Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Dear Tony Barbee: You Were the Problem, Not Auburn

Dear Ex-Head Coach Tony Barbee:

In a recent interview with Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal, you said the following:

"I'm the worst loser that there is, so (Auburn) was tough in that way.  It's nice being on the other side of the fence again, knowing every time you step on the floor in a game, you've got a legitimate chance to win. That's always a different feeling, and I haven't felt that in a while."

Let’s get to the heart of your statement: every time you stepped on the floor while head coach of Auburn, you felt like you were going to lose the game.  Got it. 

However, here is what you don’t understand.  The Auburn fans felt that.  Your assistant coaches felt that.  Your opponents felt that.  Most importantly, your players felt that.

That negative attitude was a big part of your tenure at Auburn.  Our new coach, Bruce Pearl, did more to raise excitement and anticipation his first week on campus than you did during your entire four years.  Appearing in a dunk tank for charity?  HA!  That might have ruined your expensive Italian shoes.  Your assistants were more worried about getting to Loco’s on Monday for wing night than spending that extra hour or two studying tape.

You often lamented on the lack of attendance at games, but did you go out of your way to promote the team or games?  No.  You just figured fans would come.  Well, they are coming now.  Did you happen to hear?  Auburn sold out season tickets this year.  Amazing what a coach with a positive attitude and excitement about his players can do to a fan base.

That’s okay, though.  We like the coach we have now on the Plains.  Despite his past troubles (which he owned up to in his first press conference), we know that he is making his best effort to rally Auburn fans around the team on the court.  Last night, ESPN commentators mentioned how there were over 1,000 Tiger fans in the stands at the Auburn-Vanderbilt game.  Oh, it was in Nashville as well.

You?  You can go ride the coattail of John Calipari, one of the best coaches in college basketball today, and win a lot of games all the while thinking that you are the reason for Kentucky’s success.  You might even win a national championship or two…as an assistant.  I suppose it is easy to have that “different feeling” when you aren’t actually the man in charge.

You can also put “coached All-Americans” on your resume for when you want to give it a try as head coach again.  I just hope the hiring committees of those schools bring up that quote. 
 
Have you seen the movie Rounders?  In it, Matt Damon’s character says, “If you can't spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.”

Well, Tony, we were the suckers, but YOU were the problem, not Auburn.

Monday, October 20, 2014

For a day, Mississippi is King of College Football

It was a bad nightmare.

Cowbells kept clanging so hard my brain wanted to jump out of my head.  An earlier rainstorm had made my clothes feel as if they were in the middle of the rinse cycle.  Oh, and my beloved Auburn Tigers had just been defeated.

So why was I smiling?

Maybe it was because of the father I saw hugging his young son, pure love coming from both of them.

Maybe it was due to the overwhelming look of happiness I saw on fan faces as they celebrated like it was V-E Day.

It could have been the young woman, either overcome with joy or booze or both, crying as she rang a cowbell bigger than her forearm.

I think, though, the reason for my smile is because I have been in their shoes and know the pure exhilaration of a program-defining victory.

Their neighbor to the east, especially in football, has long overshadowed the state of Mississippi.  While Auburn and Alabama have captured the nation’s attention, Ole Miss and Mississippi State have been considered also-rans. 

Well, until this year.

Mississippi State just does not win big games.  That was the sentiment heading into the clash between No. 2 Auburn and the No. 3 Bulldogs.  Auburn has more talent.  The moment is too big for State.  How will they handle all this hype? 

I mean, College Gameday was making their first ever appearance in Starkville.

It shouldn’t have been the Bulldogs that we were worried about.

Behind quarterback Dak Prescott, Mississippi State emphatically answered any and all questions.

The record crowd grew louder with each touchdown, inching closer to a victory of unseen proportions in this small western Mississippi town.

The mass celebration really began in the middle of the 4th quarter.  I have been in many great atmospheres, but listening to the crowd sing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” to the beat of 55,000 cowbells ranks right up there.

