Category Archives: SBC

Week four, part two: Western Kentucky 20, Middle Tennessee State 17; Georgia 26, Alabama 23 (OT); hunk o’ burning goat love; tellums; a warm bath; a swab

Note: this has been a long time coming. Much has happened since WKU over MTSU. The only thing you need to know: I am, at long last, in the South.

First, some etcetera regarding Middle Tennessee State:

The Blue Raiders have been the Blue Raiders since 1934, when a contest was held to determine a suitable nickname for the school. The current mascot is a winged horse. It looks like a pegasus. It’s kinda cool the way newly minted mascots are cool: clear beneficiaries of at least two generations of draftsmen who were raised on design theory and attention grabbing iconography. The mascot before that was a blue tick hound named Ol’ Blue. The Tennessee Volunteers’ mascot is also a blue tick hound, which might be why MTSU changed their totem to a winged horse: when you are the largest university in the state of Tennessee but perhaps the third most recognized university in the state of Tennessee, there is no room for even remote emulation. Before Ol’ Blue, there was the Blue Raider: a student dressed up as Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate general who went on to found the Ku Klux Klan and a Tom Hanks movie. Understandably, there were protests in the 1970s (and likely before).

I found this out at the MTSU coach’s show at the Bluesboro Cafe, on Tuesday.

Me and Coach Stockstill, at Bluesboro Cafe.

Let me declare this forthrightly and without equivocation: in no way did I harbor any thoughts of Forrest, the KKK or anything similar during my time in Murfreesboro. The people were just too nice. But that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t perhaps a bit wide eyed and curious on Wednesday night, when I pulled into Mark’s Campus Pub for a bit o’ pre-game drinking and karaoke singin’ and a wee bit o’ pukin’ and drunk pick up linin’.

Mark’s Campus Pub is quite possibly the single worst bar I’ve ever been to, if I were judging solely on the criterion of physical facility quality. There is no such contest, however. As Samuel L. Jackson said, “But, this bar’s got personality. And personality goes a long way.”

Example: first song of the night was Primus’ “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” as performed by a twenty something gentleman straight out of England’s catalog of thin jeaned, shaggy haired, tiny shirt wearing soldiers of shambolic glory. What he lacked in vocal talent he made up in pure, very apparent enthusiasm. At this point there were maybe thirty people in the bar – so standing room only.

After Indie Rock Avatar there was a shuffling from the back, near the foosball table. Out of a crowd of baseball cap wearing frat boys, a slowly rotating galaxy of tattooed leather enthusiasts and a sprinkling of seemingly out of place southern belles wearing – yes – sundresses, out stepped a girl who couldn’t have, soaking wet and holding a largish loaf of country wheat with a cummerbund of homemade sausages, weighed more than 98 lbs. You may think I am simply adhering to the time honored figure of 98 lbs., but I physically weighed her. Even after making a sandwich out of her regalia, she did not move an ounce past that number.

Which is why it was totally unsurprising that she belted out Rob Zombie’s “Dragula”, the chorus punctuated by the baring of fangs, the flashing of devil horns and the occasional (but emphatic) conjuration of the following example of metathesis: “Tuck Kenfucky!”

Neither of the first two singers were any good. The guy who got up to sing “Walking in Memphis” was tall, vaguely east of the Caucus-looking, effeminate and possessed of the beginnings of a beer belly. In no way did I expect him to transform the night into pure Tennessee, simply by singing a song I’d never heard before. He did. And holy shit, could he sing.

Put on my blue suede shoes
And I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain
W.C. Handy — won’t you look down over me
Yeah I got a first class ticket
But I’m as blue as a boy can be

Then I’m walking in Memphis
Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel

I hadn’t been to Memphis. Still haven’t. But with one song, with everyone else singing in the bar – frat boys, goths, leatherkids, dresses, old men who should know better, the bouncer in the blue tank top and the ZZ top beard, the two aged and dispirited bartenders who were so bored with college kids they can’t even bother to smirk anymore, even they’re singing – I got a sense of what it must be like to be from here.

Bret, 23, explained: “Fifty percent of the time I’m embarrassed by the people around here. You get the guys who wave the Confederate flag, the idiots and the bigots. Some of them are just so ignorant it makes me want to scream. But the other half, more than half the time, man, it’s more than half by far, I think… I’m so proud of my southern heritage. There’s no place I’d rather be. No better place to grow up. I’ve been here [at MTSU] for five years now and I’m so disillusioned. We suck, y’know? We’re awful. But I still watch the games. I still love being here.”

Me: “Yeah, but when you finally pull off that ten win season it’s gonna be that much sweeter. Fans of bad teams get shit all their lives, but when it happens, it happens.”

Bret: “Yeah, well, that line stopped working after about year three….”

By then a group of six men, many of them with collared shirts tucked into jeans and boots, get up for their song. Their previous number was Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice”. I figure another homage to white boys lip syncing to gangsta rap is in order, but instead the familiar twangs of the opening chords to Lynard Skynard’s “Sweet Home Alabama” come on. The entire bar starts rawking. It’s a strange sight to see so many Tennesseans singing “Sweet Home Alabama” so happily, so much so that when the chorus comes around and the traditional (in Tuscaloosa) “Roll, Tide, Roll!” is normally sung, confusion is remedied with a very loud, very joyous

FUCK AAALaBAMA

Now, I’ve seen Bama stuff all over Nashville, Lynchburg and Murfreesboro – almost as much as I’ve seen Tennessee Volunteer stuff. Plus: this is an MTSU bar. What gives?

Bret: “Hating Alabama is universal, man. I hate UT, too. But fuck Alabama.”

