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History Repeating? The Iron Bowl

How does the birth of a cartoonist factor into this week’s Auburn game?

1978: Portrait of American cartoonist Charles M Schulz (1922 - 2001), creator of the 'Peanuts' comic strip, sitting at his studio drawing table with a picture of his character Charlie Brown and some awards behind him. Schulz created the comic strip in 1950.
Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

This season has been a tumult, Auburn fans, and our hearts seem to have been placed in the spin cycle one too many times by this team. Many of us see this week’s Iron Bowl as an inevitable beat-down wherein the Tigers will show up, accept their whooping, and go home. I pray that isn’t the case. Some of us have grown numb to the idea of playing this game. Personally, I hate the Iron Bowl. Nothing is less fun than playing this team. When Auburn wins, the joy only brings up a venom toward a group of people I never actually interact with. When Auburn loses, the venom is there, but so is despair and the Tigers’ inability to get it done. It’s the ultimate lose-lose. I don’t like the way it makes me feel toward other humans, I don’t like the schadenfreude I feel when Auburn wins because I’m ashamed of myself, and I hate the feeling of losing to freaking Alabama.

But the “Tahd” remains on the schedule. So we must look to the past once again, to make ourselves feel somewhat comfortable going into this game. If it is going to be a blowout, I want to know, and if Auburn has a shot I would like to be prepared to gloat responsibly.

Could any event in human history foreshadow this week’s matchup?

The Birth of Charles M. Schulz

On November 26, 1922, Charles M. Schulz was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. He grew up to write one of the most influential comic strips in history, “Peanuts.” His characters like Charlie Brown and Snoopy have become as much a part of the American cultural landscape as any drawn faces other than perhaps Mickey Mouse. His comics also became the basis for the “A Charlie Brown Christmas” TV special which is notable for having the single greatest Christmas soundtrack of all time*, thanks to Mr. Vince Guaraldi’s genius work on the piano.

Of note in the strip, from a football standpoint: Charlie Brown’s friend/arch-nemesis Lucy has a habit of telling Charlie Brown she will hold a football for him to kick, only to pull it away at the last possible moment. This happens over and over. In the cartoon TV specials, it is an especially memorable scene:


Sometimes in life, we think we are heading straight to kick a football straight to the moon, only to have some stupid idiot pull it away at the last second.

The 2010 Iron Bowl

A second event? What could it mean?

On November 26, 2010, Charlie Brown kicked the heck out of the football. In this case, his name wasn’t Charlie Brown, his name was Cameron Newton, and the part of Lucy was played by the 2010 Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama has often been the Lucy to Auburn’s Charlie. The football has often been pulled right out from under Auburn, only to see Alabama holding it laughing. But in this instance, Alabama thought it was pulling the ultimate Lucy—disrupting Auburn’s bid for a national championship with one pull of the football.

Down 24-0 in the second quarter, the comeback began.

It would be the greatest comeback in the history of Auburn football and the biggest blown lead in the history of Alabama football. It was one of the greatest college football games of all time, and the icing on Cam Newton’s Heisman cake.

It was Auburn versus an Alabama team coming off a national title, in Tuscaloosa, on November 26.

The 2016 Iron Bowl

On November 26, 2016, Auburn will again travel to Tuscaloosa to take on an Alabama team coming off a national title. This time, Auburn doesn’t have the next evolution of homo sapiens as its QB but instead has (maybe) little ole Sean White, the Charlie Browniest looking sonofagun imaginable. If White doesn’t play, the option at QB might be Jeremy Johnson, a player who has had the Lucy of life pull the football out from his career so many times.

If you watch the replay of the “CamBack” in 2010, Cam Newton makes two passes for long touchdowns that we can’t honestly expect Sean White to make. Even the staunchest defenders of White, in their heart of hearts, know he doesn’t have that club in his bag. Jeremy Johnson does. Sure, he has the terrible habit of throwing the ball to the opposing team and that habit could get him killed against a defense like Alabama, but lordamercy does he also have a cannon attached to his shoulder. Saturday, he doesn’t have to be perfect, he just has to realize the whole of his athletic potential for 60 minutes of game time.

Willie Nelson once sang “Miracles appear in the strangest of places,” and I think Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is about the strangest place imaginable. Recently it has taken a miracle comeback by the greatest college quarterback of all time** and a miracle play called a “kick-six” for Auburn to beat Alabama. Well, it takes three miracles to make a saint, and Gus might be on his way. If he can engineer a third, the talk of hot seats will turn into talk of statues (maybe not, but his seat will become the only thing cooler than being cool, Andre***)

Charlie Brown kicks the football on Saturday. Lucy can’t pull it back fast enough and the Tigers beat the unbeatable. They dream the impossible dream. On the birthday of Charles M. Schulz, a Charlie Brown is the hero.

If we played ‘em 10 times, they might win nine. But not Saturday. Not this time. Saturday, Auburn runs with them. Saturday, Auburn stays with them and Auburn shuts them down because it can! Saturday, Auburn is the greatest football team in the country. The Tigers were born to be football players, every one of them. And the Tigers are meant to be there Saturday afternoon. This is Auburn’s time. Alabama’s time is done—it’s over. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great football team Saban has. Screw ‘em! This is Gus’s Time! Now go out there and take it!****

Auburn Tigers 22

Alabama Crimson Tide 21

*I will fight you over this.

**I will also fight you on this.