You know the phrase “act like you’ve been there before?"  That didn’t apply in this case.  Mississippi had never been in this position before.  They came into the game with their highest ranking in the program’s history.  They left with a No. 1 ranking in the near future.

Walking down the seemingly endless ramp, fellow Auburn fans and myself were invisible to the raucous Bulldog faithful.  Instead of the usual trash talk, State fans were focused on their team, their fellow fans and, importantly, their university.

For a day, there would be no more “thank God for Mississippi” jokes.  With Ole Miss’ win against the mighty Crimson Tide a week earlier, the Magnolia State was on top of the college football world, both figuratively and literally.  All of the problems facing states like Mississippi disappeared just for a while.

Women wept, grown men hugged, cowbells clanged and this Auburn man couldn’t help but smile.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Jay Jacobs Over-"Jews" It In Pearl Press Conference



AUBURN - In a move to make newly hired Bruce Pearl, a man of Jewish faith, feel welcome in Auburn, athletic director Jay Jacobs went out of his way to make Yiddish references in his introduction of Pearl as head basketball coach.

"Bruce is a real mentsh," Jacobs said to a confused, mostly protestant audience.  "He will fit in perfectly with the Auburn family, or 'mishpocheh' if you will."

Despite leaving Tennessee after being caught committing NCAA violations, Pearl is a popular hire among people on the Plains.  "I'm getting all verklempted thinking of when he agreed to become our new coach," Jacobs stated.

Pearl has been a successful coach in his career but does not come without baggage.  Pearl, along with officials from the Auburn athletic department, will meet with the NCAA soon to hopefully have the show-cause penalty lifted before it expires on August 23.

"Even with Pearl's past," Jacobs continued "I would have been a real shlemiel not to hire him.  He is a proven winner and he will work his tuches off to make Auburn a winner again."

Throughout the athletic department, employees were given orange and navy yarmulkes to wear and the flower arrangement at the front desk was replaced with an out-of-date Menorah.  

"We tried to tell Jay that Hanukkah was not occurring but he would have none of it," said Kirk Sampson, sports information director for Auburn University.  "Earlier, we caught him stepping on a glass and yelling 'OPA!' and we had to alert him that that was, in fact, Greek."

After the press conference, Jacobs could be heard praising Pearl's "shtick" on the sidelines and how he had "schlepped" all the way up north to meet with Pearl, who was working for ESPN.

"He assured me that everything would be kosher when it comes to following the NCAA rules," Jacobs said while looking up the term "War Eagle" in Hebrew.

When asked about Jacobs' comments, Pearl mumbled, "Freaking gentiles."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Fixing U.S. Curling For 2018

That's it!  I am sick of waiting four years for curling to be highlighted and then watch the American men fail.  I'm tired of losing to guys named Sebastian and Eriksson.  It kills me when our skip chokes once again and the Americans are left conceding the match after the eighth end.  This is the United States of America we are talking about!  We can't dominate in a sport that you can drink beer while playing?  Countries like Sweden and Norway are coming into our "house" and laughing after another easy victory?  ENOUGH!  If we follow these steps, we will be a dominant force by the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang:

1. More Intimidating Athletes

Our players look like accountants and real estate agents.  No one will ever be intimidated by them.  My solution?  Bring in some current or recently retired NFL players, teach them the sport and then watch as they stand over the stone like a bad ass!  The U.S. honorary captain is Vernon Davis of the 49ers, so we already have a fan.  I am certain that Mr. Torger Nergaard of Norway will think twice before releasing the stone with Patrick Willis standing close by.  Anyone would be more intimidating than this guy.


2.  Ban John Shuster from Curling

Speaking of that guy, that is our current skip John Shuster.  He also served in that position in 2010.  Both Olympics have been epic failures for this guy.  He is Bill Buckner, John Starks and Dan Marino all rolled into one.  The most frustrating part of Mr. Shuster is that he starts playing well AFTER the U.S. is already eliminated from making the elimination rounds.  He's David Wright in the eighth inning of a 12-3 game.

