Well, well, well...lookee what we have here? Seems like we done Hoodoo'd our way back into control of our own destiny, no? Our anti-orange, anti-inbred Hoodoo was so strong that it carried over to the next week, successfully powering this week's foe LSWho to an upset victory over the Rebels and giving us another shot at the college playoff crag-dangle that we have looming at the end of this here football season.
By some magical, unexplainable quirk of the Hoodooverse, we, the previously forsaken, are right back up in the grill of the college football world. Can you feel the hatred? This Dark Lord of the Sith here can feel it...and it is good. Alabama Nation is at its best (some would say worse) when it is thoroughly hated, and I'll be damned if that's not where we find ourselves right now. Hated, despised, loathed. But to loosely quote Our Dark Lord, that's the way it's gotta be and that's the way we like it.
Now, on to business...for you see, in this Hoodoo chapter, we must match powers with the mischievous swamp-based purveyors of their own brand of the Dark Arts, a vile pool of nefariousness into which only the most brave and right-with-God would dare to dip a toe. You see, the evil twin of our own beloved, good-natured Hoodoo is that exotic, shadowy villain, Voodoo. Those beard-wearers practice that chicken-blood-wringin', babydoll-pokin', white-face-paintin', Marie Laveau-typa get-down over there on the Bayou. And it is a fearsome force, to be sure, one that can't be fully understood by those not raised within its dark embrace.
So to say we'll be tested this week, both on the field of battle and in the swirling cauldrons of Hoodoo/ Voodoo practitioners, is an exercise in understatement. To once again quote from The Book of Saban, Chapter 2, Verse 3: "The most important game is the next game." And it just so happens that the next game is against the heathen brace of corndog afficianados in purple and yellow. To make matters worse, we'll be playing in Death Valley, at night, and as anyone who has had more than a casual conversation with a resident of Whoville knows, "Deaf Valluh at naught is majicole." Just ask Ole Miss.
But a Hoodoo I have come to lay down, and Football Loki is an impatient sumbitch. He doesn't suffer fools, but thank the Good Lord he apparently suffers long-winded idiots. I'm gonna do my best here on these pages this week, but it's going to take a group effort to overcome that Voodoo shite they'll be sprayin' in Baton Rouge prior to our arrival. So do your best, and make it hurt.
Now, let me light the kindlin' under this here Hoodoo tale. Sit a spell, let that fatwood smoulder keep the skeeters off'n ya, and take a listen at this unbelievably embarrassing yarn spun from the days of my wanton youth.
It's no secret I've always been a huge fan of the sporting world. Played baseball (horribly), stepped into the ring as an amateur boxer (and did quite well, 13-0 with 12 KO's) and made a little extra scratch in college as a bare-knuckle brawler in dive bars along the Gulf Coast (I was nasty, y'all...as was the sport, I'm surprised to this day that I didn't contract hepatitis). However, in an ironic twist of Universal Fate, I never played the sport I loved the most, namely, football.
Now make no mistake about it, I certainly could have. I was big and athletic and mean as a bitin' sow. And I was smart too, would have been prime lineman material, though I always fancied playing linebacker like my sporting idol Derrick Thomas. As a boxer, I was already inclined to violence, as there's simply nothing like mashing one's fist into the face-putty of an opponent, or landing a low hook to the tip of the rib cage (right above the liver) so hard that you hear the audible crack and feel the ribs give beneath the blow.
(It is a rush, y'all, but not for the faint of heart. Whether in sport or the street, my death blow was always the lead hand right hook to the body from the southpaw stance, hard to anticipate and powerful. When you hit a man in the face, he hurts for a while and bears the shame of a visible wound. But when you break a man's ribs, well, that poor feller is going to feel that pain every time he draws a breath...for weeks to come. And that, my friends, is poetry, a beautiful thing....Told y'all I was mean as a spittin' snake.)
