Nov 222017

Well, barring a revolutionary change in the next several months, this Saturday’s Iron Bowl is my last one. I’m glad it is a game of consequence—its winner taking the SEC West and almost certainly controlling its destiny for the national title—and I’m looking forward to watching it.

I’ve attended five Iron Bowls in person in my life, though I haven’t been since I was 14. Uncle Don used to have a recurring block of fantastic tickets, and Dad and I were frequently beneficiaries. I got to go in 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1985.

Of those, only 1980 was unremarkable. The 1981 game was Coach Bryant’s 315th win, passing Amos Alonzo Stagg to become the winningest college football coach in history. The 1982 game was Auburn’s first win since Punt ‘Bama Punt. The 1983 game, played in an absolute deluge and another Auburn win, was the day we came home to the aftermath of the Oxford tornado. And 1985 was The Kick, which my stepbrother Chris and I watched from the opposite end zone, having left our seats when Mike Shula was sacked.

What a great memory. I remember the moment for two things, primarily. First, I’ve never heard 70,000 people be that quiet. It was weird. Second, I remember thinking the scoreboard operator must have been an Alabama fan, because the digits ticked off 23-24-25 way before the ball went the 52 yards to the goalposts. It was indeed a phenomenal kick that might have gone 60. Looked like an extra point, really.

(And oh, had Tiffin missed, he’d have gotten another try from five yards closer. Auburn was offside.)

Drama this year? Sure, I’ll take it—as long as it ends correctly. I’m sure I’ll have to watch Kick Six four or five times during the day, but hey, you know what? Auburn hasn’t won since that game. (I’m happy for it to join Punt ‘Bama Punt in Auburn lore in that regard, because Alabama won the next nine after that game.)

Enjoy the game. I’m planning to. Whatever the outcome, please be kind to one another. I know it’s hard to remember this, but we’re talking about kids playing a game. Nothing that happens on that field Saturday is of any legitimately significant importance.

For my prediction, I’ll say Alabama 31, Auburn 27.

 Posted by at 11:41 am
Oct 042017

Dear Roger,

I hope you don’t mind if I call you Roger. You’ve been on my television for long enough that you feel like a friend, and plus I’ve never seen anyone call you anything else.

Photo of Helio Castroneves is from the linked Team Penske story.

I am writing concerning your 2018 plans for Helio Castroneves. As you know, Helio has driven CART/IndyCar for Team Penske for the past 18 years, to some considerable success. He has won 30 open-wheel races for you, including three Indianapolis 500s. You announced today that in 2018, he would drive sportscars for you, running only the Indianapolis 500 in an IndyCar.

Please reconsider this decision, for two reasons.

First—Roger, you have a racing career that is more than six decades long. You have been part of American open-wheel racing at its very zenith. You were also right there when the split nearly killed it—a catastrophe from which many thought the sport may never recover.

We’ve been limping along for a while, and while the quality of the racing has been outstanding, it’s only this year that we’ve seen a few sparks of growth in IndyCar. We have a little bit of momentum. We have exciting new bodywork next year. We have a charismatic, American, Team Penske champion. Against this promising backdrop, Helio is one of the biggest stars of the series—one of two real faces of IndyCar. To remove him from the series at this juncture is unnecessarily destructive.

Second—frankly, Helio deserves better. He has been ceaselessly loyal to you, and clearly regards you almost paternally. As much as he has achieved in Penske livery, he deserves an announced farewell tour—a chance for him, as well as his fans, to say goodbye—that could also be a publicity boon. Sitting on the wall after the Sonoma race, clearly sad but trying so hard not to sound dejected or unappreciative, is no way for this star to end his IndyCar career.

Helio Castroneves is an extremely talented race car driver, and will serve the Penske sportscar effort very well. Please, let’s make that first Penske sportscar season 2019. Let’s have Helio full-time in the Team Penske #3 in IndyCar for 2018—for the fans, for the health of the sport, and for Helio himself.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Bo Williams

 Posted by at 8:03 pm is using WP-Gravatar