[Moderated by Matt Jones]
Well folks, it looks like we will be talking about that football state down South this week, as Kentucky heads on the road for 2 late night matchups–Auburn Saturday and Alabama on Super Tuesday. Also on the schedule for the weekend our #5 UK Hoops team, coming off a 100-47 beat down of Mississippi State, will be facing off against the 13-5 Auburn Tigers in Memorial Coliseum this Sunday.
Needless to say we will be hearing a lot of talk about the land of Dixie and its dominant 4 straight BCS national championships, but despite our own Stoops-induced football mania here in mid-January, we are hoping for some basketball dominance over the state of Alabama. But what do you need to know about Alabama, and Auburn University specifically, to prepare for this most “war damn eagle” of weekends? Well I’ve got you covered.
I discovered to my surprise via my friend “the Google” Alabama is the birthplace of Willie Mays and Hank Aaron (the home run king who didn’t use steroids.) Funny, I didn’t know they played baseball in Alabama… or anything but football really. If Alabamians (is that right?) had their way, a referendum would likely abolish all other sports.
I like to think we in Kentucky are crazy about basketball but we manage to enjoy Kentucky football as well, among other interests such as our families and friends at times. But in Alabama, upon meeting someone for the first time they will ask, verbatim, “Auburn or Alabama?” Usually it’s the second question right after your name. Sometimes the first. That’s been my experience.
In a post on Wednesday, I discussed Gregg Doyel’s article about Bama being to Auburn what Kentucky is to Louisville. Essentially, no matter the success of a single season–Auburn winning a BCS title in 2011 or Louisville being a superior team to Kentucky this basketball season, both Alabama and Kentucky will have the overall unquestioned advantage as programs and as fan-bases. We have the titles to back it up. Alabama has 15. Auburn has 2. We all know Kentucky has won 3 titles within a college student’s lifetime, unlike Louisville, and 8 is certainly greater than 2. Regardless, I think that the Iron Bowl and the Auburn-Alabama rivalry is my favorite in sports; the “little brother” in Alabama has a far greater reach across its state than Louisville does across Kentucky, with Louisville being so focused within the Jefferson County area.
PS if you haven’t seen the ESPN Films “Roll Tide/War Eagle” you should do so.
-Prior to firing Tommy Tuberville and the arrival of Nick Saban, Auburn had quite a run of Iron Bowl victories. But now that Saban has asserted himself as the King of the SEC (and Cam Newton is shooting Beats by Dre and Windows 8 cell phone ads), times are tough for Auburn.
- If you’re ever driving through the state of Alabama, I recommend you play a spinoff game my mother and I invented of the “license plate game.” Everytime you see a car with an Auburn sticker/license plate/flag you yell “War Damn Eagle!” in the thickest imitation of an Alabama accent you can muster. And of course do the same with “Roll Tide!” for every Bama vehicle you see, modeling your “RTR” after the ESPN commercial. It passes the time during an otherwise dull drive.
A Look At Auburn:
Enough Alabama talk, though my allegiance for Kentucky cannot be touched by that of any other team, if I had to choose a #2, it would have to be Auburn. Both of my parents graduate from the “The Loveliest Village on the Plains” as I’m guessing no one calls it, and if you have taken your pet to a veterinarian in the state of Kentucky there’s a 95% chance that he or she went to Auburn as well. With no vet school to speak of in our lovely state, Auburn has a contract with Kentucky to allow 34 Kentucky residents into its school yearly, paying in-state tuition.
- The most interesting thing that I have learned about the Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine is that they have a Raptor College.
I immediately pictured this:
- It didn’t sound like the safest college to attend but I was rather intrigued, until my dad informed me a raptor is a bird of prey. Why I didn’t learn this fact in four years of college is beyond me. It seems important.
Like Alabama, Auburn fans too love to yell about something that seemingly has nothing to do with their Tiger mascot.
- The most interesting legend I’ve found as to why Auburn fans yell “War Eagle” is this via good ole Wikipedia:
According to a 1998 article in the Auburn Plainsman, the most likely origin of the “War Eagle” cry grew from a 1913 pep rally at Langdon Hall where students had gathered the day before the annual football game against the University of Georgia. Cheerleader Gus Graydon told the crowd, “If we are going to win this game, we’ll have to get out there and fight, because this means war.” During the frenzy, another student, E. T. Enslen, dressed in his military uniform, noticed something had dropped from his hat. Bending down, he saw it was the metal emblem of an eagle that had come loose during his wild cheering. Someone asked him what he had found, and Enslen loudly replied, “It’s a War Eagle!” The new cry was used by students at the game the following day.