Because of my ill-temper and violent intentions, I gravitated towards the defensive side of the ball in my study of the greatest team sport ever devised. I wanted to play football, actually thought about it in high school. But then there was my sometimes-absent father. He didn't give two shreds of fatback about me and B-Rad less'n he could take some credit for it. He had no use for us, unless it meant he could live vicariously throughout our exploits and brag to his friends about our grade point average or batting average. He was, and still is, a hollow man, a sad sack of humanity who is a human vacuum of energy. The man wears his pride like a scarlet cloak, just out there for all to see. We didn't fraternize with him because of that, in addition to his love of philandering with plus-size women and those in possession of what we, in these parts, call a "whore-mouth." He'd shake his tube-steak at anything in a skirt, no loyalty to anyone, and was as avid a bird-dog of BBW women as a Viagra-addled Bill Clinton at a Cankle Festival.
But back to our narrative, to sum up my relationship with my father, if I wasn't making him proud, or (gasp) if I shamed him by say striking out, he wouldn't piss on me to put out a fire. True story.
Anyway, I loved playing baseball, and was an excellent fielder (Ozzie Smith was my baseball hero...keepin' in down home #251 #MOB #WizardofOz). I could play every position on the field save pitcher, and I was fair-to-middlin' on my worst day. But when it came time to get in the batter's box, I always had a problem. You see, I had been pegged in the head (go ahead, get in your ‘So THAT'S what happened to OWB' jokes in now...Christmas is right around the corner, after all) by a minor leaguer with a 65 mph fastball early in my career, and I had been stricken with a horrible case of bat-shyness (not to be confused with chiroptophobia, or fear of the flying critter known as the bat.) Despite my psychological limitations, I always took my at-bat like a trooper...and swung at the first three pitches thrown just so I could go back to the dugout.
This, of course, was a great cause of shame for my father. He'd stand by the dugout and jab at me through the green chain-link, ridiculing me in front of my teammates while they giggled. Then, when it was my turn in the box, he'd scream and yell his disapproval for all to hear. It was ridiculous, and it is the reason I gave up on organized team sports forever.
I also remember another time that he decided to take an interest in me: it was at the time of my ascention to ninth grade. He didn't like the fact that I was in the band, or the fact that because of his financial neglect and deadbeatism, the only instrument I could play was one handed down to me...a clarinet. As an adult, this is really no big deal to me, as I am a renaissance man of the highest order. But for a middle and high school kid, being the only clarinet player of the male persuasion was torturous. It led to many an ass whuppin' for my fellow bandmates, and many catcalls during Mardi Gras parades, so much so that I branched out and took up the saxophone, which is decidedly more masculine.
At any rate, my mother had charged my father with carrying me to the bandroom prior to my freshman year to get fitted for my uniform. He accepted the task, with a nefarious purpose in mind. He wanted to trick (or shame) me into playing football and giving up band. He was friends with the high school's coach at the time, multi-time state championship winner (and Aub) Terry Curtis, and figured he'd introduce me and get Terry to recruit me into the fold and give up that silly music business.
"Let's go see Coach Curtis before we go to the band room," he said. I was against it, as I just wanted to get done and get home. I couldn't stand being around my father, as he was an asshole who took great joy in pointing out the flaws of others, partially because of the hollowness of his own soul and the fact that he is so unhappy with the way his life has unfolded that he has no other recourse than to tear down others.
We entered the coach's office. "Terry, this is my son OWB."
Respectfully, I shook his hand and said "Good to meet you, Coach."
"Whoa, now you a big ole boy, be bigger than your daddy. Why haven't I seen you in football meetings?"
"Well Coach, I'm in the band, figured I couldn't do both."
He understood, but my dad decided to turn up the heat.
"Yeah, I told him he better play football, he probably won't get any girls if he doesn't play football, these lil' hunnies don't want anything to do with a band geek." Then he laughed. Coach Curtis and I were equally mortified by the awkwardness of the situation, and that was the silver bullet that assassinated that conversation.
