The 12th Man

Number One Son road-tripped to Auburn this past weekend to visit with some friends and to watch the Bama v. Auburn basketball game. The visit with friends went well. The game? Not so much.

Yesterday morning, Number One was driving to church when he stopped at an intersection with a crosswalk. He looked both ways, halfway expecting a herd of cattle to come ambling by about that time. Instead a lone figure in a suit was walking down the sidewalk to his right and starting into the intersection.

Number One stayed stopped and yielded like he was supposed to. He looked down to fiddle with something in the car, and when he looked back up, the man in the suit was directly in front of him and staring straight at him. Number One recognized him immediately and took in a sudden breath.

It was Tommy Tuberville.

Coach Tuberville smiled at Number One and waved as if to say, “Thanks and good morning!” Perhaps he didn’t see the Bama student parking tag hanging from his rearview mirror. Perhaps he didn’t see Number One’s scowl. Or perhaps he did, and he was just doing what he needed to do to survive.

Later that afternoon, Coach Tuberville spoke at halftime of the basketball game. He was receiving some kind of recognition and was talking about how Auburn has won six Iron Bowls in a row now and that they were working hard on number seven. The Barners in attendance hooted and hollered and stomped their feet, creating quite a racket. You would have thought it was feeding time the way they carried on.

As Number One listened to Tuberville and then watched the Crimson Tide hoopsters conduct one of the patented second half meltdowns (really, nobody does it better), he reflected on that moment earlier in the day when he’d had The Smug One in his sights. He could have ended Tuberville’s streak right then and there.

Oh sure, he would have been arrested and gone to jail for a little while. But his lawyers would have likely made the case for temporary insanity, and Number One would have gotten off the hook. Outside of Auburn, Opelika and Montgomery, who wouldn’t have believed that?

Of course, his lawyers would have likely had to file for a change in venue. Red Bay would have been nice, Tuscaloosa even better.

He would have largely been considered a hero, the latest addition to Bama’s storied pantheon of gridiron greats. He could have been famous, a 21st century Bama 12th man, erasing the memories of Tommy Lewis’ sprint from the sideline and his bareheaded tackle of Rice halfback Dickey Moegle in the 1954 Cotton Bowl. Just like Lewis, Number One could have always said in his own defense, “I was just so full of Alabama.”

He reflected on all of that, and that moment when he had taken his foot ever so slightly off the brake pedal and started moving it toward the accelerator, only to set it back down again.

And frankly, he was having second thoughts.

  1. Mike the Eyeguy

    Number One was headed toward his friend’s church, not the Auburn Church of Christ. Had he gone there instead, he might have ended up sitting next to Coach Tuberville in the pew and passing him the communion tray.

    Now that would have been interesting.

  2. Mike the Eyeguy

    And yes, Number One does have friends at Auburn. Some very good ones in fact.

  3. That Girl

    I thought the game went very well. Especially since Auburn has the worst defense in the conference.

    Coach T was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame Friday and from what I hear, he did a great job. Sure he’s a confident man but he’s done some good work. He’s no genius but he’s a good guy.

  4. Donna

    That girl is somewhat delusional with that “Good Guy” talk.

    Number one was a good man….I am not sure I wouldn’t have at least revved the engine……

  5. Mike the Eyeguy

    I’m even more concerned about TC’s Tarheel “delusion.”

    Donna, I’m not sure how intimidating revving the engine of that VW Passat would have been. Number One might have ended up embarrassing himself. Better to scowl and glare.

  6. Stoogelover

    You may want to verify this with a competent attorney, but I think there are still places in the deep south where “he needed killin'” is still a viable defense. Aside from him being the auburn coach, I have heard Tuberville is actually a rather nice guy. Committed Christian gentleman.

  7. Mike the Eyeguy

    Yeah, I don’t doubt that’s the case. I just don’t care much for his on-field persona. That whole wagging his thumb in front of the student section in T-town got under my skin in ’06.

    To me, you’re the coach–shake the other coach’s hand and get off the field.

    The students will be waiting for him this year. I just hope the team will be ready too.

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