3.  Full-Time Curlers

You want to know how to tell we don't take the sport seriously?  We make these guys go out and earn a living on their own while curlers in other countries compete full time.  We don't make LeBron get a summer job, do we?  You won't see Aaron Rodgers selling insurance during the off-season!  (Okay, bad example.)  Let's gather up some sponsors for these guys (I'm looking at you, corporations based in Minnesota) and make them full-time, at the rink 10 hours a day, curlers.

4.  Language Lessons

Sure, our players can talk all the trash they want in English but so can the other teams. Now, how awesome would it be if our players could tell a Finnish curler to "not choke on your balls" IN FINNISH?  That would have to freak them out a little bit, right?  Two hours a day will be spent on learning trash-talk phrases in every competitors' language.  This has to be worth at least 2-3 points a match.

5.  Get Our Fans Involved

I am picturing a cross between the Cameron Crazies of Duke and the soccer fans in the movie Green Street Hooligans.  Look, we as Americans are already known as the most obnoxious, loud and arrogant people on this planet.  We might as well use that reputation to help out our now bilingual, muscular curling team.  When the other team is about to release the stone, we can yell about their mother being the town whore.  Other team trying to talk strategy?  We chant as loud as we can about how their country is inferior to ours.  I can just imagine the scene: Russia vs. USA, gold medal match, 10th end and we need a point.  "GO STAND IN A BREAD LINE (CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP)."

If we do these things, I foresee a team of Vernon Davis, Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis and J.J. Watt bringing home the gold.  U-S-A!  U-S-A!  U-S-A!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Russia To World: "We Thought You Were Joking!"


SOCHI - In a bizarre statement only three days before the start of the Winter Olympics, Russian President Vladmir Putin claimed during a press conference that Russia never actually thought the Winter Olympics would be held in Sochi.

"We thought it was a prank," Putin stated while petting his toy poodle Magnus.  "We are horrible people. Why would you ever agree to give us the world stage?"

Reports of unfinished hotels and lack of the basic amenities in some rooms have filtered out over the past 24 hours as media have flocked to the coastal town.  One reporter took to Twitter with anger after her hotel room did not have running water.

"What were you expecting?  We only figured out that these games were real like a week ago" said Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The press conference, which was delayed for 10 minutes while aides for both Putin and Medvedev searched for phone books for the two to sit on so they could reach the microphone, took place in what used to be the janitor's closet at the Sochi Best Western.

"We all make mistakes," Medvedev continued "but this one is totally not on us. We thought you were joking. Why on earth would we host the Winter Olympics at the one place in Russia that doesn't get a lot of snow? That's just crazy talk."

When asked why, if they thought it was a joke, the Russian government built a large stadium in Sochi, Putin responded, "Oh that? That, um, is just for monster truck rallies."

A reporter from the BBC then asked whether the conditions at hotels will be better for the 2018 World Cup.

"What? That is also real? That can't be real. Now, these pecs? These are real!" Putin shouted while disrobing.

The press conference ended with both Russian leaders praising the work of the Russian people with "only weeks to prepare for the games" and Putin demanding the media to note that, even at just five foot seven, he is three inches taller than Medvedev.

"He's so short!" Putin exclaimed.

Monday, October 21, 2013

BREAKING NEWS: GIANT HEAD ATTACKS POOL



Florence, Ala - Following Auburn's 45-41 win over Texas A&M, a giant head attacked the shallow end of the pool at the Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. 

The attacker, Brian J. Stultz, was taken to the local hospital via ambulance where a CT scan was performed and results came back that, despite evidence, the patient did have a brain. 

A total of 12 staples were inserted in Mr. Stultz's head and he was then released to the danger of the general public. 