So because of this exchange, and the fact that by that age I didn't want my dad to take any part in my life after years of absence, I elected not to play football. But that didn't mean my love of it ended. See, my football smarts are derived from my mom. She is dyed-in-the-wool crimson, through and through, here side of the family hailing from Vance, AL, just down the highway from our Mecca in T'Town. Though she's not a tactician, she is passionate and can name every player on the two-deep from the current era back to Coach Bryant's time. Sitting on the couch with mom on Saturdays, watching Bama football, was where my love of football blossomed. Good times, makes me think maybe I need to catch a game with mom sometime soon.
But I digress. Though I didn't play high school football, I was friends with many of the starters. We'd organize impromptu post-school pick-up games on the practice field behind Shaw, and I could easily run with the those fellers. It would be 11-on-11, straight-up physical ball the way they played it at the time. After a particularly stunning performance on my part against the football team' starters, my buddy (a starting linebacker) asked me why I never came out for the team. Unwilling to admit that my father was the reason I didn't play, I instead chose to besmirch Coach Curtis by stating that I would never play for an Aub coach. Silly, but I maintained this excuse for years until I felt comfortable enough with myself to admit the true reason that I skipped high school sports. (Let this be a cautionary tale to the young fathers among you...let your kids love what they love and don't force things upon them.)
When we weren't at school, we'd pull together the neighborhood kids at the middle school in our neighborhood, where they had a lush, verdant field of bahia grass free of trees and stumps upon which we could run roughshod. Those were the best times of my young life, when a day could be wholly devoted to preparing for, and playing in, a shirts-versus-skins football game with chain-link boundary lines and end-zone planes fabricated from hunks of asphalt mined from the parking lot north of the field. Many Southern men grew up with this same ritual, and I am afraid to say that by my observation, it is a practice from a lost era of Southerness in all but the most rural corners of this state, killed off by the likes of electronica and 24/7 entertainment.
Our group of usual suspects included me, B-Rad, my cousin Bock, my friend Mook, a neighborhood kid you've heard called in these parts before as Jokalet, and an assortment of other bit players who would join some games and abstain from others. Now this was man's football, I tell you what. Full contact, no two-hand-touch sissification was allowed in this particular get-down. And none of those cotdang pads and helmets either, we were just slamming muscle into muscle until the lactic acid build-up dragged us to the ground or the sun dimmed the lights at day's end.
As I mentioned before, I was a big ole corn-fed young'un, the biggest of our group. That pretty much meant our offense generally consisted of a pass or run play to me, then I'd steam-roll everyone between the line of scrimmage and the end zone. It'd take three or four to knock me of my stride, and I loved it.
On one occasion, a Sunday if the memory draws enough clarity to accurately recall, we invited several of the high school football players to join us. They were game, since the season had ended the week before with no hope of a continuation in the playoffs. On the day of the game, they arrived in droves like a horde of orcs spilling over the fence and into the school yard, many of whom had friends and girlfriends in tow. Bass was pounding from their parked cars, some of the girls were cheerleaders and brought their pompoms to cheer on their lovin' men. With all the ruckus outside, a few of the neighbors who lived in close proximity to the school found fence posts to lean on, as hardly anyone in that neighborhood could resist anything that looked like an organized sport. It was quite the scene, and we were at the center of it.
Now these boys were at least my size, muscled up from hours in the weight room. And, they had the added advantage of some real-world playing experience to their credit. One feller, let's just call him Williams, was stacked up like Trent Richardson: this sumbitch was built like muscle-bound redwood. I drew the unfortunate task of manhandling him on both offense and defense, since there wasn't really anyone else who could realistically be expected to hold him.
The guy was tough, but I held my own. I remember on one kick-off, I decided to throw a block on him and came in high...that didn't go so well. He blew me up and put me on the ground in violent fashion. It was like I had been hit with a jolt of electricity, my teeth clinched and crunched as I slammed into the ground. "Dayum," I thought. I'd met my match.
But I was a competitor, and I took the challenge of beating this sasquatch into submission. On the next running play, I ran something we called the ".357 magnum," a play we drew up in the dirt and used to great success in our school yard games. It was basically a two back set with a lead blocker: the quarterback would pitch the ball to the tailback (me) who'd hit the hole created by the center and fullback. It usually worked like a charm, as it gave me a chance to get my momentum going, and a 230 pound load is hard for a high school kid to take down.