By now the entire bar is singing: Indie Rock Avatar, 98 lbs. girl, large effeminate Memphis walker, they are all of them screaming out

FUCK AAALaBAMA

and then we tear through a rendition of “Dixieland Delight” (ironically, by the band Alabama), and I’m actually singing lines like

Spend my dollar, parked in a holler,
‘Neath the mountain moonlight.
Hold her up tight,
Make a little lovin’,
A little turtle dovin’.
On a Mason-Dixon night.
Fits my life, oh so right,
My Dixieland Delight.

when Marc Cohn’s lyric finally hits me.

They’ve got catfish on the table
They’ve got gospel in the air
And Reverend Green be glad to see you
When you haven’t got a prayer
But boy you’ve got a prayer in Memphis

Now Muriel plays piano
Every Friday at the Hollywood
And they brought me down to see her
And they asked me if I would —
Do a little number
And I sang with all my might
And she said —
“Tell me are you a Christian child?”
And I said “Ma’am I am tonight”

Better to ask, “Tell me are you a southern child?” Who knew, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, of all places? From that day until I passed from Clemson into Washington, D.C., I said it to everyone I could talk to: “I love the South.”

*****

The game itself was a disappointment. The MTSU that hung 42 on Louisville at Papa John’s Stadium was nowhere to be found. To Western Kentucky’s credit, an excellent defense helped limit the first start of talented freshman QB Dwight Dasher. The QB who almost led the Blue Raiders to an upset over Louisville was injured. He has since relinquished his job to Dasher.

This is as prosaic as can be. Don’t be fooled: there was considerable pain and anguish and wailing from the MTSU faithful. This was, after all, their first home game. It was their first game against rival WKU since 1991. It was their first game with the new JumboTron.

(Side note: this was pretty much all anyone could talk about. The JumboTron was the circus, the county fair, a presidential debate and the Summer Olympics all alighting at town hall long enough for each resident to get a peek. It was a big deal. I paid particular attention to it during the game. The camera operators and booth editors were all jacked up like squirrels on meth. There were dangerously epileptic montages, quicksilver camera cuts and a barrage of fades and dissolves found only in student films based on elaborate Jerry Bruckheimer-as-modern-Fellini theses, i.e., pure chaos out of a well meaning intent to impress and, perhaps, enlighten.)

I stayed with Chris and John, both of MTSU message board fame, in their box for a while. Their friend, whose name I have forgotten to my eternal dismay, spent most of the time chatting me up and asking me what I thought and generally shaking his head because, after all, what a shameful performance for me to see, but here’s a commemorative football for you and good luck to you. This kind of kindness was, again, protocol. Our discussion was routinely interrupted by the deck above, where a sorority had established a beachhead, set up kill zones and deployed armor. We all wanted very much to storm that beach. Every time we looked up above us all we could see was glorious, wonderful, undulating female. It was exactly like that scene in Saving Private Ryan where the camera pulls back to reveal Normandy covered in troops, trucks, tanks, tankers, battleships, airplanes, dirigibles, matériel, etc., except with breasts. I went upstairs at halftime.

I had a pretty good time. There was a fellow there dressed in a salmon and mint seersucker ensemble, which was impressive but not that much more than all the other frat boys wearing coats and ties and somehow not dying of glandular meta-sweatification. The women all wore sundresses, or dresses. (What’s the difference, anyway?) Everyone had two things on the brain: football, and sex, and not in that order.

One guy who was so drunk he was outraged they wouldn’t stop play whenever he called timeout: “You know what the point of football games is? Getting laid.”

(Time travel: I am coasting through the panhandle of Florida towards Tampa almost a week later, lazily driving along HWY 98, when I spot a CVS Pharmacy in the town of Navarre. It makes me think of penicillin, and whether I need penicillin, and perhaps I should make a stop at a local doctor’s office because it’s about time I do this, the South’s been kind so far so let’s not put anyone in harm’s way, and it’s really for everyone’s peace of mind but especially my own, plus maybe I’ll get a lollipop. So I pull into the Holley Navarre Medical Clinic where a Mr. Joel Rudman, M.D. has his practice. It’s the first time I’ve ever bothered using my PPO, and I feel happy that my $10 co-pay is making that $90 monthly worthwhile. The exterior of the office is like any other: vaguely white, vaguely beige, lots of Good Housekeeping back issues. Once I get inside I find 1) a Tim Tebow poster autographed by Tebow 2) a national championship poster/schedule/future schedule 3) Gator stickers 3a) a sticker proclaiming “This is… the Swamp” and not, in fact, the Holley Navarre Medical Clinic of Navarre, FL 4) an actual media guide to the Florida Gators’ 2007 season, sitting in waiting room one 5) Joel Rudman, who is a big goofy guy who acts like he’s a teenager but is clearly a competent medical authority because, hey, he’s got a coat on and his handwriting looks sloppy, and boy does he like the Gators. I like him immediately. We chat about general STD detection methods, my fear of needles, Gator football, the LSU juggernaut, gonorrhea, AIDS tests, SEC football, the book Dixieland Delight, etc. I drop the drawers. I ask him whether he thinks Florida will beat LSU. He asks me where it’s at. He takes a Q-tip like device and, rather painfully, takes a swab from you-know-where-but-just-in-case-it’s-the-pee-hole. I tell him it’s at Death Valley. He puts the Q-tip thing in a little canister, and I pull up my board shorts. He notes that Death Valley is a tough place to play, but especially under the lights. Naturally, he says, it’ll be a night game. Tough, tough place to play. Those Cajuns are crazy. Yup. So, Jon, where’s your next game? Oh, Florida-Auburn. I’m really looking forward to it. Really?, I’m going there too. And suddenly I can’t remember the information he’s been doling out between these sentences, vital stuff like how long the tests will take and when I should call, because I’m wondering if I can find him and his tailgate. We shake hands, I pantomime a Gator chomp, he laughs and says “Maybe I’ll see you in New Orleans!” and that’s how my STD check went. So as much as the MTSU kid was right in that live college football games are fantastic ways to get laid, there’s also this: college football is a fantastic way to pass the time during otherwise awkward/uncomfortable moments related to the realm of sex, its repercussions, its lack thereof, or simply the general theory/practice of. I am not going to lie to you: I have found myself, mid-coitus, wondering whether USC’s game was going to get picked up by the local affiliates. This is my world.)