The victim said, "I was just minding my own business when all of a sudden I see this massive object flying toward me.  I am a little dented but will be okay as soon as they clean all of the blood out."

When reached for comment, Mr. Stultz said that even though he is in pain, he would gladly take 50 staples in the head if it meant a win over Alabama. 

"What a win!" Stultz said as they led him to the CT scan. 

The doctors were worried about the state of Stultz's mental health when he listed both Charles Rooker and John Barry as his emergency contacts. 

"All in all, he is lucky to not be paralyzed or even dead," the doctor said as Stultz continued to ramble on about his deep love for Gus Malzahn.  


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Tribute To My Friend Tom Kowalski

This past Saturday, as I was in Jordan-Hare Stadium watching my Auburn Tigers struggle against the Utah State Aggies, I kept looking down at my phone waiting for text messages I knew would never come.

My friend Tom Kowalski died last week unexpectedly of a heart attack. The news of his passing still has me angry, shocked, and saddened. He was only 51 years old and still had a full life ahead of him. He was a great friend that I could count on during the best and worst times of my life.

I met Tom like I meet most of my friends: at a bar. Hanging out at Scruffy Duffys on an Saturday afternoon back in October of 2006, I was just enjoying a beer and watching some afternoon college football. A few minutes later, Tom and his wife at the time asked if the two seats beside me were open. Twelve hours later, we were still there enjoying Bud Lights, watching Game 1 of his Tigers in the 2006 World Series and, like any friend of Tom can attest to, a few games of Golden Tee. (I will say that, due to a prior engagement, I was supposed to meet a friend to see "The Departed" that night. Tom was constantly mocking me and calling it "movie night". I returned to Scruffy Duffys in 30 minutes when the movie was sold out.) I had no idea who Tom was at that time and did not care. He was a fun loving guy that spun his chair around (he was amazed that they went all the way around) and yelling "Wheeeee!!!".

After that night, we stayed in touch. We met up in Dallas to ring in the New Year for 2007. I came up to Detroit to meet him in November of 2007 and tailgated outside of the Big House before the Ohio State-Michigan game and then went to a (cough) strip club outside of Detroit with him. The next day, he had already reserved a ticket for me at the Giants-Lions game. When the Lions played at the Bengals in 2009, we met up at a bar across the river from Cincinnati and had another round of drinking until the bar closed.

To call Tom just a guy who covered the Lions is a big understatement. He was the face of the Lions for many fans. This became apparent to me very quickly. A big guy who unfortunately somewhat resembled Matt Millen, Tom was not a hard guy to spot in a bar. No matter how many fans approached him, "Killer" was always willing to chat with them about the Lions. (Note: I told Tom very early on that I could NEVER call him "Killer".) He was personable, especially if the fans bought him a beer, which they almost always did. When you shook hands with him, you felt like you were never going to find your hand ever again. His laugh and smile was always there and he would never be afraid to tell Lions fans that the team just flat out stunk. He WAS their connection to their team.

Tom was in New York in October of 2010. The Lions were playing the Giants that weekend and we met up at my local bar Hibernia. Along with him was his fiancée, Diane Wolan, who I could tell was special to Tom. We had beers, caught up and then said our goodbyes. I never thought this would be the last time I would see him.

During the past six years, Tom would always text me before a big Auburn game to see if I was attending, during an Auburn game if we were playing great or horrible and after an Auburn game if we won or lost. He would always give me crap if I was not attending an important game. Last year, during Auburn's National Championship run, he was one of the first people to call me and wish congratulations after each and every game.

I could not believe he was gone until this past Saturday, when I was attending the Auburn game. I kept on waiting for a text message from Tom but, in the back of my mind, knew that text would never come. He would have certainly had something to say about my school struggling against Utah State.

Tom's funeral was on Saturday as well. To honor him, I drank Bud Light, played some Golden Tee and spun my barstool around as fast I could. "WHEEEEEEEEE!!!!!"

I miss you Tom and will always love you.