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Wednesday, December 13th, 2017   |   Español

Author Archives: Will Thomas

  1. No Apologies: Tales from a Living, Breathing Iron Bowl

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    This weekend I was at a friend’s birthday celebration when, without fail, the question reared it’s ugly head like Chris Bosh exiting the tunnel from the locker room,

    “What do you mean you went to both Alabama and Auburn? How could you?!”

    As if I were Benedict Arnold handing over the keys to West Point, the young woman that hurled the question my way looked at me with a disgusted, appalled glare. Apparently the level of hatred I should feel for one of my almae matres over the other was insufficient for her liking. Given that she wasn’t from Alabama, it passed like water off of a duck’s back, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been asked the question before, at times with similar levels of disdain.

    I get this question, and similar ones that sound much like “Et tu, Brute?” quite a bit, even though I’ve left Alabama and the South. I’m a 2010 graduate of The University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Business and a 2013 graduate of Auburn’s College of Agriculture — what I like to call my reverse Jimmy Wales. And it seems to perplex, even annoy, people who are familiar with the rivalry, even tangentially.

    In answering this kind of inquest, I tend to take some sort of apologetic tone in my responses for diplomacy’s sake. Usually along the lines of:

    Oh, well I went to Auburn for graduate school so I didn’t pay much attention to football!” (True enough, but it didn’t hurt that Auburn football went 8-5 and 3-9 the two years I was there. Auburn fans, if you don’t wire me $100,000 by Friday I am moving back.)

    Well, it’s just that Alabama didn’t have the program I wanted.” (Also true, as my MS from Auburn is in Agricultural Economics, which Alabama has never offered.)

    Sure, there’s a historic, nasty football rivalry that may be the most storied college football rivalry of all time. This rivalry has led to gunfights, poisoned trees and a career for Paul Finebaum. Two-thirds of AL.com’s traffic comes from flame wars between Bammers and Barners — the other third is from racists and DemoCraps, just a guess. There’s also a superb web series called the Iron Bowl Hour which is just about the rivalry, my favorite of which features a peace summit that make any kind of Israel-Palestine talks look like child’s play. The rivalry is part of our history, our culture, and it’s a lot of fun. When people don’t take it too seriously, that is.

    But the truth of the matter is that I don’t owe either camp a damn apology for loving both Alabama and Auburn. Especially since I graduated from both.

    Both towns provided me the opportunity to learn within and outside of the classroom, to contribute — or at least pretend to — contribute to society, and grow from a snotty, shrewd teenager to a slightly less snotty and shrewd young adult. In my just-under six years between the two cities I gained mentors of every color and creed and expanded my brain, or at least my professors deserve a lot of credit for trying, bless their hearts.

    Quite honestly, just as with most of my internal conflicts, the only conflict I have regarding Tuscaloosa and Auburn involves food. Namely, I miss the smell of Egan’s on a Gameday just as much as I miss Gallette’s famous Yellowhammers. As for Auburn, I just wish I could have both The Hound’s veggie burger (it’s the best I have ever had anywhere, don’t knock it until you try it) and Zazu’s duck fat fries at the same time as I gawk at the bad dancers in SkyBar’s infamous Boom Boom Room. Just as Tuscaloosa births acts such as the Alabama Shakes, the Waverly Boogie gives East Alabama a taste of emerging artists better than any music venue I’ve had the pleasure of gracing. I have people I love so dearly in both places, many of whom I’ll be proud to know until the end of my days.

    Alabama has been graced with two great institutions of higher learning, and the communities that surround them couldn’t be more perfect hosts. Rivalry be damned, I’m extremely proud to have had the chance to experience both sides of the Iron Bowl rivalry. Just like the State of Alabama should be, I’m proud of both of my almae matres, and what they contribute to the State, her people, and the world at large, both in excellent college football and beyond.

    As it turned out, the girl asking me to betray one school for the other was a Yankee from Michigan. Guess we know who our real enemies are.

  2. Clickbait: Will Alabama’s 2014 Cycle Produce Another Viral Hit?

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    The 2012 election cycle was an extremely disappointing one for me for a number of reasons, the most painful of which was the lack of ridiculous viral campaign ads coming out of Alabama’s elections. Granted, there were no statewide offices or majorly competitive congressional races, but my thirst for ridiculous Alabama political ads is great.

    It goes without saying that Alabama is considered to be a paragon when it comes to the production of YouTube clips. Nearly every corner of Alabama has produced something that’s contributed to the ever-growing viral video economy. Who can forget favorites like Montgomery Flea Market, Mobile Leprechaun, Cullman Liquidation and Huntsville’s own Antoine Dodson?

    With the 2014 elections upcoming, I have a wish list of five things I’d like to see more of in Alabama’s political ads. To all of the political consultants out there, let me preface this by saying that my advice is not intended to actually win any elections. No, this advice is simply meant to enhance the quality of videos I get to send to my coworkers with a smarmy yet proud “ROLL TIDE AND WAR EAGLE, Y’ALL” as the subject line.

    Let me start off by showing you what not to do:

    Sure, Dr. Bentley is already Governor, but could this ad be any more boring? I struggled to even put this ad in this piece because I fall asleep when they flash the photo of Shelby County (apparently they have barns! Who would have thought a county in Alabama had a barn!). Sure, the message is good (he did win with it), but we can do better than this total snoozefest, not to mention that he never even shoots a gun in the ad! Awful.

