Once, in the fall of 2001, my roommates at the College Park apartments and I figured out a way to disassemble a regulation shopping cart. We then used this new creation to sled down the stairwells at the complex. The sport evolved into what seemed like a gathering of 200 people awaiting their turn. There was no score kept, just a lot of college kids being a little too loud. The police showed and the group scattered. An officer approached me and simply said, "Just don't do anything stupid."
I began a radio career that I have sustained, by a thread, for over ten years at WEGL. In that small room in the basement of the old Foy Student Union, I dug through piles of unknown bands and spun the likes of Weezer, A New Found Glory and local jams like the Immortal Lee County Killers. I was on air at WEGL just hours after the attacks of 9/11. One day, I found the nerve to head across town to the commercial station, WTGZ, and volunteer my services for a weekly, hour-long, locals-only show as I tried to expand my resume and "climb that ladder." I booked shows for bands, including the time I had a band opening for the Jennifer Nettles Band at a bar in Columbus, Ga. I had thrown myself into that scene at a time when bands like Course of Nature and Trust Company would emerge to make a national splash.
House shows at the W6.
I worked at Hastings for more than three years. I basically took my paycheck and dumped it right back into the store on used merchandise that I still can't figure out how to store.
Thursday wing and beer specials at Rooster's on Magnolia were then what Sunday wing and beer specials are now at Courtyard.
I ate more Westerns with Cheese Tots from Willie's Wings than I care to think about.
I remember the Apple Foods on Gay Street, and I remember the Texaco across the street that wouldn't bother to card me at 17-years-old because I would listen to the cashier complain about her boyfriend.
Abdou Diame was a close friend of mine. I taxied the seven-foot Senegal native from my neighbor's apartment to his place at Sewell Hall. Once, we saw "Hannibal" at the Wynnsong with Lincoln Glass and Dontarrious Thomas. Afterward, we stopped at a Waffle House, and I had the pleasure of watching Abdou get angry with our waitress for putting ham in his hash browns.
Ronnie Brown and I exchanged notes from our COMM classes. Once, on the way home from the Capital One Bowl (Ronnie was named MVP), we ran into him at a truck stop and had a nice conversation. He often ran us down just to say hello.
Chicken parm day at Findley's, yo.
My buddy Keon had a Playstation hooked up to the stereo system in his car. I'd ride around and play NFL Blitz. He'd bring a bunch of leftovers from the bar at Golden Corral home at the end of the night.
Gainesville, Baton Rouge, Athens, Starkville, Oxford, Nashville. They were the road trips that make college memories. While I was pretty well-traveled upon my arrival in Auburn, these were the first times that this kid from little ol' Rogersville, Ala., had really gotten around without parental supervision. They helped shape me.
I thought I met the love of my life. I turned a hobby into a career, and when it didn't pan out with best intentions, I "fell back" on my degree. I grew up. And it all happened much too fast.
In this week's al.com podcast, I was asked to recommend something local for Texas A&M fans visiting the Plains. And I realized that I didn't really have a unique answer. It's difficult to explain to someone outside why Auburn is a special place. You either "get it" or you don't. And I get it. Auburn is awful at football right now. Miserable. Pathetic. But I believe in Auburn and love it.
I've made it abundantly clear that there's nothing left to say. No, it didn't get worse this weekend. The wheels were off a month ago. The only thing that makes it "worse" are a loss or losses to New Mexico State and/or Alabama A&M. Even then, I can't say I'd be surprised.
But it will still be great to be an Auburn Tiger.
I will remain steadfast in my belief that if this is the year you fire Gene Chizik, you hire Bobby Petrino. Because the first national championship this program has seen in 50 years clearly wasn't enough to allow a two-year cushion, and you want to win now. So go hire the guy that will both come and will win now.
"But Blake, how can you talk of being an 'Auburn man' and want to hire Petrino?"
That's not what I am endorsing. I would trade two 2012's for one 2010 in a heartbeat. What I am endorsing is an immediate fix to your problem. I'm still on Team "Let the man admit he made a terrible hire at OC, fix it and see what happens," which is an incredibly long team name, but it's the team I chose. We'll use a logo to represent that on our jerseys. Probably an acronym.
At the same time, I get the frustration. It's embarrassing. But my pride is in my university, not its football team.
Easy to say now, right? I felt the exact same way at the end of the 2010 season. That was a lot of fun. But it wasn't why I loved Auburn.
I gave up in 1998. I gave up in 2003 at the exact moment that Bobby Lowder did. I looked at my then girlfriend while watching from the stands in Athens and said, "It's 3rd-and-1. You have Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown, Brandon Jacobs and Tre Smith in the backfield. But you're about to line up in a five-wide set and throw an interception." And Nallsminger did just that. I threw my hands in the air, and with a mighty "WELP," I left the game early. "Fire 'em all," I said.
But this situation is different than both. I see merits to both arguments. All I'm saying is if you make the ultimate move this year, make it big or don't bother. Because winning games is clearly more important than "being an Auburn man" or whatever.
If he stays? I don't know. I can't see it getting better, and that is your best argument. That's the reason I don't know how I feel. I don't get paid to make difficult decisions. Neither is going to disappoint me. While it's embarrassing, it's still just football.
In the meantime, I'll drown my Saturday misery with alcohol. And I'll watch this team set all-time records of terrible. And I'll still believe in Auburn and love it.