Five years ago, me and Chris Fuhrmeister and Peggy Rossmanith and Everett Duke and Kim Hays and some other bros commandeered this space at SB Nation over some drinks at Lou's Pub in Lakeview, and the personnel has changed a lot - Chris does food takes at the mothership now and Walt has done a really great job of holding down the ideals we put in place. You can't say that of every leadership change on these blogs. And I can't say enough about how much I appreciate Walt not trashing the reputation that we originally sought to fix.
This year, I nearly gave it up. No, really. And I think I've said that for two years running, but this time, I was like super, super serious about it. I'm out of the podcast game these days and for the first time since I finished at Auburn in 2004, my voice won't be heard anywhere this football season. At all. Unless, like, we know each other IRL. You're all welcome for that btw.
But that's both why I wanted to give it up and ultimately why I didn't. Not worrying about it would be awesome, but I need an outlet. I simply have too many damn takes. And I'm surprised that some of you actually want to still hear them. Make no mistake: the thing about takes is that they're takes. Mine aren't better than yours and Paul Finebaum's aren't better than mine. They're takes. They're stupid damn takes about a big, stupid damn sport.
That's another reason I nearly gave this up: "takes" stopped being ironic.
Here is why I started making fun of the word "takes:" because Jay Barker said it all the damn time. Rather than ask an educated question to a guest, he would say things like "I'd like to get your take on football."
"Coach...offense. What's your take?"
He probably still does. He is awful at his job, but local car dealerships like to pay him money to hear him say their name because they have too much Bama in them. Can't knock that hustle, I suppose, but it makes for a shitty product and once you accept that and turn your dial to Birmingham Mountain Radio or even Magic 96, your resting blood pressure will be much healthier.
Then, at some point, bros that are paid real American dollars to DO takes started trying to ironically call takes takes. And you can't do that, bro. If you are a credentialed member of the media, you can't make fun of takes. It'd be like Tim Cook making fun of computers. You can't be in on every joke, cool sports media bro. If you want to wear something out and make it no fun anymore, stick with Harambe jokes. I think we all knew deep down THAT had a shelf life. "Takes" didn't until you got in on it, cool sports blogger dude. Leave takes alone.
So what then? Maybe I change the name of TAKES. I considered "EARNEST. SPORTS. OPINIONS." Because like the 1999 Santana featuring Rob Thomas of matchbox twenty smash hit "Smooth" and that sweet, sweet boy Harambe, everyone is too in on this thing now and it has made it unfun for me. And all this was ever really about was making me laugh at myself.
But no - like that smash hit and Olive Garden's endless breadsticks and Hidden Valley ranch and living through more catastrophe than a cat, TAKES is a part of this brand now. So strap the hell in, son.
Here goes, fam. These are TAKES:
1. Gus Malzahn didn't choose a quarterback because he doesn't have a quarterback. What he has are three okay quarterbacks. He doesn't have Cameron Jerrell Newton. He doesn't have Nick Marshall. He doesn't even have Chris F. Todd. He has three guys that are alright. And all of them have pros and cons. Maybe John Franklin III has the biggest upside, but Sean White feels like he leads the team the best and Jeremy Johnson feels like the most talented. But Sean can't make big plays and Jeremy makes really gross mistakes.
So which do you want to stick with? The guy who can't make plays in an offense that is supposed to make plays or the guy that makes big mistakes?
Gus Malzahn would really like to have a quarterback. I promise. But none of these guys have come forward and assured him that they are the guy. They've all stepped forward to assure him they COULD be the guy, but then they give reason for doubt.
So this is probably the way it's going to be for a while.
I know that isn't what you want to hear because bitching about it is more fun and this whole thing is just an escape from your actual problems. But that's the truth. When he rolls one of these three guys out that all kind of look the same and one of them looks special, he'll have a quarterback. And until that happens, as unpopular as it is to say, I am fine with the three quarterback system.
2. We knew this defense was gonna be nasty, and it is. I think that's what has shocked people that don't follow Auburn. I think that's why I always thought this year's team had eight wins in it. But WE knew it. And we were right. And for what may be the first time in his coaching career, defense is going to win games for Gus Malzahn this year.
3. The reason you're mad about it is because you had to watch it beside the Alabama game. I did that, too. I was in the basement of Cavanaugh's on 39th and Sansom with the Philadelphia Auburn club and we had one TV on Auburn and one TV on Alabama. And what Alabama is doing right now isn't fun. Nick Saban has not only sucked the joy out of football, he has stuffed a sock in its throat and strangled it and suffocated it and beaten its lifeless body with bats.
And for some reason, suggesting this is offensive to Alabama fans. I think I've said for three years: it shouldn't be. You did it! You beat football! You saved the princess!
Here is what that means for you, Auburn fan: Alabama fans are bored with it, too, but they aren't going to admit that because that'd be like admitting that you are having too much sex with Kate Upton and you're exhausted with it. Missionary got old, doggy got old. You can barely look at her dumb face anymore. So they're going to watch way more Auburn football since they have peers they can discuss that with. And they are going to mansplain your team to you. They'll tell you how to fan. Because they are unbiased, professional critics of the game now. You aren't, Barner. Shut up and listen. [This is a thing that has happened in sports media in this state for years, but now it is a full on thing with fans, too.]
The greatest contribution that Nick Saban made to college football, for the rest of us, was proving that it is in no way fixed. Because ESPN desperately wants to suck every dollar it can out of college football and they would love for someone else to be good at it.
I'm still watching because that's the culture I grew up in. These days, it's about the only thing I can talk to my dad about and I like my dad a lot. I guess that's sports. I'd say "in the South," but the more I have traveled in the past year or so and gotten outside of my small little bubble, I think that's sports everywhere.
I've just made peace with it now, and I certainly hadn't three or four years ago, but I have now. There's a decent chance that no sports team in history has dominated every one of its peers the way that Alabama does short of the Harlem Globetrotters.
Look, those TVs were beside each other, and in hindsight, the matchups were probably very, very comparable. The best team in country was playing the 20th best and the second best team in the country was playing a team that probably should have been ranked around that. And the best team in the country ABUSED their opponent. The second best team in the country? Well, their coach elected to go for it on fourth down within field goal range and up by six with a minute remaining against what most people outside of Lee County would call the luckiest team in America.
That kind of call won't get phone calls from mama when Nick Saban retires at the end of this season, Dabo.
4. I am still staunchly behind Gus Malzahn. New money Auburn fans need to get the hell over this, man. Like, I honestly can't even fathom firing the man right now and I've seen a lot of that dumbass take.
You're mad because Auburn doesn't have a quarterback. I promise, he is too. "MAYBE HE ORTA RECRUIT ONE." Yeah, dude. He got Alabama's Mr. Football, an Elite 11 AND Under Armour All-American Game MVP, and a JUCO transfer and they all turned out...fine.
You're mad because the greatest coach in the history of the sport is three hours away, mercilessly beating the crap out of the sport as a whole. I promise, he is too.
But the team I saw come up short on Saturday CAN win nine games. It probably WILL win eight. And that's way more than anyone thought. And winning championships is gonna be hard as long as that guy (a noted fan of The Eagles) is across the state.*
*Auburn's current head coach somehow, some damn way, against all odds found a way to coordinate a national championship and head coach for another WHILE that guy was across the same damn state. The Auburn I grew up knowing didn't have a real shot at a national championship until I was 28-years-old. Settle the hell down and thank God that Pat Dye and Tommy Tuberville busted their ass to make that possible.