“Somebody’s Watching Me”

By Posted on: June 28th, 2013 in Baseball, Basketball, Business - Entertainment, Featured Article, Football, Other Sports 15 Comments »

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                                                           A smartly dressed Auburn man.

A few months ago, while I was driving to work, I reached the end of my cul-de-sac where a stop sign resides.  Since I can easily see down both ways of the cross-street before getting to the stop line, I usually coast through the sign when no one is coming (although if questioned by the authorities about this, I will gladly plead the Fifth).

However, this particular morning, as I was leaving a little late that day, the young man from the family next-door was standing outside waiting for the school bus, waving at me and looking appreciatively at my obnoxiously bright yellow Honda S2000 (as all young men do when a sports car goes by). All of a sudden, I realized that I would be setting an example by stopping or not stopping at that stop sign. I stopped pretty quick.

And thus it is with almost everything we do in life. NSA and IRS aside, we are always being watched and judged by our behavior. (This is especially true for those who say they don’t care what anyone else thinks.)  Then, fairly or unfairly, those judgments accrue to those who share characteristics with the judged party, whether race, sex, or college colors.

Consequently, it is essential that we remember this fact whenever we go out in our Auburn attire, whether to a game or just out shopping. People are watching and judging, and judging all of us by the example given by each of us.  It is probably even more important for those of us with Auburn bumper stickers or license plates to comport ourselves in a seemly manner in our vehicles (this last point is usually lost on my own self when dealing with motor-miscreants in Atlanta’s infamous uber-traffic).

As I noted in an earlier article, I wear my Auburn attire just about everywhere, for the specific purpose of provoking a reaction. The reaction I honestly hope I get is someone thinking “There goes someone who loves his university.” If a rival fan wants to offer a good-natured rib, I am perfectly fine with that too. However, we certainly do NOT need to provoke the reaction of “Typical Auburn blankety-blank.”

Although I am sure the readership here are always careful to exercise politeness and class in ALL situations, regardless of attire or activity, this is just a reminder to us all (and myself especially) to take that extra measure of care when identifying ourselves as part of the Auburn Family. Gosh knows, we can pick our friends, but we can’t pick our family—let’s make sure we make life a little easier for everyone who walks the orange-and-blue path.

Michael Val

(who enjoys estimating the probability of ANY university attendance of drivers whose car carries crimson-and-white “A” stickers)

                              

At the Game, in the Car, or at Home, Jim Fyffe was Auburn Football

By Posted on: May 15th, 2013 in Baseball, Basketball, Football, News 9 Comments »
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I still remember the sadness that swept over me when Auburn’s legendary announcer Jim Fyffe passed away on May 15, 2003. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. Though I never met the man he was to me and thousands of other Auburn fans, a good friend. Today is the 10th anniversary of his death. He was taken from us way too early.

With no disrespect to Rod Bramlet and other Auburn announcers, there simply will never be another one like Jim Fyffe.

Jim was and still is the most revered radio announcer in the history of Auburn Football. His distinctive voice called the play-by-play for Auburn’s football teams from 1981-2003.

He provided hundreds of memorable calls in his 22 years of calling Auburn Football and Basketball games. But it was more than his voice that endured him to the Auburn Family. Jim had a unique ability to make the listener feel like he was right there beside him, in the booth, jumping up and down as he’s yelling his famous “Touch d o w n … Aub b u r n n n n !”

There was never any doubt in his voice, that Jim was a homer and a man who loved Auburn –  both traits that made his voice synonymous with Auburn Football.

He was gifted in such away that made fans lean in toward the radio and feel like they were actually in the stands viewing the game with him. I will never forget where I was on many of his memorable calls.

Like many reading this article, I could recall dozens of great calls made by Jim over the years; the kind that still brings chill bumps and memories of where I was when I heard him make the call.

One of my many favorites happened on November 4th, 1989. There were 26 seconds to go in the game and Auburn trailed Florida 7-3, facing a 4th down and 11 on the 30 yard line. Quarterback Reggie Slack drops back to pass and hits 5′ 7″ Shayne Wasden in the corner of the end zone to defeat Florida 10-7.

Pandemonium broke out as Jim yelled over the airwaves. “Touchdown Auburn! Touchdown Auburn! Touchdown Auburn! Unbelievable!  I’ve seen the impossible happen! I have seen a miracle!”

That moment and dozens of others like it, are forever frozen in the corners of my mind. Yet, even though I was at the game I could not hear Jim’s call completely because it was the loudest, most exhilarating ending to any game I have ever witnessed at Jordan-Hare. I thought the end zone was going to collapse under the weight of the fans jumping up and down.

It was only after I listened to the tape later that I heard all of what Jim had said. And to this day, I remember everything about that moment when I hear a replay of his words.

