Sunday, November 29, 2009

29 NOV 09: That Upsetting Feeling

"All right, Alabama fan!" my next-door neighbor said in a loud voice several mornings ago. "I've got 100 on Auburn!" Yes sir - the Iron Bowl is a great economic stimulus, even in Columbus.

The next-door neighbor was challenging someone at the business next door to make a bet on the Alabama-Auburn game. Did the worker take him on? The answer came Friday, as the Iron Bowl was in progress. "He backed out on me," the neighbor said. Maybe the worker had second thoughts, when he realized he'd be gambling on company property.

My next-door neighbor became a sportscaster during the Iron Bowl. He opened the door and announced the first two Auburn touchdowns to people standing in the courtyard. When Alabama scored, the door for some reason remained closed. So I took it upon myself to announce the first two Tide touchdowns -- sort of like the old debate show "Crossfire."

(Trouble was, there was no one standing in the courtyard when I announced the Alabama scores. How can we have "fair and balanced" sports coverage when the viewers don't stick around for all of it?)

The score was Auburn 21, Alabama 20 with about ten minutes to play when I turned off the television set Friday evening. No, I did NOT watch the Iron Bowl all the way to the end. Long-time blog readers know I put something above football on my priority list. And no, this Kansas grad does NOT mean college basketball....

Since all was quiet as I ate dinner, I presumed Alabama found a way to beat Auburn. After all, my next-door neighbor would have stepped outside and hollered if the Tigers had won.

It turns out my next-door neighbor escaped a 100-dollar loss, as Alabama edged Auburn 26-21. The winning touchdown came on a pass to Roy Upchurch - which probably left some Auburn fans wanting to (ahem) up-chuck.

I actually drove to Lee County Friday morning, to take advantage of a gasoline discount and buy groceries at Kroger. From U.S. 280 at Summerville Road to Exit 57 at Interstate 85, I counted 13 vehicles with some kind of Auburn logos. Alabama logos were on eight vehicles - and I presumed the cars with Georgia logos were simply heading on road trips.

(You could see cars flying Alabama, Auburn and Georgia flags as early as Wednesday - leaving me to wonder if I was the only one to put out the U.S. flag Thursday. Thanksgiving is a national holiday, you know....)

CBS Sports showed part of Auburn head coach Gene Chizik's pre-game pep talk. He told the Tigers: "We're gonna win the game today.... it's a street fight for 60 minutes...." The second statement may have been true, but Chizik has a great future on the panel of football pickers at the Ledger-Enquirer.

Gene Chizik reached deep into the bag of tricks to get an edge over Alabama. After taking a 7-0 lead, he called a ten-yard kick which Auburn recovered. I'm convinced Chizik ordered his kicker to put the opening kickoff out of bounds for a penalty, to set this trap....

(No, I'm NOT calling that move an "onside kick" - since technically, any kickoff going more than ten yards is onside. Radio networks ought to have Sonic sponsor the "Strawberry Short-Kicks" when they happen.)

In fact, both kickers in the Iron Bowl may have been nervous. Alabama and Auburn each were penalized twice for putting kickoffs out of bounds. It was almost like the Tigers feared Alabama's Javier Arenas had the H-1-N-1 flu.

"What do we have here?" Auburn radio announcer Rod Bramblett asked after the Tigers took an early lead. By the end of the game, someone should have shown up in the press box to remind him - what it was, was football.

While Auburn failed to pull off the upset, Georgia did Saturday night. The Bulldogs surprised highly-ranked Georgia Tech 30-24 - and the most amazing thing was that Georgia didn't have to put on strange uniforms to do it.

Georgia never trailed in the rivalry game at Grant Field. When the Bulldogs scored first, Georgia Tech radio announcer Wes Durham said "Touchdown Georgia" like it was no big deal. My next-door neighbor could have given him a lesson in enthusiasm.

Grant Field was filled with enthusiasm well before kickoff. The Georgia and Georgia Tech players gathered on opposite sides of center field, jumping up and down and jawing at each other. The officials and a few coaches thankfully stood between them, to prevent another big health care debate from breaking out.

(ABC sideline reporter Holly Rowe claimed to see a couple of Georgia and Georgia Tech players hugging each other before the game. Maybe this explains why the Bulldogs barely finished with a winning record - Coach Mark Richt is preaching too much love, after those mission trips.)

Some unusual tactics took place in the Georgia-Georgia Tech game as well. The Yella Fellas Yellow Jackets called time out with three seconds left in the first half - after a few Bulldog players already had run into the locker room. It's one thing to have your team run wind sprints, but forcing the other team to do it during a game seems unfair.

A key moment in the game occurred when Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius "Beh-Beh" Thomas dropped a fourth-down pass late in the game. Thomas caught a 76-yard touchdown pass early in the second half - which I assume was sponsored on radio as a "Beh-Beh and T-D."

Georgia had a live bulldog on the sideline Saturday night, temporarily replacing the late Uga VII. I think its name was pronounced "Russ" - but the way the game turned out, it might have been "Rush."

Did you see former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford on the sidelines? He was wearing a Detroit Tigers baseball cap. When he's too ashamed to wear a hat for his football Lions, you know it's a bad season.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Georgia radio sideline reporter Loren "Whatta-ya-got?" Smith declared he was especially happy for Willie Martinez. Some Bulldog fans suspect the defensive coordinator will be fired. But at least he could be first in line for upcoming openings at Notre Dame.

Georgia radio broadcaster Scott Howard reported the 30-24 score was "wiped off the scoreboard" at Grant Field as soon as the game ended. Of all the times for Georgia Tech's stadium crew to start conserving energy....

(A few Bulldog players even were spotted digging up pieces of the Grant Field turf. When you're not even guaranteed a ring from a bowl game in Shreveport, you have to take any souvenir you can find.)

In the high school football playoffs, Carver lost a close quarterfinal game to Flowery Branch 35-33. Yet after another strong season, I'm wondering when Coach Dell McGee will start getting offers to join college staffs. In this day and age, coaches at Hardaway and Shaw might be e-mailing resumes in McGee's behalf.

If you're not a football fan, here are a few weekend leftovers to Crimson tide you over....

+ I woke up Friday morning to find my atomic clock showing Saturday, 5 December. If "Flash Forward" happened in real life, I'm concerned - because I slept right through it.

+ The Columbus Airport reported a Saturday morning low of 32 degrees F. That's the official first freeze of the season - and it seems awfully late, considering how many times the Civic Center already has been open for public ice skating.

+ A Saturday afternoon drive past Peachtree Mall found a surprisingly large number of empty parking spaces, especially near the old Parisian store. Were that many people worn out from "Black Friday" specials?

+ Columbus Police reported someone stole a large statue of Ronald McDonald from the McDonald's restaurant on Manchester Expressway. This is what happens when the Ham-Burglar is allowed to keep running around free on bond....

+ Instant Message to whomever posted the "FOUND PIG" sign along Warm Springs Road at 17th Avenue: Have you called the barbecue restaurants, to see if they lost one?

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