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Vive La Malvoisine

To arms! or “to the arm!”

NCAA Football: Birmingham Bowl-Houston at Auburn Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

It’s June, the year 1210. You’re a soldier, marching under the command of the Count Simon de Montfort up to the fortress of Minerve in southern France. It’s warm. Your armor is drenched and everything smells as bad as you imagine the entirety of middle ages Europe smells. Maybe even worse. No one showers, everyone has bad breath because seriously what were they even drinking and eating back then, and horse manure is a constant cologne. You and several hundred others are on a mission from God.

Inside this fortress are several hundred Cathars—heretics of the highest order. You and your army have driven them and their ideas almost to extinction and this is your chance to eradicate their dangerous gnostic dualism from the planet. You can’t have people believing the Old Testament god and the New Testament god are different gods! What part of “we believe in one God, the Father, Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen,” do they not understand? These Cathar knights, priests, and civilians were holed up in an “impenetrable” fortress called Minerve atop a limestone cliff 246 yards above a river. They had provisions, they had water nearby, they had time to kill.

Simon de Montfort, asks you—an engineer—to build something you’d only read about in books. You and others begin gathering beams and felling trees. You enlist other soldiers to work as carpenters and begin construction. Massive stones from the river are brought and carved to order. By the time you finish, the trebuchet you’ve built stands several stories high and is capable of launching one ton rocks directly into the cliff walls high above you. The Count orders you to begin the siege. Over and over, stones rock the cliff face shaking the mountain itself. For hours and hours and days and days you and your men launch stone after stone from your device. De Montfort begins calling this trebuchet “Malvoisine” or “bad neighbor” as it hammers the walls of the cliff. Finally, the well shaft within the cliff collapses. The Cathar surrender, and yadda, yadda, yadda...France is a Catholic country.*

The trebuchet is tall, it is tough to maneuver, and it is deadly when given room to operate. When it was allowed time and space to hurl stones, there was nothing that could stand in its way. It was a simple machine, a marvel of engineering, and a testament that sometimes just being the biggest counts for something.

Even the most impregnable defenses can’t stand up against a big giant machine launching bombs.

Our bad neighbor is TJ Finley. He is a giant at 6-7 and can throw a ball from here to Pontchatoula if he needs to. If kept upright, he is capable of launching missile after missile against even the stoutest defense. There is not a coverage that is capable of withstanding the Bad Neighbor. I like that name, and I think it’s because for the longest time I have felt like Auburn is—to borrow a soccer term used to describe Manchester City by Manchester United fans—the ‘noisy neighbors.’ Our neighbors, Georgia and Alabama, rightfully demand a lot of spilled ink, but Auburn keeps making noise. Auburn can be the fly in the ointment, the stick in the spokes, the wrench in the works of a season like no team in college football history save maybe the Pitt super weapon itself. We are bad neighbors. We don’t really get along with the HOA, we might have some questionable signage in the front yard, and maybe we throw too loud of parties every now and again.

We keep throwing stuff at the wall too. We know eventually the cracks will show. We know if we can just keep hurling rocks, eventually something will break our way. TJ Finley is Auburn’s QB because, in a lot of ways, TJ Finley is Auburn. They brought two guys in to beat him for the job—two guys everyone thinks are better than him, and he just kept throwing it. He just kept throwing it against the wall, knowing it would eventually work. He kept launching bombs, trusting that nothing can stand up for long.

He’s the bad neighbor, we are the bad neighbor. Vive la Malvoisine.

*You’re better off not looking up what happened to the folks in Minerve, it’s a tough look for Christendom