At the game, in the car, or at home, Jim was Auburn football. It just doesn’t seem like 10 years since he left us.

—————-

Feel free to share your memory of a great Jim Fyffe moment in the comments.

“What Comes Next Sits Squarely on My Shoulders.”

By Posted on: May 14th, 2013 in Baseball, Basketball, Football, News, Other Sports 12 Comments »
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Auburn A.D. Jay Jacobs says he has a plan … a plan to improve the athletics department including how to turnaround the lack of winning in the big three major sports.

Speaking before the Auburn Chamber of Commerce today, Jacobs said that University President Jay Gogue has made it clear that he has high expectations for the athletic department. And he told the business  leaders, “I intend to meet them.”

After meeting with Dr. Gogue , Jacobs said, he is aware that, “What comes next sits squarely on my shoulders.” 

“We have much work to do, but I’m convinced that our best days are not behind us … I will continue to defend Auburn, and I will continue to push us to get better every day.” 

Without giving any details, he said he has a plan for improving the overall operations, enhancing the game day experience, improving facilities, and improving “how we interact and communicate with fans and alumni.”

Part of his plan is to act on future recommendations of the consulting firm ,JMI Sports, which was hired by the Universirty to complete a year long intensive evaluation of Auburn athletics.

He was vague about how he expects to turnaround the poor performance of Auburn’s major sports other than pointing out the enthusiasm surrounding the football program since the return of Gus Malzahn.

He said Tony Barbee must win in basketball but pointed out it took former coaches Sonny Smith and Cliff Ellis 5-7 years to make the NCAA Tournament.

To be fair, facilities have improved tremendously under his watch, more student athletes are achieving at a higher level, and there hasn’t been a major NCAA violation in over 20 years.

However, as important as all those things are, and they are very important, winning at a tradition rich place like Auburn has to improve and improve significantly.

Saying he knows that the football and basketball teams were a disappointment this year, he added, “I want to be clear that regardless of how well we are performing across our other goals, I know how important winning is to our fans.”

Sounds like this whole process has made Jacobs aware that it’s not just coaches who may be on the hot seat but the Athletic Director as well. I believe all Auburn people want to see things improve on the Plains but if that doesn’t happen … then it’s like Jay said today, “What comes next sits squarely on (his) shoulders.”

The Report Is In – Gogue Expects Jay Jacobs to Make Necessary Improvements

By Posted on: May 13th, 2013 in Baseball, Basketball, Football, News, Other Sports 8 Comments »

gogue2- jay GogueThe much awaited report of the committee on Auburn Athletics has given their report to University President Jay Gogue.

Dr Gogue had charged the committee to take a look at five criteria for evaluating the athletic department: (1) academic and support services for student-athletes, (2) financial management, (3)customer service, (4) competition, including winning, sportsmanship and compliance, and (5) management structure.

In an open letter to the Auburn Family, Dr Gogue voiced support for Jacobs and the Athletic department while at the same time saying he expects “improvement in the overall operations,” and the upgrading of, “how we interact and communicate with fans and alumni, and enhance the game-day experience, on and off the field.”

There has been increased interest this year in the President’s evaluation of Jacobs and the Athletic Department due to the most dismal two years of Auburn sports in recent memory.

While new Auburn Women’s Basketball Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy took her team to the WNIT and the Equestrian team won another National Championship , the major sports have not had a good year. In addition, since Auburn won the BCS Championship two years ago, the big three major sports have struggled.

The basketball team has been terrible, football  had it’s worst season in 60 years and the baseball team has not made an NCAA Baseball Tournament since winning the West in 2010. Barring Pawlowski’s Tigers winning the SEC Tournament (an extreme longshot), Auburn will finish the year without winning a conference or division championship for the first time in 20 years.

The alumni and fans have been waiting to see if Dr Gogue takes any action. In his public response to the committee’s report he said:

“There’s much to celebrate about Auburn Athletics, but there’s also room for substantial improvement. I look forward to Jay providing the leadership needed to make the necessary improvements.”

Everyone agrees there is plenty of “room for substantial improvement” and Gogue says that, Jacobs will “talk more about what’s in store.”  He is scheduled to speak to the Auburn Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning. Wonder if we will hear what he plans to do to make those “necessary improvements”

Readers can view Dr Gogue’s open letter after the jump:

Dear Auburn family,

The committee I appointed to review operations of Auburn Athletics as part of the Department’s annual evaluation has provided its findings. I’m grateful to members of the committee for their hard work, good thinking and dedication to helping Auburn Athletics move forward.

We asked the committee to review the Department’s total body of work with a focus on five areas: academic and support services for student-athletes; financial management; customer service; competition, including winning, sportsmanship and compliance; and management structure.