Williams slid over into the hole and shed my tiny lead blocker. I bowed up and slammed into him the way Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, and the result was nearly as ugly. I got low before contact and knocked him off his center of gravity, sending him to the ground while his fellow football player teammates laughed at him.
Well, that just pissed him off. He began to get chippy, and I returned the favor, shoving him into a chain-link backstop (which served as one of the boundary lines) on a toss sweep to keep him from getting the edge. Boy looked like he'd been run across a cheese grater, just shredded on one side of his body. But to his credit, he kept on coming, and his team was the only one in a while that'd been able to keep pace with our power running attack. The game played on, the score remained knotted in a tie.
The sun was setting, and I figured time was getting short. We were even at 42-all, and it appeared that we would likely keep slugging it out, matching scores until the sun drooped below the sagging swag of the horizon.
With that possibility looming on the horizon, I had a sidebar with the other team's leader, a kid we called Mike-Mike. We negotiated a terminus to the endeavor, as both teams and the time were wearing thin. The game came down to one possession each, a ghetto-engineered overtime, if you will. Seeing the futility of our current struggle, we decided that each team would have one more possession: the game would either end in a tie, or one team would seize victory. Being the competitive sort, I had decided I would not be denied...relentlessness and shit. I was definitely playing to a standard and treating every play as though it had a life of its own.
Coin flip, they won it. They elected to take the ball first, from the 20. After two ill-advised incomplete passes (one of which Jokalet nearly picked) and a run stuffed at mid-field, we were on the brink of stopping them and giving our ragged band a chance at the win. I figured Williams would get the ball and they'd try to power it in, told everyone to just wrap up and wait on the cavalry. We were fooled, however, as they attempted a long pass on a post-route to the end zone, and Bock (a high school DB) adeptly swatted it away despite the ruse.
Our ball. We started at our 20 and went to work. First two downs were short slant passes, just to keep them off balance. We ran it once, converted the third down. Started off the next series with a sweet button-hook-out that Bock and I had rehearsed a thousand times in his backyard. Jokalet had a gritty run on a sweep to the left. Our offense was clicking, and we were putting yards behind us. The cheers from the chorus of cuties began to rise, despite the fact that several were watching their boyfriends fall in defeat.
Finally, the opposing defense rose to the occasion, buoyed by the cheering girlfriends and their own prideful demeanors. They stopped us on three consecutive downs: they hit me behind the line on another .357 play, there was a dropped screen pass by Mook and then B-Rad fumbled the snap and covered it for no gain. Fourth (and final) down.
"What we gonna do fellas," asked Bock. "We gotta score, I'm tired and this shit is wearin' me out."
"Deep pass," said B-Rad.
"Naw man, you see how well that worked for them. I can truck these cats, just gotta decide whether to run up the gut or outside."
"Why don't we do both," said Jokalet, a tactician trained as a Dungeons and Dragons master but who had little actual football knowledge. "We can fake a .357, block like we're running up the middle, then hit you with a screen on the outside. You'll be able to run in without anybody touching you."
"Jokalet, you are a freakin' genius, I said. "Everybody, block down like we're running up the middle. B-Rad, fake the handoff, then sling it out to me, I'll just line up outside and stand there when the ball is snapped."
It was a beautiful, beautiful idea...one that I was certain would fool the troglodytes against which we were aligned. And it worked, the ball was snapped and the defense bit hard, crowding into the box and tackling Bock, who had been designated the tailback for this play. B-Rad, ever the theatrical sort, sold the fake and stood tall for a second while I awaited the throw.
I had noticed out of the corner of my eye that Williams had not been fooled but for a second. He originally lined up inside, but read the play and began to drift my way as he saw the ruse unfold. I'd have one man to beat, and he was the toughest player on their team.
The pass from B-Rad zipped down the line of scrimmage and into my hands. I broke for the sideline to get the angle on Williams and get vertical. But good God, for his size, that kid was fast as a broccoli and cheese Hot Pocket through a human colon. He bore down on me like a snortin' bull.