The ladies of Alpha Omicron Pi made signs and cheer, but they weren’t exactly into it. I asked one of them what she gets out of football games.

“Oh, I watch the cheerleaders most of the time. They’re pretty amazing.”

Fair enough. College football can’t captivate everyone the way it does me, and here’s the proof: MTSU, a traditionally mediocre football school that’s only recently been tabbed as a possible Sun Belt power, has football games. Those football games are entertaining by themselves, sure, but more than that they serve as a gigantic mixer for anyone who wants to be excused from the kind of liabilities and stigmas we impose on those who scream, paint themselves, get drunk, shout obscenities, flirt openly and dangerously, curse men much larger than ourselves, wave towels, belch, do the wave, question play calling, invest vast amounts of concern into a game, get arrested, etc. It is an Event that happens only once a week, twelve times a year, in the localized region of the brain known as The Eternal Autumn. Not everyone can be hideously obsessed with the actual game, so there are such things as alcohol, sundresses, cheerleaders and getting laid.

Or dancing.

This is the MTSU Moving Man. I thought he was the Dancing Man, but he kept calling himself the Moving Man and so, I feel, should I. He rocked the crowd. Here we are doing a chorus kick, even though you can’t see it.

After the game he showed up to one of the tailgates I ended up at. He came right on over, talking and jabbering like he knew every single one of us. He was soaked with sweat. He conversed one sidedly about his 40th high school reunion in Chattanooga, MTSU women’s basketball games, parking lots, free form jazz, exercise instruction, and hot dogs. He was particularly interested in hot dogs, specifically the ones cooking on the nearby grill. In the peculiar and thoroughly old people way that old people do, he assumed the hot dogs/general resources of the community/everything were his for the taking because he was both old and the MTSU Moving Man, which doesn’t trump oldness so much as it augments it. He ate our BBQ chips. He drank our soda. And, after he left because we clearly had become a bit uncomfortable with him (not that he knew, cared, etc.), all one girl could say to me was, “The dancing man stole your hot dog.”

Which is a pretty good way to end this post.

NEXT: Bama. And I mean it this time.

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Filed under One CFB Road Trip to rule them all, SBC

Week four, part one: Western Kentucky 20, Middle Tennessee State 17; Georgia 26, Alabama 23 (OT); hunk o’ burning goat love; tellums; a warm bath; a swab

Whatever invisible demarcation between North and South exists – and the Wikipedia entry on Mason and Dixon’s line did nothing to help me decide where or what it is, though it did pique my interest in Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name which, in its defense, “makes no claim of being historically rigorous” – I passed it on Monday, September 17 on my way from Marion, Illinois to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. To celebrate I queued up Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and hummed along:

The Mississippi Delta was shining
Like a national guitar
I am following the river
Down the highway
Through the cradle of the Civil War
I’m going to Graceland
Graceland
In Memphis Tennessee
Im going to Graceland

And:

In Graceland, in Graceland
I’m going to Graceland
For reasons I cannot explain
There’s some part of me wants to see
Graceland
And I may be obliged to defend
Every love, every ending
Or maybe there’s no obligations now
Maybe I’ve a reason to believe
We all will be received
In Graceland

I still haven’t been to Memphis, or Graceland. My understanding of Tennessee geography was, literally, short: the state can’t be that big, surely, especially to a Californian. The Humboldt County marijuana mules get leg cramps before they even get to the East Bay, let alone San Diego. Tennessee! I laughed at your physical stature.

At it’s longest the Volunteer State stretches 440 miles, with the cities of Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville forming a loose parallelogram following the contours of the state itself. I lingered in the Nashville area for the duration of my stay in Tennessee. Why? Lookout Mountain – site of Rock City, the Three Battles of Chattanooga (of which the Third was the most important, signalling the true end of the Confederacy and the start of the Union’s advance into Atlanta) and the climax of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods – is near Chattanooga. The Battle of Shiloh Hill took place about a hundred miles east of Memphis. And Memphis! I tried explaining the significance of Memphis in my mind to a native, who could not come up with a single redemptive quality for her home city.

“Barbeque! The blues! Johnny Cash! Carl Perkins! Sam Cooke! Tennessee Williams! Beale Street! Barbeque! Martin Luther King’s last speech at Mason Temple! Barbeque!” I explained, somewhat quietly and with a strained candor. I had barbeque on my mind at the time, and didn’t want to excite anyone lest they they realize I had come, like a Hamburglar of smoked goods, to rob them of their most prized meat confections.

“Yeah, but it’s a shit hole,” she said. I left it at that, though even now the idea of Memphis pulsates in my brain and I don’t think I will be able to resist a walk along Beale Street. Hard to explain why I never made it there, considering that a few hundred miles were nothing to an odometer whose patience, having been stretched thin for three weeks, emulated the agonies of sainthood and transcended its mortal state to reach a perpetual beatification that said, simply, “Do whatever you must. I have a harp and cloud, and a halo.”