Athletics Director Jay Jacobs and I have talked in length about their recommendations. In general, they center on steps to improve overall operations of the Department, upgrade how we interact and communicate with fans and alumni, and enhance the game-day experience, on and off the field. Jay will talk in more detail about what’s in store, and I’m confident he will move forward to put in place a plan to give the Auburn family what we all expect.

There’s much to celebrate about Auburn Athletics, but there’s also room for substantial improvement. I look forward to Jay providing the leadership needed to make the necessary improvements.

War Eagle!

Jay Gogue

“Are you about TREE, or are you about FOOTBALL?”

By Posted on: April 18th, 2013 in Baseball, Basketball, Business - Entertainment, Football, Other Sports 11 Comments »
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                                 The last roll will take place on April 20, 2013.

(Author’s note: In view of the fact that our Oaks’ time on the Plains is drawing to a close, I thought I would update and re-run the first article I wrote over here at the new Track ‘Em Tigers, about a true experience I had last summer.  MVH)

My wife Eileen and I were enjoying our first not-visiting-relatives vacation since…our honeymoon four years ago, staying at her mother’s vacation condo in Hilton Head (which is about the only way we could afford to “do” Hilton Head). After our beach-and-pool day, we decided to go to the iconic Salty Dog Café for dinner. Getting a table meant an hour-and-a-half wait, so we took a seat at one of the outdoor bars to eat.

Although she is a Montevallo graduate and a total non-sports fan (yes, I don’t know how we got together either), I finally got my wife to understand what it means to be a part of the Auburn family after taking her to the National Championship celebration and a Homecoming game. I think she got the picture after seeing 80,000 people all wearing the same shirt. In any case, Eileen and I were both wearing Auburn t-shirts and coordinating shorts, not quite matchy-matchy (although I really don’t mind going completely matchy-matchy, which is one of my endearing qualities according to her) but close enough.

A fellow sitting by himself on another side of the bar to our right was talking to everyone around and no one in particular, with a misplaced sense of bravado and self-assuredness that men sitting by themselves at a bar often have. He wore a cap with the legend “NO1 GR8TR” on the front and the Kentucky “K” on the side. It didn’t take him long to notice our Auburn attire. “Awww, you’re from Auburn,” he said, thereby becoming Mr. MOTO (Master Of The Obvious) in my mind. “That’s okay, I like Auburn, they’re SEC, that’s good,” he continued. “But look out for these folks,” he said, pointing to a couple on the other side of the bar from us, “They are Alabama!” Eileen and I exchanged a pleasant wave with the Bama contingent (who incidentally were not wearing colors, and didn’t even look like they were going to make a deal about AU, Bama, or anything else for that matter).

Someone asked him what the notation on his cap meant. “It means ‘No One Greater’—that sure describes me!” Mr. MOTO guffawed, and explained it also represented Kentucky’s recent NCAA Basketball Championship. I really couldn’t ignore this fellow, and the misplaced bravado and self-assuredness was starting to rub me the wrong way. I butted in, “If the ball isn’t pointy or has laces, I don’t really care about it,” which refers to my love of football, rugby, and baseball, and my total present indifference to basketball. “That’s what happens when you can’t win championships,” he rejoindered, thereby scoring a cheap and inelegant, yet nonetheless valid, zinger on me.

True to what I dubbed him in my mind, Mr. MOTO continued on: “Hey, you got those trees down there at, what-do-they-call-it?” thus engaging me in more conversation than I wanted. “Toomers Corner, right in front of the Auburn campus,” I filled in. “Yeah, they poisoned them trees, what’s going on with that?” he asked. The Bama people then jumped right on into the conversation, chirping brightly, “But the trees are alright now.” “No, they are not,” I replied back, “They are biologically alive, and may stay that way for a while, but our horticulture department at Auburn says they may be what they call ‘aesthetically dead’ soon.” Not wanting to be left out of the conversation that he started, Mr. MOTO interjected, pointing at me and saying “Hey listen—Are you about TREE, or are you about FOOTBALL?”

My heart skipped a beat for a second when I heard that, and I had to catch my breath. I’d like to think the whole outdoor bar went silent, like in an old western movie, waiting for my reply (of course, it didn’t).

“I’m about AUBURN,” I told this fellow, and the Bama folks, and anyone else who wanted to hear my voice at normal speaking level. “Those trees are a part of our campus, and that campus is a part of our tradition, and all those things, plus every Auburn man and woman who ever passed under those trees, make up Auburn. Auburn is more than trees, or football, or any other thing. I’m about AUBURN.”