I thought I had a step, and I did. That is, until he dove at me low, sold out to commit to slowing me down in hopes that his fellow defenders had pulled their heads out of their rectums long enough to get back into the play. I braced for the hit and took it, absorbing the shock as he attempted to wrap up and hold on.
Following a cardinal rule of football, however, I stayed low and kept my feet moving, and it paid off. I could feel his grip relenting, and knew I could get free with just one...more...good...snatch...
I planted and pushed at about the same time that he reached up and grabbed me by the edge of my short pants. With the other hand, he got a gorilla-handful of britches. Now, I can't honestly say whether it was his action, or my attempt at evasion that led to the following, but it makes no matter in the end result.
I felt myself pull free...right before I felt the somewhat-liberating sensation of cool air wafting across my nutsack and groinal area. My momentum had continued to push me forward, but it had done so without the continued protection offered by my britches. All my britches. Shorts and boxer shorts. The assorted wad of sweaty nether-clothing was clutched in Williams' grasp when I turned I looked down to surmise the development.
Nekkid from the waist down, I was as bare as the afternoon that your narrator entered this world on a cold day in January. Bear in mind, this drew quite the gasp from the collection of school mates and neighbors, as no one had shown up on this particular Sunday (the Lord's Day at that) to see some teenager waving his twigs and berries as he ran down yon make-shift football field. There was silence, the kind that causes the heart to cease for fear of disturbing the stillness with its beating.
Everyone was motionless...except, of course, for me. Free of the bear-hug of a tackle, I continued my pursuit of greatness, my trek towards destiny, striding the Halls of Football Greatness where I would be fondly remembered alongside the likes of Walter Payton, Mike Singletary, Steve Largent and Cornelius Bennet. My hyper-competitive (and unclothed) ass ran unmolested (obviously....no one was gonna tackle a sweaty nekkid dude) into the end zone, franks and beans still on display and jiggling, and spiked the ball.
"We win mffkers!...now gimme my pants."
My competitive streak had led to an actual streak.
At once, a tide of laughter rushed forth from the sidelines, as classmates, teammates and neighbors laughed in a roar. I wasn't sure if they were laughing at Williams, who laid on the ground with my sweaty undergarmentry in his hands for a moment, still in shock, or at me and my less-than-illustrious bare undercarriage (Irish curse and all.)
At any rate, once the thrill of victory drained away, the embarrassment washed over me. In buckets. I turned beet-red and felt the hot flush of shame coursing over my face. I relieved Williams of my clothing and snatched my shorts back on as quickly as possible. The laughing continued, and at this point, accompanied with the pointing, I was able to discern that it was most definitely directed at me rather than Williams.
I walked back to my huddle to celebrate with my teammates, who looked at me like a cotdang leper while recoiling. No one wanted to be associated with me or what I had just done.
"Hell yeah y'all, we beat that ass!"
"Yeah...but you showed yours," said Jokalet, ever the voice of levity.
"Yeah, you might'n shouldn'a done that," said B-Rad. "Now everyone's seen your pecker." (Thank you for restating the obvious, B. We can always countest upon thou for that.)
I can only thank the sweet Lord above on His Heavenly Throne that this occurred in the era before cellphone cameras and Youtube, as this shame would live on in visual infamy forever. I feel sorry for you kids today, I really do. (Naw, I really don't.) Can't get away with nothin'.
So with this nekkid Hoodoo sacrifice I lay at the feet of Football Loki, I hope our beloved Crimson Tide strides to victory against the heathen mush-mouthed swamp people to the west. I hope that Cam Robinson is healthy and that he makes you corndog A-holes pay for the Twitter garbage you chucked his way after his signing. I hope Landon Collins has 77 interceptions and makes his own cotdang Tigah-lovin' mama cry.
Hark, residents of Whoville, let it be known: We will break you. All of you. The whole cotdang state of Louisiana. Brace for thine flogging at the hands of Our Dark Lord and the Crimson Horde. BREAK YO'SEF, FOOLS!
RTR. Skin the Tigers (but no tea-bagging this time, mmkay?)