There was also the issue of Murfreesboro, home of the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders and my de-facto headquarters for at least four days. The population of Murfreesboro has doubled since 1990 (46,000), making it – at an estimated 92,559 – one of the fastest growing cities in America. MTSU is the largest undergraduate university in the state of Tennessee. The locals were never hesitant to point out these two facts to me, but despite the growing evidence of Murfreesboro’s ascendance the general opinion of those communicating with me via the internet and text messaging was this: “You’ll run out of things to do once you park.”

So how did I manage to not go insane after four days away from the four big cities of Tennessee? Start with those same locals, who began, first, by intriguing me as the first representatives of The South I had met on my travels and moved to the simple acts of kindness, acceptance and blah blah blah that make my bleeding heart ache at the thought of the horrid cliche of it all: Southern hospitality at its finest, and no matter my will there wasn’t an ounce of irony I could wring from that.

(Also helping me not going insane was a tour of Lynchburg, home of the Jack Daniel’s distillery and essentially my Dome of the Rock. From smelling the 140 proof White Lightning to walking amongst thousands of barrels of whiskey, whiskey, whiskey everywhere, I was in heaven for the vast majority of the tour until the end. Moore County, of which Lynchburg is a part, is a dry county and has been for something like a century. The penultimate factoid – 75 million gallons of Jack Daniel’s whiskey in a dry county – erased the serenity imposed by bucolic Lynchburg’s gorgeous scenery and the peacefulness of a small town with one industry and no hurry. One local laughed at me when I asked him where the nearest bar was, which is one reason I returned to Murfreesboro like a man stranded in the desert would run towards ancient Baghdad.)

It started by meeting up with John and Chris, both members of an MTSU message board and both of them loonier than a cathouse full of Cajuns – which is a phrase I picked up at MTSU’s library, incidentally, and seems to convey a generally positive slant.

John contacted me at the beginning of my trip. He was alerted to my project by the miracles of Google’s search algorithms, which allowed him to track me down via the posting of my schedule and, in particular, the MTSU-Western Kentucky game. John extended an offer of tailgating, a spot in his box and a view of Blue Raider football; since then I’ve had more offers, but nothing as generous and earnest as that first. I was horrified.

Let me explain: internet users aren’t all pale, pock marked and fat/or twiggy. That’s just ignorance. And they’re certainly not all schizophrenic freaks mouth breathin’ their way through porn and World of Warcraft potion queues as fast as their right hand can scroll a mousewheel. That is also ignorance, and also maybe a bit of fun at the expense of people who like porn (who doesn’t?) and MMORPGs (might as well make fun of heroin addicts, the poor things). But internet college football fans? The kind who frequent message boards? You can take whatever preconceivied slander you have about internet “eccentrics” and throw out the quotation marks and also the word “eccentrics”, because bat shit crazy motherfuckers who don’t even understand the basic concept of pass protection but nonetheless like to criticize Orlando Pace simply because he was a Buckeye find themselves scared to death when in the presence of your Unrelentingly Awful Internet College Football Fan, and eccentric might as well be a compliment. Have you ever met a komodo dragon? Their saliva produces a virulent bacteria that will almost surely kill you if untreated after a bite, and it looks like they drool blood, and they eat lots of carrion. Komodo dragons would run screaming – at a twelve and a half mile per hour clip – into the warm Indonesian night if they ever came across some of the characters I have interacted with in my three or four years of internet-based college football discussion. And I have met the faces behind some of that interaction, and often times it is a process that leaves me white faced and shaking. This is the result of that internet-old fascination with holding get togethers to put faces to name and other, equally atrocious, behavior that most adults should know better than to partake in.

To put it bluntly, Unrelentingly Awful College Football Fans rule the night. And the day. And, sadly, large swaths of the internet. Particularly in Louisiana. So it was with a good deal of trepidation that I showed up to the Coconut Bay bar off of the Old Fort Parkway in good ol’ M’boro to meet John on Monday night to watch the Redskins lose to the Eagles, or vice versa. (No one present knows who won the game as it was so achingly boring the only consolation we had was that we weren’t paying attention.)

He didn’t arrive for a good twenty or thirty minutes, which gave me plenty of time to eye anyone with a bad haircut, false teeth or questionable genetics and wonder if I’d made a bad choice in casting my lot with Dr. Moreau’s bulletin board children.

John, some thirty minutes into our conversation: Can I be honest with you, Jon? And don’t take this the wrong way: I’m kinda relieved you’re normal.

By the time Chris, John’s compatriot in MTSU message boarding, arrived we were well into discussions of everything that happened to be interesting, which were: the 2007 college football season, past college football seasons, college football recruiting, college football politics, college football in the deep South, women, whiskey, oysters, tailgating, beer, the unsatisfying hole that is pro sports, drunk dialing, white trash jokes, Asian jokes and, during one memorable exchange, the proper way to respond to a text message involving a female proclaiming herself wetter than the hot tub she was in. By the time I left the state of Alabama on Sunday I had met a number of Internet College Football Fans and, without a single exception, they all proved to be exceptionally good at not being serial killers, pathological arsonists, closet playwrights, etc.

Some excerpts from our conversation:

John: You ever been to Woodbury [here pronounced “Wood-BURH”]? That’s country down there. You don’t wanna go there.

Chris: Yeah, that’s Deliverance country. They passed a town ordinance last week. It says divorcees can legally remain brother and sister.

And:

John: You better learn how to pronounce things around here.

Chris: Yeah. How would you pronounce the word L-a-f-a-y-e-t-t-e?

Me: Lafayette?

Chris: Around here it’s La-FEY-it. And Shelbyville. We shorten that [quick slashing motion with both hands to indicate large to small, plus emphatic woosh! noise] to Shelville. Try it.

Me: Shelville.

[Mild but good natured applause.]

John: And Knoxville, we shorten that to Assholes.

