Basketball. Yes, Basketball!

I was in the fourth grade, in Miss Nell Jones’ class, and my brother, Jerry, would have been in the eleventh grade, when daddy put up a basketball goal in our backyard. This was 1961 or 1962. Jerry was on the high school team and I was a tiny little fellow who had, most probably, never shot a basketball. And when I say I was tiny, I mean I was very little. Earlier that year my mother had even taken me to a doctor in Selma to check out why I was having headaches around the same time every day at school and to see if he could determine why I did not seem to be growing. The headaches stopped, but I didn’t really start growing into the size I am now until the ninth grade. That was the year I was the manager of the basketball team and played church basketball for the RA’s. The Royal Ambassadors.

“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ…” Two Corinthians (wink) 5:20. And truly I was not an an ambassador for Christ until I had a “Damascus Road” conversion experience in the summer of 1975. I even went to two different seminaries and entered into the ministry. Blogs discussing this can be found right here on Bird’s Banter and were written back in the summer of 2014, if you are interested.

Anyway, back to basketball. I attended my first college basketball game in that same winter of the fourth grade,1962, at Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery, AL. Auburn vs. Alabama. The “Iron Bowl” basketball games were played exclusively in Montgomery back in those days. The first one I saw on a campus was in the old Foster Auditorium in Tuscaloosa back in the winter 1967-68. Freshmen didn’t play on the varsity back then, and the freshman game was played before the varsity game in a double header. Auburn great, John Mengelt, was on that freshman team and I was quickly taken with him and his style of play. He remains my favorite Auburn basketball player to this day. (Sorry Sir Charles. I do love you but you’re number two). Auburn won the freshman game. Unfortunately, Alabama won the varsity game on a last second score by Mike Nordholz.

Back to Montgomery. My close friend, Tommy Ratcliffe, went to that first Auburn-Alabama game with daddy and me and Auburn did win that game as well as the freshman game. Herbert Greene led the freshmen to their victory. The names I remember from the varsity were Layton Johns, Billy Tinker, and Larry Chapman (who later became a legendary coach at AUM). Joel Eaves, as in Beard-Eaves Coliseum, was the coach. The Tigers had a very good team that year. 18-6 and 11-3 in the SEC. and some of you folks will remember The Barn (Auburn Sports Arena) that they played in at home. That was the building that infamously burned to the ground during the Auburn-LSU football game in 1996. My son, Luke was a freshman at Auburn at that time.

And we return to our backyard. As I said, I was a wee lad and couldn’t even get the basketball to the goal then. I had to shoot it ‘Granny Style”, with two hands from under my legs. I became pretty good shooting in that manner, but Rick Barry didn’t, later, have anything to worry about. I think he shot about 90% on his free throws using the “Granny Style” during his time with the Golden State Warriors.

Years later our backyard became a serious hub of neighborhood roundball. I even put up a spotlight in a pecan tree and ran an extension cord through a window in my room so we kids could play anytime, day or night. I became quite proficient shooting the ball at that goal over the years. I could just about shoot it with my eyes closed and make shots on that goal. The backboard was dead as a stump and you could hit a bank shot with ease. The goal also bobbed up and down a bit when you shot one that didn’t “strip” it.

I went on to play on the “B” team in the 10th and 11th grade and was on the “A” team as a senior. That 11th grade team went 17-0. Also on the team were Frank McGraw, Johnny “Stick” Dunnam, Steven Terry, Billy Ray Hughes, and five other guys that I cannot remember. Some of the dads of the players and a few other men in Camden, including beloved Mayor, Johnny Mott, had a celebration catfish and oyster dinner for us at the Legion Hut. Johnny Mott tried to get me to eat a raw oyster which I declined to do. Later I did learn to sho nuff love raw oysters.

After high school I played some intramural basketball in college, at Troy, and at seminary in Fort Worth, TX. I believe “String Music” was our team’s nickname in Fort Worth. Also played church league ball in Selma when I was the pastor of the Shady Grove Baptist Church in Burnsville. It was all great fun. And no “Granny Style” anymore!

Yes. Basketball. I have had a passion for the game for 60 years now. And I say all of the above to say this. War Eagle!!! The Auburn men’s basketball team is now NUMBER ONE in the nation and all of creation! ($1 to Big Daddy Lawler). That is according to the AP Poll released today (1/24/21) at noon. The team would also probably be the number one seed in the NCAA Tournament if it were to begin shortly.

