Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What's Really Important Thanksgiving Weekend in Alabama: Fan Status-ship

I have been pretty out of the loop over the past two weeks. And I can't believe I haven't listened to Finebaum since before the LSU game. Ordinarily it would seem that I wouldn't have missed much - that's the great thing about that show, it's like a soap opera that you can miss a few months of, come back, and still be up to speed on everything that's going on.

However, it has come to my attention that the Finebaum Radio Network and crew have brought back the famed 'Call to Arms' speech by the Great David Housel.

Alabama fans, of course, are throwing it out there just how warped Auburn fans are. But if you recall - and Auburn fans have - David Housel's speech was right before Auburn pulled out six straight wins in the Iron Bowl. (I doubt the wins were a result of the speech, but that is what happened.)

As batshit crazy as David Housel's speech was, I do think that he was about 5 years early to the party. Perhaps he was a visionary. But a lot of what he said in his speech (and don't worry, I have it below) kind of turned out to be true. Auburn won 5 straight Iron Bowls, had an undefeated season, and had a pretty legit beef in regards to the lack of national championship opportunities.

Remember the 'One for the Thumb' t-shirts? I know they're out there, locked away in orange and blue closets. There was a point in the mid-'00s where the state of Alabama really was at a crossroads, fan-wise. Seriously, you saw a lot more of the grammar school kids sporting orange and blues.

I do recall Alabama fans being very nervous. The fan 'status'-ship in the state of Alabama was changing. It had been 15 years since Alabama had won a national title. No 18-year old athlete going to college could themselves remember Jay Barker handing off to Derrick Lassic.

It had become a new world - Bear Bryant had passed away over 25 years ago. Alabama had been terrible or close to it for about a decade. The mystique was gone. And Auburn was taking advantage.

Then... HE arrived.

The day Tommy Tuberville lost his job was the day that Nick Saban got kissed by a drunk lady on a runway. It totally flipped the tables. I was doing a radio show with a Birmingham News sports columnist on that day, and I remember taking a caller that, when asked what his expectations of Saban were, said, "I expect us (Alabama) to be competing for a national championship in three years."

I called the guy a lunatic.

Here was Alabama, just after four years of one of the most ineffective game managers of all time* in Mike Shula, with Mike Price, Dennis Francione, and Mike DuBose before that. It had been a ROUGH decade. And this guy thought Alabama was going to win a national title, and Saban hadn't even been formally introduced yet.

*This was before Les Miles really got into his groove of mismanagement.

That caller may still be a lunatic, but he wasn't wrong.

And the momentum had swung back to the crimson. It really had deflated what had become a very big Auburn balloon. It wasn't a year later that finally the bigwigs at Auburn had their reason to get rid of Tommy Tuberville and hire...

Gene Chizik?

Yeah, I was a big hater on this, too. Remember how ludicrous that hire was at the time? You couldn't find anyone to defend it. Anyone. And Auburn fans were furious. How quickly they had fallen back down the mountain, only with Alabama topping Everest one more time to really drive a needle into their side.

Perhaps Auburn fans felt like they had their chance, and that S.O.B. Nick Saban took it away from them. Frustrating.

But here we are now. Auburn - albeit under some eyebrow-raising suspicions - is undefeated and is poised to actually compete in a real game for a national title.

Could Auburn find themsleves right back on top? Did anyone really think that would be possible? I mean, three months ago, Alabama fans were convinced that the Crimson Tide had lost their last football game ever. And while this season really hasn't been a terrible one for Alabama, NO ONE thought Auburn was going to be doing what they are.

And more importantly, that fan 'status'-ship. If Auburn wins this game, and rolls on to go undefeated for a national title - are they now 'officially' on the same competitive plane as Alabama? And would Alabama fans really be able to handle this?

Coming from a family of predominantly Alabama fans and most of my friends swaying towards the Tide, I'm not sure that they can handle it. Would that snoody, over-confident arrogancy be available to them without being phony?

Because if there is something wrong with Alabama fans, that's it: they BELIEVE that they are better than Auburn. Some show it more than others, sure. But that is one undying truth about Bama fans - they actually think it's true.

Auburn fans - they believe the same thing. That Alabama fans believe that Alabama fans are better than Auburn fans, but Auburn fans don't think that's true, and it frustrates the hell out of them that they can't get Alabama fans to realize they shouldn't feel that way. So they react and respond with a mirroring attitude towards Alabama fans.

And it goes round and round in a perpetuating cycle, like the kindergarten kid who wants the cool kid to think he's cool, too.

So, I guess that's what I'll be paying attention to over this weekend. Should Auburn win this game and then roll on to a championship, can Bama fans handle it?

Or will Auburn lose in Tuscaloosa, and the momentum again goes out of the balloon. And Alabama fans stick their noses higher in the air, their status-ship back where they think it ought to be.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter. And tell your friends about the blog. Thanks.