And:

Chris, relating a story about the legendary MTSU coach James “Boots” Donnelly (140-87-1 in 20 years in Murfreesboro), after I had described my experience in Lincoln watching USC play the Huskers: We were up in Nebraska one year to, y’know, collect a paycheck: come in, get our butts kicked for the home crowd, go home and use that money. Well our coach Boots shows up on Friday for walkthroughs at the stadium at whatever time it was, probably four in the afternoon. He and the players wanted to get a good look at Memorial Stadium. Except [Tom] Osborne and Nebraska are already there. So Boots goes up to Osborne and says, “I’m real sorry, coach. There must’ve been a mix up. I didn’t know you’d be here at the same time practicin’ to play us.” And Osborne goes, “Don’t even worry about it. We were actually practicing for Missouri next week.” (Note: The only time MTSU and Nebraska have ever played was in 1992 [Nebraska beat the Blue Raiders 48-7], the week before the Huskers lost to Washington’s post-national championship squad in Seattle. This does nothing to diminish the awesomeness of the above story.)

Between the two of them they relate some amusing anecdotes, like the time MTSU beat the pants off of a Roger Staubach led Navy team – Pensacola Navy, that is, four years after the former Cowboy great won the Heisman and just months after a stint in Vietnam. Apparently John’s great uncle or grandfather or someone sacked Staubach, “and he wouldn’t stop talking about it.” Douglas S. Malan does an outstanding job documenting the game here.

John and Chris also segued from a discussion of game day tailgating fare into an explanation of Goat ala WKU, based on a story about a Hilltopper fraternity invaded by police who found a malnourished goat in the chapter’s house. What was the goat for?

“I dunno,” Chris said with the kind of defensive shrug that means Not only do I know, I revel in the knowledge because it is at the expense of my arch-nemesis. “They found, like, used condoms in the closet the goat was in.”

John chimed in: “They brought the goat to the vet and they diagnosed him – are we even sure it was a ‘him’? – they diagnosed him with anal bruising.” After my apparently obvious disbelief, he followed with, “That’s a fact. It’s on the internet.”

Well, so it is.

So, as Chris put it, “half our jokes involve goat fucking. You’re gonna meet a coupla Western Kentucky guys on Thursday, so don’t be surprised if we start baaaahing at them. I’m gonna cook a goat. They’ll eat it, too.”

John: “They better. You ever had goat? It’s damn good if you cook it right. No goat fucker can resist a properly cooked goat.”

The end of that night was a microcosm of my stay in Murfreesboro: after explaining that I spend most nights in my car, Chris did not hesitate to offer his home and the guest bedroom. He was even kind enough to lead me down a back route away from the main police patrolled streets because, as he mentioned, “I think we’ve both had a few beers.” (Hiccup.)

During the rest of my time in Murfreesboro it seemed there was a roving pack of ninjas whose sole purpose, as far as I could tell, was to wait until I had to move my bowels or leave a table or bar or whatever and, when I was gone, deploy shuriken, smoke bombs and grappling hooks to make my bill or tab disappear. I do not exaggerate when I say this happened to me at least once a day for four days, with some days seeing so many ninjas in the periphery of my vision I had to blink and wonder, momentarily, if I was The Tick.

I think much of the kindness was reinforced by the uniqueness of my story. More so than any other place I had been to, people were genuinely amazed and appreciative of what I was doing. They murmured with their appreciation, and it seemed as if they were constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop when I inevitably realized MTSU-WKU would be a waste of my time, and why not just spend a few nights in Knoxville with that checkered endzone, Rocky Top and all that? Locals found it hard to believe that I had picked MTSU, of all teams, to go see a football game. At one point I wished that it wasn’t a Thursday game, because inevitably I had to explain that it fit my schedule to be in Murfreesboro as opposed to an outright pilgrimmage to one of the great college football venues. This sort of made me feel like a prick, but they still threw hamburgers, beer, ribs, whiskey and the like at me for something like eight hours straight on game day. The surreal nature of our meeting – me, in my first southern state of the trip, them, confused and maybe a little bit happy that I had chosen Murfreesboro – culminated in my being interviewed by a live sports talk station and being featured in The Daily News Journal. It’s a good thing I wasn’t drinking whiskey at the time because a) I didn’t realize it was a live interview and b) whiskey makes me cuss/pee in public/injure my knuckles/etc.

I cannot explain how weird it was to be followed around by a cameraman. At one point I found myself genuinely interested in helping a kid play NCAA ’07 (as MTSU vs WKU, naturally) on a Playstation set up at our tailgate. He just wanted to mash buttons. I wanted him to go through his progressions and always check down to the safe throw if necessary. He was probably three. I nonetheless explained down and distance theory to him. Then I caught sight of the cameraman snapping photos and I wondered if this was indeed a good photo-op, but wouldn’t it look weird if I’m shot manipulating the kid’s hands while he has the controller in his lap, and do they take implied paedophilia as seriously as the British do?, and what the hell, why would you call a draw on 3rd-and-26?! Gimme that controller.

At that point the alcohol was probably peaking in my blood stream.

Next: Sororities, sundresses, and… ‘Bama.

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Filed under One CFB Road Trip to rule them all, SBC, SEC

Week one: CU 31, CSU 28 (OT), magic mushrooms, Appalachia

No intro, let’s just dive in. I am currently sitting at the University of Oklahoma’s Bizzell Library wondering, in no particular order:

1) Why is the University of Oklahoma’s football team wearing helmets that say “OU”?

2) Where can I get mosquito proof mesh to line my car windows with?

3) How can I acquire my own Appalachian State t-shirt?

