His management skills are unsurpassed and his abilty to relate to the kids is unquestioned.

My only question would be: What kind of buyout does Dunder Mifflin have?

*just to be clear – Michael Scott is a fictional character and will not be the next offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama. So don’t bother telling me his scheme doesn’t fit with our players.

No, we aren’t talking about the defunct TV drama, we’re talking about the new offensive coordinator. It has been hard to keep up with developments on this since Major Applewhite “heard Mama call,” but here is a short list of emotional responses for what little information has come this way:

  1. Major is leaving; big, recognizable name but very “meh” results
  2. Norm Chow; OMG! That would be awesome, but would an Asian be able to thrive in this community in any role other than that of professor- kinda doubt it.
  3. Scott Loeffler; Michagan’s offense has not been what you would call impressive (unless you count the bowl victory over Florida, but the Gators made a few people look good)
  4. Chris Hatcher: (HT: RollBamaRoll) Can’t find that much out about Hatcher. He has only been coach at GSU one season, following up the short tenure of BrianVanGorder. Instead of the highlight film that was certain to be on YouTube, a very quick search only yielded this nugget:

So maybe we don’t know what his offense would look like but we do know that college kids were confident enough in him that they would shotgun beers before home games. So we would have that going for us. Which is nice.

At this point the recruiting class is pretty much set. There is no reason to believe that whomever was hired would change the outlook of that group. We don’t have to worry about the theatrics that Auburn used in the Peach Bowl to lure recruits (there is just no way to make me believe Tuberville is not going to rely on a power running game). It would just be nice to get the hire over with so that Alabama fans can begin building him up and fans of other SEC schools can tell us how he is not going to improve our dismal offense.

There is the possibility of 1″ of snow for central Alabama on Saturday morning. I’ve been at my desk all morning since this was announced but I am absolutely certain that there is not a single loaf of bread or gallon of milk to be had in the region.

Having lived for a while in a climate where snow was common, I am always amazed at the way people in this region freak out.

First, I don’t think it will snow because a.) it hardly ever snows here and 2.) Clay Travis has said there will be no winter. And that SOB is smart. But even if it does, it won’t be much, and it will be gone by Sunday, guaranteed.

If you’re going to go out and get anything then get whiskey, because the worst case is you run out during the day Saturday and the slippery roads might make it tough to get to the liquor store. That is if they don’t close.

Paul Finebaum, who runs a talk radio program from Birmingham, Alabama, sells the sleeze that the masses are buying. And man are they buying it. He provides a daily dose of college football gossip in a state where college football is the one and only game. A close coorelation would be to desrcibe what he does is to imagine him as US Magazine (or any other celebrity gossip rag) and college football, especially the teams in this region, as Hollywood. Nick Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide and Tommy Tuberville and his Auburn Tigers are the main principals. To his credit he is good at what he does but keep one thing in mind; it is entertainment you are listening to. It isn’t knowledge, it isn’t wisdom, it isn’t prophecy, and it probably actually makes you dumber.

Let me caveat this by saying that I have heard Finebaum speak in person and I believe him to posess a great intellignce. He is certainly no idiot. I also have known people who call into the show and know them to be rational, intelligent people (although my own wife would accuse me of not possessing those faculties when it comes to Alabama Football) so I am not saying that every caller is a moron, even though the vast majority are.

Let’s be honest, Alabama is chock full of ignorant people. I love this place and there are many, many fine folks that dwell within its borders, but Alabama isn’t known as a bastion of intellignce and openmindedness. Everyone of the Legion of Stupidity is listening, intently to Paul weekday afternoon from three to six. Most of them are trying to call in and ask Paul a question or give them their opinion. The funny thing his Paul tends to scoff at most of them yet they keep coming back.

See, Paul plays both sides of the board and generally praises the team winning and kicks the team that’s losing. It appears to me that when people win they want to crow about it and tell the losing team how pathetic it is and when people lose they want to blame someone-usually the Coach or Quarterback- and tell the winning team how their day is coming. In our sick and twisted instant gratification society Paul has the crack that keeps us buzzing until we get our next hit.

In this state which harbors one of the nations biggest and ugliest rivalries it is the place to have your say and boy does it seem that the uninformed and irrational need to say it the most. A lot of people want to discuss football every single day regardless of the time of year around here. Paul gives them the water cooler (maybe feeding trough or all-you-can-eat Ryan’s buffet line might be better analogies) to gather around. Also Auburn’s rise and Alabama’s entrenchment in mediocrity has made it fertile ground for the last several years and as long as one is wining and one is losing people are going to try and figure out why, or rather bitch about it. You’ll hear Alabama fans calling him an Auburn lover most of the time and then when the tables turn, like early this season, Auburn fans call him out for being an Alabama and Saban disciple. The truth his that he is neither; he’s just selling whatever gets people to listen at the time. The worst thing that could happen for him would be for both teams to go undefeated until they played one another. Of course then the build-up to the Iron Bowl would be a ratings bonanza.