Yes! Auburn has the deepest, 11 deep, and best basketball team in all of college basketball. The team is supremely talented and coached by the best in the business, in my estimation. Bruce Pearl has taken a program without a pulse and made it into a perennial power. At Auburn. I think most experts would have told you, over seven years ago when Coach Pearl took the reins of the program, that that would be a virtual impossibility. Yet… here we are. TODAY. “Simply the best, better than ALL the rest.”

WAR DAMN EAGLE!!!

Damn It Anyway

Coach Bruce Pearl’s Auburn Tigers will open the 2015-16 men’s basketball season on November 13th versus the UAB Blazers at Auburn Arena.

Here is a projected look at the starting five which includes four who did not start last season for the Tigers:

1. Kareem Canty 2. T.J. Dunans 3. Danjel Purifoy 4. Cinmeon Bowers 5. Tyler Harris

OH WAIT!!! It’s not basketball season just yet, DANGIT!!!

Ok folks, just a feeble attempt at humor during a time when it is much needed, especially with the position the football team has now found itself in.

Now, let me pose a few questions to you. What if you knew, before the season began, that neither Carl Lawson nor Jeremy Johnson would be in the starting lineup? What would you have thought? What would your projection be as far as wins and losses after five games?

And how about these stats?

*After five games last season the Tigers were averaging 268.0 rushing yards per game and 229.2 passing yards while posting a 5-0 record. This season the numbers are 190.0 rushing yards per game with 153.8 passing.
Defensively, after five games last season the Tigers were allowing 100.2 rushing yards per game and 206.4 passing yards. This season the averages are 209.6 rushing yards allowed per game and 202.4 passing.
Last season through five games the offense made 21 trips into the red zone and scored every time with 17 of those touchdowns. This season the Tigers have scored on 13 of 17 red zone trips with 10 touchdowns.

*Taken from Inside The Auburn Tigers at Auburn.scout.com

Chew on this for a bit:

SportSourceAnalytics ‏@SportSourceA
With Duke Williams’ dismissal, @FootballAU now only has 16.6% of their offensive production back from 2014. Lowest in #FBS. #Auburn

“Sobering is probably not the right word, because alcohol may be the only solution for remainder of season.” (Author’s comment from the above which was taken from Twitter.)

And my reply which is taken from Willie Nelson:

“Well I gotta get drunk and I sure do dread it, ‘Cause I know just what I’m gonna do, I’ll start to spend my money callin’ everybody honey and wind up singin’ the blues, I’ll spend my whole paycheck on some old wreck, And brother I can name you a few, Well I gotta get drunk and I sure do dread it, ‘Cause I know just what I’m gonna do…”

Well there you have it. Thank you for reading the the column! Tip your waitresses! See you next week! Drive safely! We love you!

Noooooooo… but LAWD, ain’t it tempting?

Auburn now stands at 3-2 and 0-2 in the SEC.

That’s where we are. Where do we go from here? Will the Tigers win even ONE conference game? Will they make a bowl? Can they right the ship?

Here is the ONLY thing that I know for sure. And this is guaranteed. AUBURN WILL NOT LOSE SATURDAY. It will not happen. Bet the farm on it.

And most of you are already quick onto this ruse. Auburn cannot lose Saturday because they have an open date.

Ok! Let’s dig for that silver lining I mentioned in a previous column.

In spite of what you’ve heard, Auburn won last Saturday. Yes, the opponent was San Jose State but I will sure as heck take it. SJS had more first downs, more yards rushing, and more yards passing; but Auburn had more points. It’s a place to start. It’s something to build on. The Tigers also ran the ball well, with Peyton Barber doing the most damage. It’s something to build on.

Sean White didn’t exactly air the ball out, he was 6 for 10, but he had ZERO interceptions. He made some good decisions and he seemed to provide some spark and leadership. It’s something to build on.

Also, Auburn gathered four turnovers and had ZERO themselves. Yes, they put the ball on the ground but they did not LOSE a fumble. It’s something to build on.

Auburn may not have looked like the Packers of the 60’s but they WERE opportunistic. It’s something to build on.

Now, back to the present and the immediate future. Auburn, mercifully, finds itself with that open date. Talk about something that was needed. Hallelujah!

In practice the team has gone back to the basics. They are working on fundamentals. They are doing some one on one work. It appears that the coaches and players have turned up the intensity and focus. That is what they’d better be doing because, if they don’t go all in and improve from week to week, then we’re all looking at a record of 4-8, most likely.

