First, the ballot:
Track 'Em Tigers Ballot - Week 11
|Oklahoma St. Cowboys
|Alabama Crimson Tide
|Boise St. Broncos
|Virginia Tech Hokies
|Penn St. Nittany Lions
|Kansas St. Wildcats
|Michigan St. Spartans
|Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
|South Carolina Gamecocks
|Southern Miss. Golden Eagles
|Louisiana Ragin Cajuns
|Dropouts: Arizona St. Sun Devils
Quick note: last week, someone mentioned that I had violated a rule by moving a team ten spots. Not quite. Ten is the maximum, although it doesn't happen often (though there was a week when about four or five teams got knifed with it).
Plus, try telling me that South Carolina didn't TOTALLY have it coming to them this week. Can you? Nope.
(Hopefully) Funny stuff after the jump:
Okay, so by now, most of you have figured out that this will either be a ballot breakdown or a reason to get creative and try my best to inject TET with a little bit of humor.
...And no, including the Ragin' Cajuns at 25 wasn't what I had in mind (although that is pretty hilarious, until you go look at their record and who they lost to -- one was Oklahoma State, and the other was Western Kentucky)...but I'm veering off-topic here.
Anyway, I'm opting to go with some humor here. Or at least I am until they pull the plug on me, ban me from the front page, or -- the worst fate imaginable -- ship me off to Bleacher Report.
This one's in three bits, building up to the Iron Bowl. Given that I....uh...nothing...the DAAAWWWWGGGGS, there's nothing to say there, right? And I can't work up any bile over poor 'ol Samford.
As background, the inspiration for this bit came a year ago, when I was reading Orwell's 1984, just for the hell of it. Thinking of the cruel, rigid, dystopian world that he described put me in mind of something similar. A "process" if you will.
So, with a little work -- and how little is kind of frightening, when you consider the source material -- I co-opted Orwell into helping give us a one-chapter glimpse inside the "PROCESS".
It was a bright cold day in April, and the national championships properly numbered thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Tide Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.
His flatmates, fellow Tide fans sitting in the hallway, smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of the hallway a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than three feet wide: the face of a man of about sixty-five, with a black-and-white houndstooth print hat and rugged features. Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying to strike up conversations with his neighbors. Even at the best of times they were seldom sober, and at present they looked particularly incoherent. It was part of the preparation for Iron Bowl Week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and morbidly obese, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BEAR BRYANT IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.
Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of Jim McElwain’s offense. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely. He moved over to the window: a plump, rather porcine figure, the rotundity of his body merely emphasized by the crimson t-shirt which was the uniform of the party. His hair was very fair, his face naturally sanguine, his skin roughened by coarse soap and blunt razor blades and the hard drinking that inevitably accompanied football season.
Outside, even through the shut window-pane, the world looked cold. Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling crimson and white car flags into spirals, and though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue (an evil colour, that), there seemed to be no colour in anything, except the posters that were plastered everywhere. The houndstooth’d visage gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on the house-front immediately opposite. BEAR BRYANT IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston's own. Down at street-level another poster, torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind, alternately covering and uncovering the single word ROLLTIDE. In the far distance something skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was not an errant Brodie Croyle pass, however. Rather, it was the ROLL PATROL's automated drone snooping into people's windows. The patrols did not matter, however. Only the Red Elephant Club mattered.
Behind Winston's back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about the running game and the overachievement of Trent Richardson, even against eight-man defensive fronts. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Red Elephant Club plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer, though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing. A half-mile away, at the University of Alabama, his place of work, the tip of the Denny Chimes towered vast and white above the grimy landscape. This, he thought with a sort of vague distaste – this was Tuscaloosa, chief city of the SEC, itself the third most populous in the state of Alabama. He tried to squeeze out some childhood memory that should tell him whether Tuscaloosa had always been quite like this. Were there always these vistas of garish storefronts and car dealerships, their sides plastered with team posters, their windows painted crimson and white with varying overzealous expressions of program loyalty, their patrons sagging in all directions? And the godforesaken sites where the smell of cheap liquor swirled in the air and the scent of weed straggled from campus; and the places where the developers had cleared a larger patch and there had sprung up sordid colonies of awful student dwellings like chicken-houses? But it was no use, he could not remember: nothing remained of his childhood except a series of bright-lit tableaux occurring against no background and mostly unintelligible.
The University of Alabama – ‘Bama, in Tidespeak – was startlingly different from any other location in sight. Towering from its center was an enormous phallic structure of muddy-colored brick and concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 115 feet into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white tip in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Program:
ROLL TIDE ROLL
AUBS EAT BOOGS
The tower contained, it was said, three hundred indoctrination / interrogation chambers above ground level, and corresponding ramifications below. Despite the city’s size, there was no other building of similar appearance and size. So completely did the Denny tower dwarf the surrounding architecture that from the roof of Tide Mansions it drew all attention. On campus were the homes of the four Ministries between which the entire apparatus of the Program was divided. The Ministry of Mistruth, which concerned itself with information regarding the Program, and the projection of the Program’s success and accomplishments. The Ministry of Program Pride, which concerned itself solely with its hated rival, Auburn. The Ministry of Love, which monitored and maintained Program loyalty. And the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for the Program’s various economic concerns, both player-related and otherwise. Their names, in Newspeak: Minitruth, Minipride, Miniluv, and Miniplenty.
