A leader with a bold and rambunctious personality and a unique voice recognizable to all and imitated by everyone?
A loyal fan base that has suddenly come out of the woodwork because of a lack of satisfaction with the establishment?
A fan base that also has trouble with spelling and denial?
A stupid slogan made for the hashtag and great for bumper stickers, yard signs, and your great aunt's Facebook profile pic?
CHECK AND BLESSED Y'ALL.
No, it's not Trump. It's Gump (oh cute, they rhyme, too!). As in, Gump Hard. As in, #BuckleUp. Yeah, all that.
It's Alabama Basketball fans. Really, though, it's Alabama Hoops Twitter, and the only thing I've enjoyed this season more than clicking on #BuckleUp and seeing hundreds of local government safety tweets from around the country has been the fact that Alabama won five SEC games in a row in the same season Donald Trump won three Republican primaries in a row. Good lord, what a time to be alive.
It's crazy over there in T-Town right now...and in America. All of a sudden, dozens of Alabama fans are on the Avery bus. Or train. Or hybrid car...airplane? Do we know for sure what kind of vehicle they've been joyriding in all season? I haven't received a confirmation yet.
And hey, you know what? Let's give 'em credit. Let's give credit to a team that won a pretty nice little stretch of five SEC games in a row against Mississippi State, Missouri, Texas A&M, Florida, and LSU this season...followed immediately by a loss to, well, Mississippi State. How fitting that the fall of Donald Trump, a Democrat in Republican's clothing who somehow initially gained notoriety with a bunch of angry Southern Evangelicals (yeah, I know...it doesn't make sense, and I don't get it, either), will likely and eventually (and hopefully, goodness) rest on the shoulders of the South and states like Mississippi ("Rubio, Rubio, RU-BI-OOOHHHH").
By the way...did you know that our coach is fat? Because I did. By my count, it's been tweeted at least five times...maybe more...who's counting? It must really suck losing to a fat guy or something. I wasn't aware of this notion until this year.
Shameful as it might be to admit this, I also wasn't aware Ben Carson was still running. Seriously, I genuinely had to ask myself that out loud today as I went to work. I'll probably ask myself again tonight when I'm out on the town past his bedtime (still love you, Dr. Carson, but bless your heart, please do us all a favor...).
Oh, don't get me wrong. Auburn hoops has been a—you guessed it!—dumpster fire (you can look up the tweets yourself this time). And as a hard Barner, that's hard for me to say. I mean, shoot, I watched us beat Kentucky on my TV. I was in attendance for the game in which our overweight coach and his team beat Alabama in January, and at the time, I really thought we'd be going places. That place, as I came to find, was the trainer's table. Good grief, I haven't seen this many injuries to a team since Jeb Bush's campaign spent over half a year hemorrhaging money.
I also haven't witnessed more denial from a group of people since Hillary Clinton first graced us with her presence back in the Roaring Twenties. We have a series with Alabama most seasons (that's two games for those of you who are brand new to basketball, and there are a lot of you in this category who are living in this state), and right now, the series is 1-0, Auburn.
SHOCKING, I KNOW. WE UNBUCKLED THEM...OR SOMETHING.
Since Iron Ball: Part 1, Auburn has gone 2-7 in conference play (and if you add the loss to Oklahoma State, that's 2-8), Kareem Canty has left the program, Tyler Harris got knocked out with a concussion against Ole Miss, and I've lost my voice/contracted a sinus infection for a solid two consecutive weeks.
On the flip side, the Tide have gone 6-4 since Iron Ball: Part 1, and this has brought much delight to Alabama's loyal band of hoopsters (that's a combination of the words "hoops" and "hipsters" for you older folks who aren't quite as hip as the kids on your block wearing the #FeeltheBern t-shirts as they leave their parents' houses for their first shift at Starbucks). Currently, Alabama is having a better season than Auburn and five other teams in the SEC without even having to beat Kentucky, and they're posting a better overall record than Auburn without even having to play UAB! Or scheduling them! Or acknowledging that they exist! Hooray!
But, alas. It doesn't matter, because as I mentioned before...and Alabama fans have gathered on social media en masse to let us know that they're still the best team in the state with the best coach in the state (despite the paragraph above). Sigh. Logic is...challenging. But—just like Donald Trump's Twitter timeline—if it's on the Internet, well, it's gotta be true.
Ugh, let's just preview this thing.
IRON BALL: PART TWO - PREVIEW
Tomorrow afternoon (or today, for those of you who don't read on Friday nights), Auburn rolls into Tuscaloosa for the second part of this little dance we call the Iron Ball, and Alabama is favored to win. Yep, it's gonna be tough to come out of there with a win—even with T.J. Dunans back in the lineup. But look, y'all. Alabama is the best team in the state. Their fans keep saying it, so it must be true. There's no shame in losing to big brother when he's told you a million times after the first time you beat him that he's still big brother. And let's not forget how much adversity Alabama has to endure and overcome. Lord, so much adversity. All the adversity.