Each of these questions are linked, inextricably, with my current odyssey: a 14 week, 25 state (plus District of Columbia!), 22 game (or so) road trip that will take me to stadiums involving all six BCS conferences and a number of mid-majors – the first being Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee State, where I will witness the awesome power that Satantic amounts of money will bring to the Miltonian conglomerate that is the SBC. I expect gold plated shitters. Anything less and I will head back to my yak farm in the heady tofu climes of California’s Central Valley.

Here is my schedule:

ALL TIMES EASTERN
Saturday, September 1st
Colorado State at Colorado (Denver, CO, Mile High Stadium); 10:00 AM

Saturday, September 8th
Miami (Fla) at Oklahoma (Norman, OK); 12:00 PM

Saturday, September 15th
USC at Nebraska (Lincoln, NE); 8:00 PM

Thursday, September 20th
Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee State (Murfreesboro, TN); 7:00 PM

Saturday, September 22nd
Georgia at Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL); TBA

Saturday, September 29th
Auburn at Florida (Gainesville, FL); TBA

Thursday, October 4
Kentucky at South Carolina (Columbia, SC); 7:30 PM

Saturday, October 6
Virginia Tech at Clemson, (Clemson, SC); TBA

Wednesday, October 10
Navy at Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA); 8:00 PM

Saturday, October 13
Wisconsin at Penn State (State College, PA); 3:30 PM

Saturday, October 20
USC at Notre Dame (South Bend, IN); 3:30 PM

Thursday, October 25
Boston College at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA); 7:30 PM

Saturday, October 27
West Virginia at Rutgers (New Brunswick, NJ); TBA
OR

South Carolina at Tennessee (Knoxville, TN); TBA

Saturday, November 3
Wisconsin at Ohio State (Columbus, OH); TBA

Tuesday, November 6
Central Michigan at Western Michigan (Kalamazoo, MI); 7:30 PM

Wednesday, November 7
Ohio at Akron (Akron, OH); 7:30 PM

Thursday, November 8
Louisville at West Virginia (Morgantown, WV); 7:30 PM

Saturday, November 10
Auburn at Georgia (Athens, GA); TBA
OR

Florida State at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA); TBA

Saturday, November 17
Ohio State at Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI); TBA

Thursday, November 22
USC at Arizona State (Tempe, AZ); 8:00 PM

Saturday, November 24
Notre Dame at Stanford (Palo Alto, CA); TBA

Saturday, December 1
UCLA at USC (Los Angeles, CA); 4:30 PM

States covered:
Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington D.C., West Virginia

I revel in thy jealousy.

Don’t worry, th0ugh, because so far this trip has turned out exactly as I envisioned it: smelly, cramped, uncomfortably hovering around $3.00 per gallon, sustained only by CLIF Bars, my Nalgene bottle and no less than three Johnny Cash albums. I have a Garmin 330c GPS unit I have nicknamed Henry due to my summers spent in his seafaring base. (Will my Garmin unit eventually be surpassed by Spain, France and England in terms of world prestige? Yeah, probably. But it’ll still beat the Brits in penalty kicks.) My car is a 1996 Nissan Maxima that so far has no name but seems to be discussing, in closed sessions, the moniker “Joppy” as in, “Who the fuck would drive that jalopy? That thing doesn’t even deserve three syllables.” My bed is the back seat, or else both the driver’s seat and the back seat in a diagonal accomplished by lowering the former, or else an uncomfortable pea soup-like atmosphere in which my organic marginalia slowly dampen, ripen and wither away like so much paper based material brought to the not-un-wet tropics of the Philippines. I am missing toes and fingers here, people. As Neal Stephenson once wrote, I can feel the incipient malaria, and it is hot. Chicks dig my organic look, probably because women love the idea of fertility and there is nothing more fertile than having a week’s worth of grime caked into your pores because Joppy won’t lower its windows due to the thousands of mosquitoes swarming outside its already thoroughly compromised barriers, and is that wheat growing out of your collar?

Yes, it is. I’d make a fine hefeweizen, thank you. And this trip has already lived up to its promise in game one: Colorado 31, Colorado State 28. Overtime, baby. God, your check is in the mail. It’s postdated, so, like, call me before you cash. Actually, text me. I have a pay-as-you-go-phone.

I left Los Angeles at approximately 8:30 p.m. on Thursday. My goal was to arrive in Denver by 9 or 10 p.m the next day. I accomplished the 1,000 mile plus journey by compressing much of my trip into a two hour long nightmare session through the Rockies, racing down US-70 at a downhill grade of at least six percent, one hand on the steering wheel, one hand frantically texting the foolish female who would (once she picked up the phone) agree to house me, one (ghost) hand reaching back towards the trunk where, Grail like in its warm, life sustaining glow, a handle of Mr. Jack Daniel’s finest pulsed gently in the dark. Before I knew it I was in the Highland Park area of Denver drinking a dark bitter and trying not to look goofy as I adjusted to speaking at elevations in excess of pretty much everything else I’ve ever dealt with, aka, that hill on US-101 between Thousand Oaks and Camarillo, aka, Not Very High Up. I was a total failure at non-goofiness, but everyone seemed measurably stoned so it didn’t matter.

Game day: I normally make it my business to arrive at least two hours before kickoff. Kickoff was at 10 a.m. I didn’t go to sleep until 3 p.m. Do your own math.

I park and head to Invesco at approximately 9:15 a.m. It takes me thirty minutes to make it through the parking lots, which aren’t necessarily on the way but looked like a hell of a lot of fun. In that thirty minutes I was offered no fewer than four beer bongs contingent on my rooting for [insert team] or at least not rooting for [insert diametrically opposite team] and, in practice, amounted to me agreeing to high five people. I discuss this behavior with the local fauna and I discover that here, in Colorado, beer is a sentimentally favored drink that brings with it earthy aromas and rich, coppery tones that call to the hidden maniac within which, on this particular day, is not so much hidden as forcibly expectorated by the presence of the foulest, sweetest, most wonderful beer pooled money can buy. I bless them all with my censer (a copy of Phil Steele’s pre-season mag) and notice several Colorado shirts.