The Ministry of Love was the really frightening one. There were no windows in it at all. Winston had never been inside the Ministry of Love, nor within half a mile of it. It was a place impossible to enter except on official business, and then only by penetrating through a maze of barbed-wire entanglements, steel doors, and hidden machine-gun nests. Even the streets leading up to its outer barriers were roamed by gorilla-faced frat boys in crimson ties, armed with logo-adorned truncheons.
Winston turned round abruptly. He had set his features into the expression of quiet optimism which it was advisable to wear when facing the telescreen. He crossed the room into the tiny kitchen. By leaving the University at this time of day he had sacrificed his lunch over at Dreamland, and he was aware that there was no food in the kitchen except a hunk of dark-coloured bread which had got to be saved for tomorrow's breakfast. He took down from the shelf a bottle of colourless liquid with a plain white label marked STABLER VINEYARDS. It gave off a sickly, oily smell, as of an overserved freshman coed. Winston poured out nearly a teacupful, nerved himself for a shock, and gulped it down like a dose of medicine.
Instantly his face turned scarlet and the water ran out of his eyes. The stuff was like nitric acid, and moreover, in swallowing it one had the sensation of being hit on the back of the head with a rubber club or the sensation of a rabbit punch from Terrence Cody at the bottom of the pile. The next moment, however, the burning in his belly died down and the world began to look more cheerful. He took a cigarette from a crumpled packet marked HAND-ROLL(ED) TIDE CIGARETTES and incautiously held it upright, whereupon the tobacco fell out on to the floor. With the next he was more successful. He went back to the living-room and sat down at a small table that stood to the left of the telescreen. From the table drawer he took out a penholder, a bottle of ink, and a thick, quarto-sized blank book with a crimson back and a marbled cover.
For some reason the telescreen in the living-room was in an unusual position. Instead of being placed, as was normal, in the end wall, where it could command the whole room, it was in the longer wall, opposite the window. To one side of it there was a shallow alcove in which Winston was now sitting, and which, when the flats were built, had probably been intended to hold bookshelves. By sitting in the alcove, and keeping well back, Winston was able to remain outside the range of the telescreen, so far as sight went. He could be heard, of course, but so long as he stayed in his present position he could not be seen. It was partly the unusual geography of the room that had suggested to him the thing that he was now about to do.
But it had also been suggested by the book that he had just taken out of the drawer. It was a peculiarly beautiful book. Its smooth creamy paper, a little yellowed by age, was of a kind that had not been manufactured for at least forty years past. He could guess, however, that the book was much older than that. He had seen it lying in the window of a frowsy little junk-shop in a slummy quarter of the town (just what quarter he did not now remember, as so much of town was unremarkable) and had been stricken immediately by an overwhelming desire to possess it. Program loyalists were supposed not to go into non-Tide shops ('dealing on the free market', it was called), but the rule was not strictly kept, because there were various things, such as food and clothing not coloured crimson, which it was impossible to get hold of in any other way. He had given a quick glance up and down the street and then had slipped inside and bought the book for two dollars fifty. At the time he was not conscious of wanting it for any particular purpose. He had carried it guiltily home in his briefcase. Even with nothing written in it, it was a compromising possession.
The thing that he was about to do was to write about football – to scribe his thoughts regarding those teams not housed in Tuscaloosa. This was not illegal (for as desirable as the abolition of free speech would be to the Program, irritating, nettling federal regulations prevented it), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by twenty-five years in a forced-labour camp. Winston fitted a nib into the penholder and sucked it because of his unfamiliarity with writing implements. The pen was an archaic instrument, seldom used even for signatures, and he had procured one, furtively and with some difficulty, simply because of a feeling that the beautiful creamy paper deserved to be written on with a real nib instead of being scribbled upon with a crayon. Actually, as with most Tide fans, he was not used to writing by hand, or very comfortable with writing at all. Apart from very short notes, it was usual to communicate everything to others via a thick, slurred drawl, which was of course impossible for his present purpose. He dipped the pen into the ink and then faltered for just a second. A tremor had gone through his bowels. To mark the paper was the decisive act. In small clumsy letters he wrote:
He sat back. A sense of complete helplessness had descended upon him. To begin with, he did not know with any certainty that the Crimson Tide actually had 1,984 championships of any sort. It must be round about that number, since he was fairly sure that his age was thirty-nine, and he believed that the Program had claimed a full one thousand in his lifetime; but it was never possible nowadays to pin down any quantity within a dozen or two, let alone whether they were conference championships or national championships.
For whom, it suddenly occurred to him to wonder, was he writing this diary? For the others, for the followers of other programs. His mind hovered for a moment round the doubtful number on the page, and then fetched up with a bump against the Tidespeak word doublethink. For the first time the magnitude of what he had undertaken came home to him. How could you communicate with the other fanbases? It was of its nature impossible. Either other programs would resemble the Program, in which case they would not listen to him: or their programs would be different from his, and his predicament would be meaningless.