Holiday Ramblings

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, sports fans and members of the draft resistance! (And thanks for the patience with the 60’s stream-of-consciousness reference). That’s the way all columns are penned here at Bird’s Banter. Sit down. Face the computer. Type. Who knows what pithy profundities will avail themselves. I don’t, as I am only pawn in game of life. Break out the beans! Mongo is with us.

As you have, possibly, noted, the scribe has been low on inspiration here as of late, and the blogs have been few and far between (the devil and the deep blue sea). Apathy had begun to seep in and take hold. And then? Boom! The Christmas Spirit began to open avenues of joy, hope, peace and love and the Auburn Tigers made, IMHO, a home run hire in newly installed head football coach, Bryan Harsin.

And we are OFF!!!!!!

My beloved Tigers have found a winner. An intense, focused, driven, tough, humble man of passion and integrity. And win the Tigers will. Immediately. The cupboard is nowhere near bare. Everyone returns on the starting offense and the defense has many key components returning. Most assuredly, there are areas that need to be shored up in personnel. I trust that these concerns will be addressed and that the new head coach, and soon to be staff, will recruit with great agressiveness. I do not expect Auburn to win every game, but I can assure you that it will play with ferocity and purpose and make you proud every time they take the field.

War Damn Eagle!

Christmas. It has truly been a most blessed holiday season. I can feel a renewed sense of inspiration and purpose on a daily basis. 2020. What can one say? What a challenge! There is no need to reiterate the many pitfalls and disasters of the past year. They have been plentiful and often cruel. With the help of God and The Grateful Dead, I have survived a prostate scare/biopsy, an abnormal ECG and a positive echo stress test leading to a heart cath, recurring bladder infections, double hernia surgery and COVID-19. 2021 is in clear view and I can feel myself turning the corner and embracing her with open arms. I hope and pray that is the case with each and every one of you.

Peace on earth and good will to all men, women and children across the globe.

What’s been happening in the world of music, sports, politics, et al?

You know the Auburn story. Alabama is on the verge of playing for, yet another, National Championship, as is Clemson. I do think those two will meet in the title game. Kentucky has the worst record of all SEC teams in men’s basketball. Pitchers and catchers report in the not-too-distant future and things are looking good for the Atlanta Braves. The World Series? Finally? Who knows.

Bob Dylan sold his music catalog. Let that sink in a minute.

He has also gotten into the wine business. “Planet Waves 2002, a blend of Montepulciano and Merlot, pairs the legendary singer with Antonio Terri,” From Wine Spectator. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Hopefully, we will once again have live music in 2021. I feel strongly that we will. I could use a good “ass kicking” from Gov’t Mule and a dose of Dead and Company.

America will have a new president and a female VP. And I will leave it at that. We do not get into the black hole of politics on Bird’s Banter. We do touch on religion occasionally. There is a deep sense of spiritual hunger out there and, in here, from my point of view. One day at a time, an AA mantra, and a great way to live for all of us. As Ray Wylie Hubbard states, “And the days I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, well, I have really good days.”

Entertainment. We enjoyed both Flight Attendant, on HBO, and Hillbilly Elegy, on Netflix. The Undoing, with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant was also very good and quite intense, as were the aforementioned titles. Something lighter, maybe? Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee is hilarious.

In books, I completed all of Michael Connelly’s catalog this year, after beginning it in 2019. I loved every one of them. His latest, The Law Of Innocence, was excellent. It was the sixth installment of the Lincoln Lawyer series. I also read the first three novels of the Tana French Dublin Murders series. Brilliant writing and true hand wringing, heart pounding thrillers. Read a couple of more books on The Grateful Dead. My hunger for all things Dead is insatiable. The Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast if glorious if one is so inclined. The reissues of their classic albums, Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty are sublime.

What else? Ah! 2021 begins with a feast of football games on New Years Day. It begins with the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (Cincinnati vs. Georgia), followed by the Citrus Bowl, pitting Auburn against Northwestern, more on that in a moment. Next come the College Football Playoff semifinals. First, Alabama plays Notre Dame. The last game of the day has Clemson and Ohio State locking horns. Oh yeah!