One of them is a golden rod yellow specimen bearing “It ain’t intramurals!” on the front and “It’s Division I football!” on the back. Already I am suffused with a mother’s instinct for its weak and vulnerable child, and I want to cradle Dan Hawkins and gently rock him to sleep. I suspect, suddenly, that four (plus?) beer bongs in thirty minutes will render me journalistically mute for at least the first half.

It does. I don’t have my notebook with me to verify, but I am constantly writing about direct snaps, CSU stiffening up, Hawkins the younger looking “steady”, the sun, the Rams fans around me, the sun, my poor choice of clothing (jeans), the sun, and, memorably, the nationally known phenomenon of key jangling. Here, in the Rocky Mountain Showdown, CSU fans do it during “key plays”. When no one’s key was out and noisome on a particularly important CU third and long, I question the Ram in front of me. “Oh, I guess we only do it during kickoffs,” and this rather sheepishly. Tradition has no logic.

The second half is much better thanks to the delightful Sonny Lubick and a fortuitous onside kick that has the ball rocket into the central wedge’s face/shoulder pad. I can only describe it as comical and am immediately reminded of the football specific idea of momentum: no other sport has such a palpable emotional pendulum, and you can literally feel the agricultural pride as thousands of “Staters” rise up against, in Colorado at least, their bourgeois rivals. Do I care that it was probably a squib kick and not an exquisitely aimed onside? Not in the least. Special teams play is the province of the foolish and the damned, and I am up to the task of both by not questioning and continuing to drink via a handy and neighborly flask proffered up by my suddenly jubilant green clad community. (I am sitting in the CSU rooting section, if you haven’t figured out by now.)

The second half is wonderful and ho-hum. CSU blows a lead and a hard fought game. The unforgivable crime of an interception during the first half of OT reminds me of Dante’s little known 26th circle of Hell, reserved entirely for quarterbacks-who-should-know-better, and idolaters. What strikes me most is the end of the game where Hawkins senior is presented with the Centennial Cup and, to an almost empty Invesco Stadium, yells, “This is for all the fans out there! We ain’t dead! Colorado is back! We’re back!” after an overtime win over what will probably be a middle of the pack Mountain West squad to a group of Colorado fans in the stands that can be termed, charitably, “in the teeming hundred”. Hawkins is visibly earnest and eager and hopeful and all in all very puppy-like, but, more than anything else, there is a sense of overwhelming desperation to return to the glories of the first half of the nineties. He wants it so badly it’s almost painful to listen to him Howard Dean his way through a polysyllabic “whooo!” so pure and boyish you can practically forget the overhanging specter of a 2-10 season. He wants his Camelot and his 2,000 yard rusher and his Big 12 North dominance and the type of program that churns out forgettable Rashaan Salaams like they were single mold Shrek dolls coming out of a Zhejiang factory.

I understand him. I suspect that the people wearing the numerous Kordell Stewart Hail Mary t-shirts understand him. There were a lot of older fans wearing these commemorative shirts, many of them reading “Where were you?” and each of them unsure as to the exact yardage Stewart threw on that last play to beat Michigan at home. (64? 73? Bazillion?) For Colorado fans that Hail Mary must occupy the same communal mental and spiritual space as the Battle of Agincourt does for the British. It is creation myth and national monument at the same time. It is the central fount from which Colorado-ness must necessarily stem, though in my opinion Colorado football at its best will always belong to the truly power teams of the Big XII in that the Buffs simply ran you over.

Henry V led England during the latter stages of the Hundred Years’ War (which lasted 116 years and is an early precedent for the Big Ten) at a time when Britain’s fortunes were waning. The two preeminent forces of Western Europe were locked over the fate of the western and northern coasts of Brittany. Henry, essentially, said “Fuck this” and marched on Harfleur, took it, and, wishing to up the ante with more bold forward thinking, marched on Calais with little thought to supply lines or even maneuvering. He and his army were forced into a fight with a French force outnumbering his own anywhere from 2-1 to 6-1 (5-1 is more likely). Improbably, Henry won – mainly due to the use of English longbowmen, whose vertigo inducing military parallax was similar to the introduction of semi-automatic weapons in the Civil War and World War I and the promulgation of encryption and decryption in World War II. To put it bluntly, Henry produced, from his ass, a victory of such monumental portions that the French noble fatalities were in triple figures, leaving the rest of Brittany ripe for England’s f/pl-ucking. He did so by utilizing missile weapons which could slay or irreparably maim foes from unheard of distances.

Kordell Stewart threw the ball 73 yards in Michigan Stadium. No. 7 Colorado beat No. 4 Michigan 27-26 on the last play of the game. If Colorado has a Westminster Abbey, you can be sure their version of Elizabeth I’s tomb is nice and grand and that whatever amounts to their World War II memorial and Poet’s Corner is up to par, but make no mistake: Kordell gets the Henry V treatment, which is to say, “Alle ye futyre Kingf of Englande, here sharl yew be crown’d”. There’s a reason why St. Edward’s Chair is located in a nave underneath Henry’s tomb: even kings know who is sovereign. In Colorado (and select parts of Pittsburgh) Kordell is king.