People, Gus Malzahn, Will Muschamp and the rest of the coaching staff did not suddenly turn stump dumb. They did not forget how to coach. There have been circumstances, both within, and without, and beyond their control, that have brought them to this point. They are doing everything possible to get this thing turned around. You can bet on that.

Earl Brown was the head football coach from 1948-1950, just prior to Shug Jordan’s hiring. He won a total of three games in those three years. His final season saw the Tigers go OH and TEN. OH yeah. he was quoted as saying Auburn was, “a graveyard for coaches.”

And then along came Ralph “Shug” Jordan.

Shug, himself, was quoted as saying something to the effect of, “Auburn’s worst enemy is Auburn.”

I couldn’t agree more.

AND the ONE thing that the Auburn Family does not need to do is become fractured, frustrated and forlorn. There does not need to be in-fighting. Or people screaming for the coaches heads (and I have heard some of this already).

Auburn, and her Family, don’t need to be thinking about their final record and what bowl they, may or may not, go to. They need to be focusing on the here and now and getting better. The Auburn Family needs to unite and get behind these coaches and this football team.

This football team will, hopefully, harken back to the aforementioned Shug Jordan’s Seven D’s of Success:

1. Discipline 2. Desire to Excel 3. Determination 4. Dedication 5. Dependability 6. Desperation 7. Damn it Anyway

And I will quote coach Jordan’s elaboration on point number seven.

“When you have done everything you can do and things still seem to be going against you, you have to reach down, get something extra from your innerself, forget the adverse circumstances and do something anyway. Someone once put it, ‘Do something–right or wrong–just do something.’ One thing for certain. You are not going to win by accepting the overwhelming odds.”

Amen.

Winter Words / Vol.9 / Football, Baseball and Blessings

The time has changed. The weather has changed. It remains winter, as the vernal equinox has yet to visit us, but spring is within sniffing distance. The forecast for north Georgia is for warm temperatures but it is going to be WET, really wet, this week. But, like a friend said, as I stopped to chat on my walk around midday, we certainly have it better than our friends and neighbors in the northeast. It’s been brutal up there. May you thaw quickly folks!

Baseball’s Spring Training is in full swing and I caught a good bit of the Braves vs. the Nats today. The Braves won, 2-1. It’s not like that matters at this point. All the youngsters are getting a good long look and all will have an opportunity to prove their mettle.

I do hope the Braves’ pitching will remain as strong as it has been thus far. Nine arms combined for a no-hitter this past weekend. That was an odd game. It ended in a 2-2 tie as the game was called after ten innings. They had a shutout through eight today. Good going!

Yes, regular season baseball is just around the corner, but that is not the Big News.

The Big News is… the Auburn Tigers being spring practice TOMORROW. Gus will have a press conference at 11:30 AM CDT and then the burnt orange and navy blue will go about the business of beginning FOR REAL preparation for the 2015 season. YeeeeHaaaaaw!!!

According to early Vegas odds, the Tigers are 4-1 to win the SEC. The Georgia Bulldogs also stand at 4-1 and Ole Miss comes in at 4.2-1. Alabama is favored to repeat at 2-1. Fine.

All of this may be much ado about nothing, in the grand scheme, but it is great fodder for conversation when you live, eat and sleep college football as we do here in the Deep South. March Madness might be about to crank up, but football is what truly captures our hearts and souls 365/24/7.

Speaking of roundball, the SEC Tournament begins, in NashVegas, in a couple of days. The big question is… Can anyone challenge the Kentucky Wildcats? I have heard, and used, the term Mildcats when referring to the Bluegrass State’s flagship school on the gridiron. No one, in their right mind, would refer to their basketball team as such. They are a juggernaut! Their record stands at 31-0 and they are the prohibitive favorite to win it all. I hope they do.

Auburn has no chance to win the SEC Tourney or play in the Big Dance this year. That’s okay, for now, because the future is VERY bright for the Tigers. Coach Bruce Pearl is doing an outstanding job of coaching and recruiting, on The Plains, and I expect them to make a lot of noise soon.

It really is remarkable what Pearl has done so far with the program. Who would have EVER expected numerous sellouts in basketball at Auburn? How about the presence of scalpers at an EXHIBITION GAME?

Incredible!

And how about the promise of Easter?

It seems that resurrection is rearing its head in every aspect of my life. I hope and pray that it is for each and every one of you.

So War Eagle and Go Cats!!!

And…

May God our Father/Mother and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Selah