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History Repeating? Auburn-Vanderbilt

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What does the birth of an ‘American Treasure’ have to do with this week’s Auburn-Vanderbilt game?

NCAA Football: Auburn at Mississippi
Youthful Enthusiasm
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Well, old friends, this Auburn train keeps moving right on down the tracks. Ole Miss barely a grease spot in the distance, we now barrel down on the Commodores from Vanderbilt. Will a school from a land-locked state whose mascot is a commander of at least two naval ships be able to handle the ruckus Kam Pettway seems to be bringing wherever he goes?

There is only one way to find out unless you want to just wait until Saturday afternoon but that’s lame. In case you haven’t been reading these each week: I will look into the past to see what major event occurred on the same date as this week’s Auburn-Vanderbilt game to see who will win! Time is like still water and we will look for a ripple where there is no pebble tossed nor wind to blow.

The Birth of Bill Walton

William Theodore Walton was born on November 5, 1952. He grew up in San Diego, California, and was one of the most dominant young basketball players who has ever lived. His 1973 national championship performance against Memphis State is one of the greatest displays of excellence in the history of the Western Civilization (Bill Walton voice). He went 21-22 from the floor and scored 44 points—more than half his team’s total—to win the title.

When he was fifteen years old, he heard a radio deejay introduce a song by a band named The Grateful Dead, and that moment would change his life. Walton, who is—in my opinion—one of the 40 greatest basketball players to ever put on sneakers, is known almost as much for his eccentric, Dead-head personality as his basketball exploits. His commentary style is divisive, to say the least. Some people love the way he might go five full minutes without talking about the game he is watching, instead focusing on the Chinese economy, historical events that occurred near to the stadium he is in, or just talking about Grateful Dead shows he saw one time. Other people are sticks-in-the-mud and are too square to appreciate what Ole Bill is trying to do, man. Bill Walton is an American treasure.

The weird thing about this is he is one of the most well-known sports commentators and had to overcome a severe stuttering problem just to be able to talk at all. To think, we would have been robbed of hearing how “Robert Horry is the greatest entry-to-post passer in the history of basketball,” or this incredible soliloquy on Boris Diaw:

You know your take is about to be fire when you start it with “It was 201 years ago today that...”*

My personal favorite Bill Walton quote comes from an interview he did about his UCLA teams from way back. When asked about a particular game-winner he said, “That ball was put up to decide the fate of Western civilization. The game itself was a celebration of life — such a joyful explosion of youthful enthusiasm, just racing up and down this court, celebrating the dream and the vision, a harmonic convergence of the highest order.” Celebrating the dream and the vision, y’all. Compare that with the “He shot it and it went in, so we won,” most athletes give you.

Auburn-Vanderbilt

When I think of Bill Walton, I think of the Grateful Dead, and when I think of the Grateful Dead, I think of Bill Walton. I also think about this BP station in Auburn when I was in school there. On the corner of Gay St. and Samford Ave. stood what I called, to myself, the “hippie BP” because all day and all night the crusty dudes working there seemed to be jamming nothing but the Dead, Widespread Panic, and Phish tunes. These stone cold chillers at the hippie BP kept that good stuff turned up so loud you could hear it as you drove by on the way to campus. I haven’t been to Auburn recently enough to know if that is still the case, but I hope desperately that it is. We live in a very un-chill world these days, and we need this Platonic ideal of chill—a nexus to the laid back universe—just as much as anything else. People like Bill Walton and places like the Hippie BP at the corner of Gay and Samford make this world a more interesting and tolerable place.

In honor of Bill, I would like everyone to get Franklin’s Tower ready to go, and then sing along with these new Auburn-inspired lyrics.

Weeks one and two: forgotten days

Your eyes looked at a QB race

Wild-cat runs and the fan base moans

Now the running game brings us safely home

Pettway’s the dude

Pettway’s the dude

Pettway’s the dude

Pettway’s the dude

I'll tell you where their defense fails

In Malzahn's playbook, he’s planned it well

Bubba runs, all night and day

Bubba runs and shows us the way

Pettway’s the dude

Pettway’s the dude

Pettway’s the dude

Pettway’s the dude

God saved the coach that runs that ball

We may win the whole thing, baby, you can't tell

Beat the Rebs at night, the ‘Dores by day

Don’t get the blues watching Bama play

Some come to relive their past days

Some come to watch their favorite game

Whatever reason you give to your friends

If Kamryn runs he’s gonna get us the win

Pettway’s the dude

Pettway’s the dude

Pettway’s the dude

Pettway’s the dude

In Malzahn’s Playbook, the Wing-T sleeps

We all hope White can throw it deep

Johnson scores and it’s fun and then

Kamryn trucks right through the D again

Pettway’s the dude

Pettway’s the dude

Pettway’s the dude

You'd better hand it to the dude

Pettway’s the dude

Pettway’s the dude

Pettway’s the dude

You'd better get out the way of the dude - PETTWAY!

Tell me Bill Walton wouldn’t love that ridiculous song. Because of that song I wrote, because of Bill Walton, and because of the Hippie BP, Auburn is going to win this football game. No school that exists in the same town as a gas station where Bill Walton would put Bio-diesel in his VW van if he had one and was ever in Auburn can ever lose a game to freaking Vanderbilt on Bill Walton’s birthday.

Alright Tiger fans, what I want you to do is to write more Grateful Dead lyrics for Bill’s birthday. Let’s see some Truckin’, some Touch of Grey, some Sugar (College and) Magnolia. With enough good vibes in one place, this game won’t be a long strange trip, but instead a Golden Road.

To Bill Walton, Happy Birthday and War Eagle.

Auburn: 32 (Bill’s number at UCLA and for the Trailblazers)

Vandy: 13

*See: like, my whole thing...