Sunday, September 2, 2007
Brethren: If you readers out there in the interwebs ever wondered how or why the Sports Brethren are the way we are, Nacho and I thought we'd give ya a little piece of the puzzle today. See, we are just learning that our pappy, whom we affectionately call Cap'n Pappy, is a bit of wordsmith himself.
So we's gonna let the Cap'n pen our first guest column. His subject: what else? What he knows best: Southern football.
If you wanna a glimpse into the fantastical world it is to be a Cloud boy, keep on reading after:
My first inklings of the impact of SEC football in the South was living in Memphis in the late 50’s. The only thing bigger at the time was Elvis…until September. Each year the last reigning days of “the King” was his show at the Mid South Fair, the Cotton Carnival in early September. After that it was SEC football night and day. After the heat of the delta summer baked in all the smells, every morning of game day Saturdays, the first coolness of fall released the aroma of the mown grass, earth damp from the morning dew, and woodsmoke from early fires.
Memphis was turf battled over by warring Rebel/Vol factions. Even though technically we were in Tennessee, Ole Miss was a national powerhouse (national champions in ’59, ’60, and ’62). North Mississippians regaled us with tales of Coach Johnny Vaught and his All Americans: Charlie Conerly, Jake Gibbs, Cowboy Woodruff, Charlie Flowers, and Billy Brewer. The national anthem was followed immediately by “Dixie” and rebel yells and then the kickoff. Tennessee was actually a weak sister led by Johnnie Majors. Our personal experience of this was the annual Tennessee/Ole Miss football game in Memphis at Thanksgiving, sometimes even sitting thru snow. At that time the LSU Tigers, with Paul Dietzel’s Chinese Bandit defense competed with the Ole Miss Rebels. Billy Cannon returned a punt in the 4th quarter for the Bayou Bengals against the Rebels 89 yards to win 7-3 at night in Death Valley. Bear Bryant was the new coach at Alabama. Our neighborhood kid, Mike Fracchia, whose parents owned Fracchia’s grocery store at the end of the block, chose to go to Alabama and we actually pitied him.
So after being born and bred into the SEC and absorbing the lore of pit barbecue, tailgating spreads, rebel yells, and the tribal pride of whipping the other guys ass, we moved into the Swamp, the land of the Gator. Unfortunately, the Gators were dismal until they recruited a brash young guy from Tennessee to play quarterback, future Heisman trophy winner, Steve Spurrier. Insanely, the Gators actually beat the likes of the Tide under Spurrier. So a new tradition developed. Stetson-hatted cattle ranchers and citrus grove bosses, descended across Payne’s Prairie to a little cow town north of Ocala in their boat shaped Cadillacs with the steer horns on the hood. Once these shit-kickers got a taste of whipping the boys from LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss, and Tennessee, they were blooded. The quaint stadium surrounded by pine trees, live oaks, and Spanish moss gave way to The Swamp: a grueling, Saturn rocket loud, enclosed, subterranean field where opponents would be exposed to conditions of 110-120 degrees. Unfortunately for them, the mighty Gators thrived on the subtropical conditions and the boys from “up north” in Alabama and Tennessee were only used to 90 degrees. A river of athletic football talent flowed thru the Swamp that drowned the visiting boys. They were in over their heads. Larry Smith, Jack Youngblood, Jack Harper, Charlie Casey, Spurrier, Steve Tannen, John Reeves, Emmitt Smith, Leto Shepard, The Freek Kersey, Fred Taylor, Alex Brown, Dallas Baker, Tony Green, Wes Chandler, and now Tim Tebow.
There can be no better Saturday than waking up early and hitting the EC Rowell Highway. This is quite possibly the longest perfectly straight flat road in the world outside a desert and a favorite of armadillos. It is literally a strip of asphalt elevated about 3 feet above the cypress and pine of the Green Swamp on either side. There is no shoulder. We would finally get to Highway 301 and later the Interstate joining the trucks and cadillacs at Payne’s Prairie with pennants flapping. This armada then descends on Sonny’s or the Big D for barbecue to fuel the 6 hour tailgate. The crowds from Apopka to Zephyrhills then converge past pine, palm, and live oak covered in Spanish moss across the sandy Bermuda and Bahia, to arrive at the bane of all northern Southern boys: the Swamp. Abandon hope all ye who enter here! After 2 bits, Orange/Blue echoes off the Bell Tower, and the thrashing on the grass administered by the reptilian kings of the gridiron, the only thing left to do is to watch the Coach praise the boys from Kissimmee to Maclenny on the Sun Sports Network on Sunday.