Back to the Citrus Bowl. Auburn needs to win this game. I do hope much of the enthusiasm and intensity of our new head coach wears off on the team. Kevin Steele will coach the team along with our 2020 staff, They will have to be hitting on all eight as Northwestern will be chomping at the bit to topple an SEC team and Pat Fitzgerald WILL have them rarin’ and ready. You can count on that. The Wildcats play excellent defense and I expect a low scoring game. Once more with feeling, Tigers. Auburn 23, Northwestern 21.

Y’all continue to have a wonderful holiday season! Be safe out there and be sure to always love your neighbor as yourself.


Ramblin’ 7/25/16

Fall camp begins next week for all but one or two SEC teams.

Another political convention begins tonight. It will, mercifully, be over before the weekend, just like the nightmare that was last week’s circus. Deliver us, God.

I miss Hunter S. Thompson. I would truly love to read his scathing takes on these events. Fear and loathing, no doubt.

The Braves continue to hobble along.

A few of the songs on the Apple music setlist playing now. Sundown – Gordon Lightfoot, Shotgun Willie – Willie Nelson, Slow Rollin’ Low – Waylon Jennings, and 300 Pounds of Hongry – Tony Joe White.

A quick Tony Joe story. He and Tom Kimmel, a friend of mine and many of you, had been put together by the record label they shared, years ago. They hung out, did some riding around, shared ideas, and so forth. I suppose the label expected some big collaboration. One day they were eating lunch at a place famous for fried chicken in Franklin, TN. Tony Joe leans over Tom’s plate and, in his deep slow drawl, says, “I don’t see how anybody can eat that dark meat.”

Later he asked Tom when he did his best songwriting. I don’t remember what Tom’s response was but Tony Joe said that he, “…Did his best songwriting when he was driving to Arkansas.” You really need to hear Tom tell it. He has a gift for such.

Poke… salad, UNH!

I haven’t been to a movie, at the theater, in quite some time. I don’t tend to like summer blockbusters, action, popcorn movies, etc. Woooo!!! That blowed up REAL good! I do love popcorn though. Had some last night.

Bob Dylan is now serenading me with a song entitled Isis. Nope, not that ISIS.

Auburn’s first five games will be played in the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium this fall.

I love Kroger fuel points.

I wonder how One-A-Day Multivitamins are holding up against the onslaught of vitamins and supplements we have today.

Supplements? I take Fish oil, folic acid (My how my taste in acid has changed! Gettin’ old!), probiotics, Co-Q 10, cinnamon,  B-6, and B-12. That’s in addition to the meds which my myocardial infarctions have necessitated. Yes, I have one of those damn trays that you load this stuff into by days of the week.

New setlist time. I’ll go with Rodney Crowell Essentials. Rodney wrote one of my favorite songs of all-time, Till I Gain Control Again. The first time I heard it was Willie’s cover on the ‘Willie and Family Live’ album. That was 1978. Goodness! What a great song!

There was, actually, an Apple Music option for me called ‘Songs With Parental Advice’.

Have y’all been getting some good home grown tomatoes?

We’re gonna get the AP and USA Today Coaches Polls pretty soon. Look for Alabama, LSU, Tennessee, Florida State, Clemson, Ohio State, Michigan, Oklahoma, Baylor, Stanford, and Notre Dame to jockey for the top ten spots.

Google or Yahoo?

Fallon or Colbert?

How about Kimmel and Conan?

Two different Kimmels in one short blog.

Burnt Siena is a good name but the crayon used to make me nervous, as did Periwinkle.

I really would like a couple of more days at the beach before school starts, but it ain’t happening.

What’s your favorite Beatles song? Stones? Those are really tough calls.

It’s been 41 years since the summer of Jaws. Yep, gettin’ old.

Speaking of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones and gettin’ old, Paperback Writer and Paint It Black were big summer hits 50 years ago, as were When A Man Loves a Woman, Hanky Panky, and Wild Thing.

Chip Taylor wrote Wild Thing. He also wrote Angel of the Morning. If you want a tip on a great record, Chip and Carrie Rodriguez did an album by the name of Red Dog Tracks. That and/or their ‘live’ record are must haves, IMHO.

Well, my daily walk ain’t gonna take itself.

Grace and peace.










The Times They Are a Changin’

“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or
you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a changin’”

These words from Robert Zimmerman (Bobby Dylan to you and me) certainly ring true today, as they did, exactly fifty years ago, when this record was released. And that, most definitely, applies to the college football landscape.