Now a few years later a little lady named Joan of Arc tore a red line through England’s maps and the world’s idea of feminism (which, in my opinion, would have been greatly helped by armor and swords – suffragettes thus armed could nay be refused), but does that dim the memories of England? No, because “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” is the PR machine that does not end. Colorado’s sex scandal, Gary Barnett, 2-10, etc. have all come and gone and yet the warm glow of the memory of that day in Ann Arbor still fuels Buff fans. Out of pure despair they created a moment that, straight out of the Enûma Elish, gave birth to light, sound, water, forest and men. Everything before that Hail Mary might as well not have existed, including the 1990 championship season – and hell, that year was marred by the Fifth Down against Missouri. Everything after that Hail Mary is different, sub-atomically, and there’s no going back. As Heisenberg said, You cannot observe Michael Westbrook cradling the ball without being changed.

Hence: Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32. I didn’t see the game. Despite reading through the mangled 14 car pile up that is mgoblog’s defensive and offensive UFR, I’m not entirely sure what happened except “Aaaand Henne overthrows an open man” and cheetahs unleashed on Michigan’s deaf, dumb and blind defensive baby wildebeest formations. I will say this, though:

For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

On the Monday afterwards I found myself in Boulder watching a band named Meniskus. I am high as a kite thanks to chocolate covered shrooms. My companions are all in the same boat, and we spend the time watching the band (which is very good) and the dancers, who are all of them quintessential Boulder folk, i.e. incapable of being anything other than long haired, elastic band waisted, Green voting, who-cares-if-my-boner-is-showing?-I’m-still-gonna-commune-with-the-forces-of-Dance, gentle souls who like to rhythmize themselves to the beautiful colors of song, and if you wanna laugh, man, why, you go ahead and laugh. Because they’re vibing. And as we watch this incredible scene it occurs to me that the manager of the band, alternatively taking pictures of his charges and laughing at the crowd, is wearing an Appalachian Football shirt. Turns out he played linebacker for the ‘Neers and went on to play for Deutschland in NFL Europa. Turns out he managed to watch the game. Turns out he went home, dug through his closet, and vowed to wear that same shirt for the next week. If I were him I would’ve said a month, at least – but who am I to criticize a man on St. Crispin’s Day?

This day is called the Feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a-tiptoe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall see this day and live t’old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian”:
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars
And say “These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.”
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day.
So here I am sitting in OU’s Bizzell Library, waiting for the Miami Hurricanes to play the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday, and all I can think is: what an amazing first week. I’ve got a ticket to the game. Oklahoma girls are just like any other American co-ed, which is to say lovely. I haven’t died yet. Biggest upset in college football history. Plus, you know: shrooms.
States visited: California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma.
Miles traveled: I dunno. 1,700? Sounds about right.
Times pulled over: One, but he was real nice. Gave me a warning and told me the Cozy Inn in Salina, Kansas has the original White Castle. If you’re ever in Cody, Wyoming, just ask for Wild Bob.
Games watched (at least partially): CU-CSU, Cal-Tennessee, Georgia-Oklahoma State, Auburn-Kansas State, Bowling Green-Minnesota, USC-Idaho (aaaaargh!), LSU-Mississippi State, Washington State-Wisconsin, Nevada-Nebraska, Florida State-Clemson, Missouri-Illinois.
Sunflower seeds consumed: Galactus amounts. If Galactus devoured sunflower seeds instead of worlds, that is.USC Panic-Meter: High. But I’ll wait til after Lincoln to panic/martyr myself/buy Nickleback albums.

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Filed under Big Ten, Big XII, MWC, One CFB Road Trip to rule them all, SBC

Mistaken identity results in record breaking $1.8 trillion Sun Belt Conference, AT&T, AOL-Time Warner merger

NEW ORLEANS – Both the NYSE and NASDAQ received boosts yesterday as unexpected news ushered in a close to the day’s trading: after mistaking the Sun Belt Conference for a telecommunications company, industry giants AT&T and AOL-Time Warner followed up their error by merging with the SBC in a $1.8 trillion dollar deal, the largest in history.

Above: two teams that are probably in the Sun Belt Conference.

“We are extraordinarily excited at the possibilities of this new partnership,” SBC commissioner Wright Waters said from his Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits-based office on Canal Street.

“The universities and programs representing the SBC are institutions of excellence. Though we have little traditional history in telecommunications or mass media, we have always excelled at meeting challenges and exceeding expectations. We expect the best of ourselves, and we now have $1.8 trillion reasons to believe our expectations.”

Waters continued: “This is awesome. So awesome. Yes.

This deal is the first merger between multi-billion dollar corporations and a college football mid-major conference, with far reaching ramifications for both the telecommunications industry and the Bowl Championship Series. Though most experts were hesitant to predict any quarterly or fiscal year fluctuations resulting from the enormous merger, the mood was one of cautious confusion.

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Filed under Fake news, Recruiting, SBC, SEC

Hey Jenny Slater knows who’s who when the revolution comes

Doug’s been keeping tabs, and with five immaculately devastaing posts he says to the college football world: “You know who you are.” You may not agree with the entirety of his list of the 50 Most Loathsome People in College Football (f’rinstance, Colin Cowherd ought to be classified as more loathsome than #35, and I don’t really care about the inclusion of the nearly autistic Georgia “fanatic” BuLLdawg at #39) (also, I just linked to the top ten so click around a bit for the rest), but you have to admire the thoroughness of this compilation. It feels right, mainly because while reading it you threw up a little bit. In your mouth.

Acid… reflux… incapacitating us…

I’m a fan of Doug. He writes with the proper mixture of frustration, outrage, glee, malice, what-the-fuck-was-that, joy and utter confusion that is the birth right of every college football fan. (See #8 on his list.) As I mentioned already, Doug is one of those up for a 2006 College Football Blogger Award. Three, actually.

Did I say I’m a fan of Doug? Doug can go to Hell, that primadonna.

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Filed under ACC, BCS, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, C-USA, MAC, MWC, NCAA, Notre Dame, Pac-10, Recruiting, SBC, SEC, The Media, USC, WAC