It's pretty straightforward. Best-team-in-the-state-to-already-have-lost-to-Auburn-and-not-played-UAB Alabama has this player from Belgium or somewhere who, according to Twitter, enrolled there after time as a bulldozer mechanic or something.
Auburn has Cinmeon Bowers at point guard. Or, we did. Now we've got Dunans the Slasher back.
This kid who drove bulldozers in Belgium—or maybe just bulldozed the whole country of Belgium? Idk, really...wait, is that why I can't ever find that country on a map???—is named Retin Obasohan, and he's the Tide's leading scorer with 17.4 points per game.
Best case scenario: Retin is ice cold and gets real friendly with the front of the rim all afternoon.
Worst case scenario: As is tradition, he scores all of Alabama's points, unzips his disguise, and reveals that is he actually just Trent Richardson after a year of studying abroad, unnoticed.
Alabama also has this giant man named Jimmie Taylor on the team, and the only thing bigger than the number of degrees of incline from his neck to his shoulders (I mean, pure, double-black-diamond slopes for those of you who want to pause your DVR and take a gander...they give most roller coaster drops a bad name) is his mouth. He once said that this state we're living in (Alabama) was theirs. As in, the state of Alabama apparently belongs to The University of Alabama now. This is another factoid I wasn't aware of.
I guess Jimmie Taylor wasn't aware that no matter what state your mouth plants its flag in, you can't commit five fouls in a game. That was a real bummer. Such promise for this mysterious basketball Magellan met with the ultimate agony of the bench.
Best case scenario: He retires from basketball after the first half and declares that he is ready to achieve his lifelong dream of becoming a cartographer, and he somehow (and gracefully, I predict) exits Coleman Coliseum in a deer-skin canoe.
Worst case scenario: He scores eternal field goals from spots inside the arc that, when later analyzed, actually form the outline of the state of Alabama.
Alabama also has a guy named Arthur Edwards who shoots a really dangerous three ball, an iiiiittttyyyy biiitttyyyy little fella named Justin Coleman, another player from Europe or Vermont or Ottawa or something named Michael Kessens, and a couple of corn-fed white boys that would fit in perfectly at our little cow college.
Auburn's lineup? Basically whoever isn't in some kind of cast, plus maybe a couple of Italians that work in the deli down the street and whose father won't let them play sports until they've finished their shifts stocking veal cutlets. They love hoops in Italy.
I'm not gonna sit here and give you the same stats I give you every week. Seriously, have you noticed that I use the same formula for every single stinkin' basketball preview? You should have figured it out by now. I'm more predictable than a table reading for an episode of The Walking Dead. You should be thanking me for this distraction.
Just heed my final warning:
If we win tomorrow/today (depending on when you're reading this), Auburn will have beaten Alabama twice this season. That means that the series will be 2-0, Auburn. You could also call that a "sweep."
Alabama will not concede this, however, because our coach will still be, well, you know, and despite Alabama losing to us twice and not playing UAB, they will still have the best coach in the state and thus somehow remain the best team in the state. The salt will flow. Again, logic is challenging.
If we lose tomorrow/today, which could very well happen given our lineup situation and a sold-out home crowd for the Tide (which is totally, like, the norm, you guys), you really will need to #BuckleUp, because Alabama Hoopster Twitter will be unleashed tomorrow night/tonight. You will see a deluge of tweets related to Alabama basketball that you never even dreamed was possible. You remember that night when they won, like, their 417th National Championship in football? Peanuts compared to a basketball win over Auburn to even the season series at 1-1.
Oh, and you can bet your bottom dollar that the latter "1" in that last sentence for Alabama will magically disappear. It will have never happened, for all they care. Don't doubt me on this. It's just...it's hard to explain, but that loss will find itself wheeled on a dolly into whatever secret government warehouse the Shula Years ended up like in that final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Don't worry—it'll be examined by top men.
Granted, an Alabama victory tomorrow/today will not be disputed by this Barner. A win is a win, period, and I will acknowledge that. A win over Bama in January that followed a win over Kentucky (and wins over Arkansas and Georgia this month and a win over UAB in the fall) will make that pill a little easier to swallow. Not pleasant, but easier.
In fact, our only hope might be to do what we did in the game against Alabama in January (which we won)—cheat.
I will also stay true to my hard Barning and predict an Auburn victory, but rest assured, if Alabama wins tomorrow/today, they will still claim a series victory and supreme state dominance the way that your neighborhood friend growing up would claim a victory in backyard football after scoring last to tie the game before his mom called him home for dinner, because that's totally how it worked then, and it's totally how it works now. Victory at all costs, logic and records and reality be damned.
A page right out of the Donald Trump playbook.
War Damn Eagle.
How to Watch:
Auburn vs. Alabama
When: 4:00 PM CT
Watch: SEC Network
Listen: Auburn IMG Network
Radio Affiliates: 100.5 FM (Birmingham), 94.3 FM (Auburn), 1230 AM (Huntsville), 106.5 FM (Mobile), 92.3 FM (Montgomery)