“It’s only a game!” she pleaded.
Mmmhmm. And Herman Cain was merely a harmless flirt. Eyegal was responding to the sight of me, head in hands, my team up 24-7 at halftime in this year’s Iron Bowl. You know, that annual “intrastate scrimmage” between Alabama and Auburn.
In any other universe, 24-7 at the break is reason enough for a trip to the fridge to fetch the wings and that gourmet beer you’ve been saving for a special occasion. But my stomach was churning too violently to enjoy food and drink. I wasn’t quite “Tebowing,” but almost. If 2010 had taught Crimson Tide fans anything it was that a 17 point halftime lead was never enough.
And then the unthinkable: The Auburn kick returner rockets through a gap in the Alabama coverage for a touchdown to start the second half! 24-14.
I stood and paced, trying to breath deeply and keep it together. Eyegal peered at me over the top of the paperback she was reading, watching for signs of cardiac distress. Games make her nervous, too, and reading is her Valium. She normally reads at a breakneck pace, but during tight games the pages fly faster than Trent Richardson on an open field run.
I consoled myself that Auburn showed no signs of moving the ball on offense and that the string of fluky touchdowns (the other on a fumble recovery) surely couldn’t continue. I saw members of the Crimson Tide defensive unit on the sideline making a “zero” with their thumbs and forefingers, and I knew they were thinking the same thing: Enough. No more.
Still, I had it easy. I was in the safe confines of my own home. If things got too intense, I could always go take a walk around the block. Number One Son, on the other hand, was on a mission behind enemy lines.
And not exactly a covert one, either. Wearing crimson in a sea of blue and orange ain’t your average camo. He had bought a ticket from an Auburn student and was sitting in the middle of their student section along with a few friends. Last year he had been sitting in the middle of the Alabama student section when Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen gathered in Cam Newton’s feathery pass and scooted into the end zone for the winning touchdown, right in front of him. When I talked to him after the game, I could barely hear him. His voice was completely spent and reduced to little more than a croak. He was shell-shocked, and as a Dad, my heart ached for him.
The only way to exorcise that kind of demon is to confront it directly, so off he rode, into the Valley of Death. I told him before he left to keep a low profile and stay cool. Auburn fans were still steaming over Harvey Updyke and those dang trees, and there was no need to provoke them any further. “We don’t need any brawls or misdemeanors,” I reminded him.
So glad he listened to me. After being seated and razzed by Auburn students who were none too pleased to see a Bammer squatting in their midst, he loudly proclaimed to anyone within earshot that “Auburn will not score an offensive touchdown today.” Way to fly under the radar, son.
At halftime, all his new friends reminded him that the score was the same as last year before Auburn came charging back to win. “Here we come,” they teased him. After the run back to start the second half, they were all over him. He was a character in a Jack London story, surrounded by wolves, and the fire was starting to flicker and die.
But he stood strong, banty rooster that he is. A rare field goal (Praise the Lord!) gave Bama a bit more breathing room, and then Dee Milliner (May he and his progeny be blessed for generations to come!) snagged a stray Clint Moseley pass for a “Pick 6.” The two-point conversion that followed made it 35-14.
Auburn marched into the red zone and threatened, a little fight still left in them. “Still think your prediction will hold?” the Auburn students mocked him, knowing an offensive touchdown was their only hope of salvaging a little dignity.
“Yup,” Number One replied.
Despite first and goal, the Tigers marched backward rather than forward. Their fourth down attempt to find the end zone failed. Jalston Fowler sealed the deal, making it 42-14 (“Who’s he?!” the Auburn fan sitting beside Number One asked in disbelief. “Oh, that’s our Number Three back,” Number One coolly replied). The Auburn students started to file out, anxious to leave the premises before being serenaded with yet another “Rammer Jammer.”
After the game, Number One hung out with his Auburn hosts and behaved himself. When it really counts, he follows The Golden Rule; he’s cool like that. Turns out, it really is only a game.
I suspect he’ll find a way to get to New Orleans. He was there for the 2009 Sugar Bowl loss to Utah, and I think that one’s still stuck in his craw.
Dere’s only one way to exorcise dat kind of demon.
The longer I live in Louisiana, and the longer I work with LSU fans, the more I want ya’ll to beat the hell out of LSU.
The Redeaux in the Bayou. It will no doubt be the “Game of the Century!” Oh wait…
Roll Tide Roll
Score! Number One leaves a comment. RTR.
I will be one of the few who will admit this far in advance that I will be watching that game. In the land of nuts and fruits.
Greg, you will not be alone, even on the “Left Coast.”
People protest now, but I believe, as Willy S. would say, “they doth protest too much.”
My number one son was also in attendance but outside Jordan Hare tailgating that day. He must have behaved himself since he got back to T’town unscathed.
I would prefer that your Number One (who has hit some 50-yarders in his time) was suited up with his kicking shoes on–just in case.
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