And as promised, the David Housel transcript:
I, like you, have read everything, I’ve heard everything, and I’ve seen everything. Now the time has come, the time has come to decide who we are, what we are, and what we’re going to do.

You Alabama fans listening in to see what we’re saying, how we’re feeling, how we’re thinking – how about giving us a moment alone, just us Auburn people, so we can talk among ourselves. Would you do us that favor? We’d appreciate it. Take a break, go to the bathroom, get another beer, do whatever you want to do, I don’t care. Just give us Auburn people a moment alone.

Well, now that we’re alone what do you think? Ah, I know they’re still there, I know they’re still there listening in on what we’re saying, but so be it. I’m not scared of them and you’re not scared of them either, not since coach dye came, none of us have been scared of them anymore, none of us. If they weren’t scared of us, they wouldn’t still be listening in and thinking we didn’t know they were there.

Funny thing is they probably thought we were stupid enough to think they would leave when we asked them to leave. They’re the ones with the problem, not us. In fact I want them to hear what we’re saying and what we’re talking about. I want them to know what we’re thinking, they need to know, and when they find out, they won’t sleep good tonight, tomorrow night, any night. We’re coming after their butt. We’re coming after them today, we’re coming after them tomorrow, we’re coming after them the day after tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.

We will not rest, we won’t sleep, we will not be deterred until we reach our goal, and that goal is simply this: to paint this state – the entire state – not North Alabama, not South Alabama, not East Alabama, not West Alabama, the entire state, orange and blue. Now Terry Bowden and I didn’t always agree, and we didn’t always see eye to eye on everything, but we did agree on one thing. We might not get them, the Alabama mamas and papas, but we were going to get the sons and the daughters. We were going to get the children, and we are getting them. Birminghan was once their bastion, their home ground, their turf. Lookat the statistics. Statistics don’t lie. Birmingham and Jefferson County students are coming to Auburn as never before.

We’re winning the battle there, and we’re winning the battle everywhere else. Take a snapshot here, take a snapshot there and it might not be evident. But in your heart, in your heart of hearts, you know we’re winning the battle, and you know we’re winning the war. Where are their sons and daughters going to school? Think about your Alabama friends and the number of their children who are coming to Auburn. Inch by inch, person by person, child by child we’re winning the war. It might not be evident in every battle, and it may or may not be evident today, but we’re winning the war.

All we have to do is keep the faith and keep on fighting. Every day in every way in every arena. The future is ours. All we have to do is fight for it and take it. Keeping the faith, that’s the key. And I don’t want to get anybody mad, and I don’t want to offend anybody, but think about the Vietnam War. Think about it in the context of the Alabama-Auburn rivalry. Time and time again we Americans claimed victory. We read about it in the paper, we heard about it on television, we beat ourselves on the chest.
And what did it get us? In the little things and the hearts of the people? That’s where wars are won and lost, and we’re winning this war with Alabama, just as sure as you hear the sound of my voice, we’re winning it. You know it and they know it.

That’s what will keep them awake tonight, that’s what will keep them awake in the nights to come. Winston Churchill, he of the Auburn heart said it best, “Never, never, never give up. We will fight on the land, we will fight on the sea, we will fight in the air, we will fight until Hitler and his Nazis are driven from the face of the earth.”

Now I’m not comparing Alabama to Hitler and the Nazis. Not at all. There are many good Alabama people, and I have many good Alabama friends, at least a few, and I have great respect for them and their program for what they’ve accomplished down through the years. But this is not about them, this is about us: who we are, what we are, and what we are going to do.

We are going to fight them today, we are going to fight them tomorrow. We’re going to fight them every day and every way. We won’t win all the battles, but we’re going to win the war.

You Alabama fans out there, still listening in, eavesdropping voyeurs that you are, lurking there in the deep, dark shadows of radioland, you can bank on it. We’re going to win the war. Remember Dunkirk, the gallant British army was virtually driven into the sea. That was but one battle. It was a long, long war as this has been, and will continue to be, a long, long war.

No, this is not about you. This is about us, the Auburn people. And this is a call to arms. Today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, the day after that, and the day after that. We will fight until victory is ours.

And as for today, Coach Jordan said it best, and that’s beat hell out of the University of Alabama. We will fight until the victory is ours. We may get knocked down, but we will not be knocked out. We will get up and fight again. We may occasionally be downhearted, but we will not be defeated. Never.

It is not in our nature, not in our makeup, it is not in our heart and it is not in our soul. Remember Goliath, remember the Roman Empire, remember Ozymandias. Learn from them, my Alabama friends. Learn from them and prepare to join them. No, Ozymandias was not Ozzie Nelson’s cousin.

Now go listen to Eli. He’s a good man, he’ll tell you who Ozymandias was. Back to you, Paul. Let’s get it on.