I’ll tell you a little more about me; I don’t listen to him. Not with any regularity -mainly if there is some serious breaking story- and not that I feel above the folks who do, although at heart I probably do. The truth is listening to it usually makes me frustrated and angry. I love my alma mater and I don’t enjoy hearing other people put it down. Even less than that do I like people, who claim to be fans of my school, represent it in a negative way. And almost to a man (or woman) thsese folks that call in come off like clowns and Paul plays to them and eats it up. People are listening and advertisers are paying. In the end isn’t that what it is all about?

I myself am passionate about Alabama Football. That’s not an admission; I have been told that by several of my friends. I’m sick of hearing what other people feel and think and honestly it’s kind of disturbing to think that many people aren’t doing anything useful all afternoon. I generally don’t feel that my opinion matters enough to risk putting myself out there enough to be ridiculed… Wait a second, I’m blogging and that means that anyone with internet access can read these thoughts… I’ll just hang up and listen.

I created this blog at first as a way to inform the multiple members and our out-of-town guests of the details of our home game tailgates. It served that purpose well I believe but it also gave me an oppurtunity to put some ideas out there and entwine myself with a community that I have come to enjoy; the blogosphere; mainly blogs that focus on college football.

For a few weeks it was a lot of fun. Then my beloved Crimson Tide mailed it in at the end of the season and to be honest, my feelings were hurt. I didn’t want to come across as the Polyanna that I am when it comes to the University of Alabama and their athletic programs.  It seemed that all the haters jumped on the bandwagon and our team could do nothing to defend our collective pride.

You see, I am not a college football expert. I never played (which is now a regret of mine, even if my small size and total  lack of athletic ability would have made it difficult, I never coached and my knowledge comes only from observation and the discussion with the uniformed masses of fans just like me. I once heard former Alabama Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines say in an address to a group he was speaking to, “Everybody, including my wife, thinks they know how to coach a football team.” I couldn’t agree more. But the problem is, when everyone talks about football and their love for their team, one way or the other the talk turns to how to fix this problem or that and that, my friends is coaching. I did not and do not want to participate in that conversation for the simple fact that my comments will ultimately show my ignorance and if there is anything that I hate more than being ignorant, or being shown as ignorant I cannot begin to think what it would be.

Therefore, when I decided to write more than just about what time the tailgate would be and what the featured menu item would be I decided to write about the emotions that surround football in the south, at least as much as I witness and understand them. I would have a hard time calling an offensive play on second and goal  from the 6 in overtime but I can without question tell you how the result of that play makes me feel.

After Alabama lost to Mississippi State and the subsequent two losses this past season, there was just not the will to put my feelings “out there.” Looking through the blogs and news outlets that I normally peruse just left me feeling empty, and mad, and disgusted, and ashamed, and anxious, and hopeful. Yes, I said it – hopeful. Granted this is probably the time that I should have been cataloging my emotions as there were so many floating around but I just couldn’t find the drive to say something and risk putting myslef in one of the many camps of Alabama Fans right now; dellusional, apologist, ignorant, humble, short-sighted. Because at heart I am a little of all of those and none of those.

I learned or rather had the idea reinforced that a lot of other fans don’t like Alabama and enjoy seeing our program fail. There are people right now, mainly in our own state that are laughing at the obvious missteps that have been made. That hurts. It hurts because since I have been a small child I have loved this University and revelled in its success. The heartache that comes from  its losses and troubles are also just as real. For the majority of this life I have worn the Univeristy of Alabama litterally on my sleeve. Before you label my crazy, please consider that there are many, many things in this world that are more important. A loss on the field is never to be compared to the loss of life; maybe to put it best I could say that I am thankful that I live in a time and place where most concerns cease for a few hours on fall Saturdays and I can concentrate on young men playing a game and the opportunities that it creates to fellowship with friends and foe alike. There are millions of people in the world right now that do not have that luxury.  But, one thing that I do, year in and year out is follow my football team and by common connection team of other competing institutions. There is joy as the number of days shrink down to the first kickoff every year and a touch of sadness as the last second ticks off the clock in the championship game and with it the knowledge that it is two thirds of a year before we can fully enjoy it again.

So that brings me to today, or rather to last night. I stopped by a local bar on my way home from a crushing defeat of the youth basketball team that I volunteer to coach. A good friend bought me an especially good glass of bourbon and as I settled into my seat good another friend asks me if I had given up the blog. (See, he blogs himself and while it isn’t football it certainly can be entertaining. Check him out it you get a chance.) I gave him the short version of what I have recorded above and he gave me several good words of encouragement. Enough encouragement that I felt compelled to type this out today and also to make these goals/commitments: I am going to blog more. In fact the off-season may actually be a better time to blog because there is so much more theoretical things to discuss (playoffs vs. bowls, recruiting, coaching changes, conferences that suck, etc.); I might expand a little bit into other things that I enjoy discussing (poker, college basketball, St. Patricks’s Day, beer, cooking, etc.) ; I am going to take a little more time to read blogs that I enjoy and actually start commenting more.

In conclusion this blog will continue and hopefully without two-month lapses between posts. If you have been here before, thanks for coming back, let me know what you think. If you stumbled upon this accidentally, thanks for checking it out, come back often and let me know what you think as well.

And finally, thanks Drexel, that was the little shove that I needed

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