Fortunately, our food finally came, and I was relieved to be free from the conversation into which I was reluctantly drawn. A woman came up to me and said, “I think it is just TERRIBLE what they did to those trees.” And it is terrible, but it is more terrible to think why someone would do that to our trees. Folks, the man who “allegedly”admittedly poisoned our trees did that not because he is a jerk, not because he hates trees, and not because he has “too much Bama” in him (a sentiment which was repudiated by the family of Tommy Lewis, the originator of the quote). That man “allegedly” did this because he wanted to hurt all of us that hold Auburn dear. As such, he “allegedly” did this because he, along with all the Bama fans that now idolize him, stands, at heart, against all that Auburn really is. The thing is, he really isn’t smart enough to understand that about himself, but it is still true nonetheless.

So, folks, as we live our lives and scream “WAR EAGLE” and mourn our trees and enjoy our football, let’s remember one thing—at heart, we are all about AUBURN, and no less than all of AUBURN.

Michael Val

(who believes in Auburn…ALL of Auburn…and LOVES IT!)

Tigers WNIT Run Halted by Drexel but Hopes Raised for Future of Program

By Posted on: March 30th, 2013 in Basketball 1 Comment »
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 First year Auburn Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy brought a winning attitude to Women’s Basketball.

The  hot shooting Auburn Women’s Basketball Team that easily handled their first three opponents in the WNIT – suddenly went cold this evening in the quarter-finals. The Tigers shot only 15 percent in the first half and fell behind Drexel 30-12 at the break.

Auburn shooting improved in the second half with the Tigers actually outscoring Drexel 31-26 but it was too little too late, as they fell to the Dragons 56-43.

The home loss was a sad way for the seniors to finish out their careers.

But these ladies bought into first year coach Terri Williams-Flournoy’s style of play and did Auburn proud by making it to the fourth round of the tournament.

Some counted the Tigers out during a losing streak midway through the season. Yet they didn’t give up on their coach or on each other and with true Auburn Spirit fought hard to get back on track.

Coach Williams-Flournoy said, “When we had our eight-game losing streak they could have just taken a dive. They could have said the season was done and given up. That is not what they did. They came back and played extremely hard.”

The Tigers finished up the season 19-15 including a deep run into the WNIT. Today’s loss may have been a sad moment for the Tigers but it was also an encouraging one, because now these Tigers have  laid a strong foundation for the future.

War Eagle ladies!

Tigers Continue to Chase Championship Tonight in the Arena

By Posted on: March 30th, 2013 in Basketball 3 Comments »
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Tyrese Tanner scored 25 points with 11 rebounds in WNIT 3rd round victory over Tulane March 27.

In what has turned out to be a pleasant surprise, the Auburn women Basketball Team has cruised through the first three rounds of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, dispensing opponents by an average of 20 points per game.

However, in tonight’s 6 p.m. quarterfinal game, Auburn (19-14) faces a team that brings an unconventional style of offense heretofore unseen by the Tigers.

Drexel University (25-10) runs a motion offense that Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy  says is impossible to simulate in practice. “We’re going against a motion-type offense … that’s something we haven’t been faced up against.”

Trying to defend it will present a big challenge. It will be a clash between the unconventional motion offense against Auburn’s high pressure defense. It’s anybody’s guess which style will win out.

But this writer gives the edge to the Tigers for two reasons:

First, Auburn will be playing their fourth consecutive tournament game at home. You can just see the player’s confidence level increase with each game. Second, just because the Tigers have convincingly defeated their first three opponents, doesn’t mean they haven’t been tested.

In the third round game against Tulane for example, the Green Wave made several charges, including a 13-2 run in the second period. Each time the Tigers fought back to take control.

While junior  sensation Tyrese Tanner has been impressive with her 26 point per game average, 23 rebounds, and 11 steals … the most impressive thing so far has been the Tigers ability to withstand opponent’s charges and not wilt.

That’s always the mark of a championship caliber team. And It looks more and more like these Tigers have that championship swagger. Win tonight, and Auburn will be headed to the Final Four.

Let’s go Tigers!

Tigers Blow Out Tulane 72 – 52, Advance to WNIT Elite Eight

By Posted on: March 27th, 2013 in Basketball 4 Comments »
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Auburn’s Tyrese Tanner (32) blocks Tulane’s Jamie Kaplan (24) during the Tigers WNIT Sweet 16 victory at the Auburn Arena.

Another Auburn opponent bit the dust tonight as the Women’s Basketball Team defeated their third post season foe by blowing out Tulane 72 – 52.

As with the first two wins, the Tigers did it with a high pressure defense that had 11 steals; which set a new school record for steals with 396.

A red hot Tyrese Tanner again led the way, this time by hitting her first double-double with  25 points and 11 rebounds.

Coach Williams-Flournoy has her Tigers hitting on all cylinders. And it looks like they are playing their best basketball of the year.

The Tigers now advance to the WNIT Elite Eight, and will play the winner of Thursday’s Drexel-Bowling Green game.

Congrats Tigers and keep it going!