- That sounds quite made up to me but that’s okay as no one would argue against watching an eagle fly around a football stadium. Unless the bird happens to be disoriented and flying into the crowd as “Spirit” did against Mississippi State in 2010.
- There are 3 different “war eagles,” two golden eagles and one bad eagle, housed at the Auburn Raptor College where they, and other birds of prey rehabilitating from injury, also reside.
Rolling Toomer’s Corner is another unique Auburn tradition. It would be considered a nuisance and a potential misdemeanor in any small town in America but Auburn. Toomer’s Drugs, a store founded in 1896 on the corner of Magnolia Ave. and College Street, between downtown Auburn and the main campus, is a landmark for Auburn fans.
The two old-growth oak trees in front of the store are where Auburn fans celebrate an athletic win or other major event in Auburn (are there any?) by throwing toilet paper over the trees. One “origin” story is that with the only telegraph in the city, the employees of Toomer’s would hear that Auburn had won a road football game and throw ticker tape from a telegraph on to the power lines. After the power lines were moved underground in the 1990s, the rolling of the oak trees began.
Of course today, these trees are less known for victory celebrations than for their infamous poisoning by Alabama fanatic, Harvey Updyke.
This fine looking gentlemen intelligently admitted to poisoning the trees before anyone even realized they were poisoned, after the 2010 Alabama loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. He also did so on Paul Finebaum’s very popular Birmingham radio show:
“Let me tell you what I did,” he said. “The weekend after the Iron Bowl, I went to Auburn because I lived 30 miles away, and I poisoned the two Toomer’s trees. I put Spike 80DF in ‘em. They’re not dead yet, but they definitely will die.”
Harvey Updyke has been charged with two counts of criminal mischief, two counts of desecrating a venerated object (that’s a thing?), and two counts of damage to a crop facility.
Kentucky @ Auburn:
- Kentucky plays against Auburn at 9 PM on ESPNU in the newly renovated 9,121 seat Auburn Arena.
- With the news that Willie Cauley-Stein will be out with a knee injury, there is even more urgency for Alex Poythress to step up and play in the “beast mode” we all think he is capable of playing. Auburn is not a long team, but they are a physical one. Poythress has the physique to be physical right back, but not the attitude. We will see if he takes any baby steps tonight as Cal is expecting, or hopefully even some strides.
- Ryan Harrow is sounding more like a leader in interviews and despite not having his best offensive performance against Tennessee, the Big Blue Nation has much more faith than it did several weeks ago in our point guard.
Harrow on Auburn:
“I know that they play physical and it was a tough game last year. That is what I remember from last year. They are going to come out for us and try to beat us up. Every team tries to do that so we have to prepare for that.”
- After a great scoring night against Tennessee I hope we don’t see a tentative Kyle Wiltjer a la “Disappear-ius Miller” (Sorry, I love you Darius). He cannot look to shoot and get low on defense every couple of games, Wiltjer must do so every night out and I’m feeling fairly confident he will do so.
Wiltjer on being more aggressive:
“I’m just working hard every day in practice, just being aggressive. Just having that mindset of just not settling so I think that kind of paid off.”
- There isn’t much more Nerlens can do as he’s tearing up stat sheets in scoring, rebounding, steals, and blocks. So no comment on Nerlens.
- Oh Archie. You’re so quick, so talented, and such a natural scorer, but if he could just calm down, breathe, and give himself a nanosecond to think, as opposed to just “doing” then he could be such an asset to this team. This past week, he made the team worse with his poor decision-making and inability to share the ball.
- Auburn is 8-8 overall with losses to Murray State, Dayton, Bston College, Rhode Island, Depaul (Oh hey Kristen Geil’s turf), Winthrop, Illinois, and Arkansas. Despite several of those losses being absolutely shameful, Auburn looked very good against #12 Illinois in Chicago in December, led by with 21 points from its senior guard Frankie Sullivan. He is averaging a solid 17.8 points a game. Auburn’s center, though named Shaquille, is only averaging 5 points a game. Don’t expect him to do even that much scoring with Nerlens around.
- It will be close. Kentucky will win, though not betting real money on it. I expect to see a Kentucky basketball sweep, with UK Hoops getting another home victory against the Auburn Tigers tomorrow. That game will feature a lot of full court press so tune in or come out to Memorial Coliseum tomorrow!
- Go Cats. Beat Auburn.
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