From the AP and UPI poll systems, to the BCS, to the College Football Playoff, things have evolved dramatically in NCAA football. And THAT is an understatement.

From “three yards and a cloud of dust” to the HUNH (Hurry Up No Huddle), our father’s football is now almost unrecognizable. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that is a bad thing. Remember, at one time there was no forward pass. Can you imagine the furor when that change came into play?

Four years prior to Dylan’s release of “The Time’s They Are A Changin’”, I began my immersion into sports. EVERY sport. I could not get enough of sports back in 1961 and for many, many years there after.

I have now lost a great deal of my passion for professional athletics, although the Mantle and Maris home run chase of 1961 remains somewhat fresh in my mind. But I have not lost one iota of enthusiasm for college football. If anything, the love of that sector of sports, has grown in leaps and bounds. And it is quite humbling for me to find myself both writing and podcasting about that great game today. That was always a dream for me.

All of this sparked my thinking about what has become the FBS and how its current state might appear to those coaches of yesteryear. It also piqued my interest in how those coaches’ tenures compare to those of today.

I took the numbers of six legendary figures and matched them against all of the coaches who followed them at their respective institutions. I ranked them in order of the original coaches winning percentage.

1. Paul “Bear” Bryant – University of Alabama – 1958-1982
232-46-9 .824
9 coaches since – 273-122-1 .690

2. Johnny Vaught – University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) – 1947-1970 and 1973
190-61-12 .745
10 coaches since – 256-243-4 .512

3. Vince Dooley – University of Georgia – 1964-1988 – 201-77-10 .715
3 coaches since – 222-101-0 .687

4. Frank Broyles – University of Arkansas – 1958-1976 – 144-58-5 .708
10 coaches since – 276-178-3 .607

5. Charles “Cholly Mac”- McClendon – Louisiana State University – 1962-1979
137-59-7 .692
9 coaches since 276-144-6 .654

6. Ralph “Shug” Jordan – Auburn University – 1951-1975 – 176-83-6 .6754
7 coaches since 315-150-6 .6751

Four of the “legendary” head men coached at their one school for 25 years. One piloted his school for 19 years and one roamed the sidelines for 18 years at his institution of higher learning.

The one big thing that jumped out at me is that NONE of these great universities has had a winning percentage, as high as the “legendary” coach, with all of the coaches that followed him… COMBINED! ZERO. NADA.

Now boys and girls, that includes some very good coaches at each and every one of these schools. Nick Saban coached at both LSU and Alabama. Pat Dye coached at Auburn. Lou Holtz coached at Arkansas. David Cutcliffe coached at Ole Miss and Mark Richt is currently the head man at Georgia.

How about this? You have 6 of the greatest coaches of all-time who coached a total of 137 years between them. On the other hand, you have 48 coaches who coached a total of 202 years. NOW hold on! That gives the 6 coaches an average tenure of 22.8 years apiece while the remaining 48 guys averaged 4.2 years each!!!

As the former voice of Ole Miss football in the 60’s, Stan Torgenson, was known to exclaim… Hoo Hoooooo MERCY!!!

Obviously, some of these latter coaches held their positions for extremely short periods of time. Bill “Brother” Oliver was the interim coach at Auburn, in 1998, for 5 games. John L. Smith had the same position at Arkansas for 12 games and Mike Price of Alabama… well you know the story there.

So, sports fans, where does this leave us? One one hand, you can talk about “the good ole days”, simpler times, loyalty, and the like.

Conversely, one can speak of the demand to “turn it around quickly”, the huge number of demands on a coach’s time, social media, and all that goes with being a CEO of the mega-corporaate structure that is FBS football in the 21st century.

But, regardless of all this, there is one undeniable thread that weaves its way throughout the history of college football… WINNING. “Just win, baby” as, now deceased, Oakland Raiders owner, Al Davis, was oft-quoted.

Winning does “soothe the savage beast” that is today’s college football fan, but just for a bit. That fan wants to win today, tomorrow and forever. That fan also wants to win big and with style. And that winning includes having the best facilities possible.

So, what would I say to today’s young and eager, prospective college football coaches, if I had them as an audience? To those coaches whose tenure at a school might, possibly, fall into the 4.2 years average that was mentioned above?

My answer might go something like this…

“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or
you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a changin’”