    Here’s how to win my heart:

    1. Carry documents like Obamacare, the Bible and the Constitution into weird places:

    Sure, if he would have won this race, Wells Griffith would have had the chance to do something about Obamacare, but who references the Bible or the Constitution in the midst of car repair? I have spent at least a few hours of my life facing an open hood that wreaks of radiator fluid crying out to God for assistance, and sure, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution has made car repair much more bearable (for me at least), but these documents aren’t particularly helpful.

    Also, I’m pretty positive that Obamacare is longer than that, and that someone in the Capitol Building has a stapler or binding machine so they aren’t just loose pages! So messy! So weird.

    Otherwise well done, Wells. Let’s grab a beer some time since you actually live in D.C. and not in AL-01!

    2. Be kind of racist:

    Ah yes, who can forget this wonderful Tim James ad that made every Daily Kos reader from sea to shining sea throw more money into MoveOn.org’s coffers. There are lots of reasons why this is a great political ad — the piano music, slamming “politicians” even though if you’re running for office that makes you a politician, and Tim’s thoughtfulness to ask us for our opinions after he makes sure his fly is zipped (Reagan was into button flys, by the way) — but what sets it apart is the racism. It’s just pure, unadulterated and obvious, just like George Wallace would have wanted in 1962.

    3. Throw shade on your opponent’s pedigree:

    This ad is pure Alabama through and through, but things get darker around 0:10 when Little Jim throws shade better than a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race by uttering, “…and never have played tennis at the Mountain Brook club. I’d rather be hunting.” For those of you with short memories, Folsom’s opponent that cycle, current Attorney General Luther Strange, is from Mountain Brook.

    We all know Luther and Melissa have posted up at the Mountain Brook Country Club with some mimosas in Lacoste gear, and Little Jim went for the jugular and the history books by calling him out on it.

    4. Be Artur Davis:

    LOL JUST KIDDING. And when I say, “Be Artur Davis,” I mean be excessively condescending and entitled, title your ad “Our Leader” so that way it sounds vaguely like a Nazi propaganda film, and run a terrible campaign.

    Also, does anybody else remember when EBONY compared Artur Davis to a Real Housewife of Atlanta? Girl, bye.

    5. Thugs and Criminals:

    When Gawker, Politico and Time call an ad the best political ad of all time, it might just be the truth. On top of perfecting the classic formula of the Constitution, guns, horses, and credential-yelling, Dale Peterson lectures us on the importance of the office for which he’s running, the issues he’d have to deal with as agriculture commissioner, and talks about his opponent’s Facebook. Dale Peterson perfected the art of the Alabama campaign ad, and even though he’s too busy stealing cashews from Costco to run for office again, this viral hit will live on forever.

    But can 2014 top the past? I know never to underestimate Alabama, so I’m holding on hope.

    Your move, political consultants.

  3. Robertson Not the Only Deserving Reality Star

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    As the Alabama Legislature prepares to begin the 2014 session, our state senators and representatives are preparing to take on the biggest issues facing Alabamians today: unemployment, the bungled implementation of Obamacare, hunger and, my personal favorite, Reality TV on extended cable networks.

    The only legislator brave enough to take on the issue, Sen. Jerry Fielding (R- Sylacauga) has introduced a resolution honoring Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” and his right to be paid large amounts of money to say whatever he wants on TV or in print.

    I have, in fact, watched and enjoyed “Duck Dynasty” – as a result of a fateful Sunday marathon on which I binged a few weeks ago. I even had the pleasure of listening to the Robertson family’s Christmas album “Duck The Halls” with my family at both Thanksgiving and Christmas for what felt like multiple hours in the car and completely missed the homophobic undertones that GLAAD hoped I’d pick up on.

    Since the door has been opened, I would like to submit that the Alabama Legislature honor another outspoken reality star from a Southern state with a more aggressive strategy to promote movie and TV productions.

    Obviously, I’m referring to none other than Linnethia “NeNe” Leakes of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

    Much like Robertson, Leakes is an entrepreneur coming from a difficult past who has been outspoken and unafraid about her beliefs, even when others might disagree. Let me point out five reasons in which both Robertson and Leakes represent Alabama values.

    1.     Both have overcome difficult pasts to become entrepreneurs

    Phil Robertson grew up in a big, poor family in rural Louisiana, but Leakes was raised in Athens, Ga., by an aunt after her mother abandoned her. Growing up in a tough but supportive home, Leakes pursued her college education, but fell short when she gave birth to her first child by a man she had hoped to marry, before realizing that his violent and philandering ways weren’t a proper environment for herself or her child.

    Subsequently, she turned to being an upscale stripper to lift herself up by her bootstraps and support her child, eventually meeting and marrying her current husband. Six seasons of “Real Housewives” and her own spin-off later, Leakes has racked up acting roles on hits like “Glee,” a restaurant franchise and her own clothing line. Not to mention a stint on Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”

    2.     Both believe in the institution of marriage and the power of reconciliation

    Though Phil and Kay Robertson may be a power couple now, it wasn’t always easy. Phil’s drinking and violent ways drove a wedge between the two, but they eventually reconciled. In the same way, Leakes found her marriage ending in shambles publicly, but eventually she got back together with her husband once they realized they were better together than apart. She even loves marriage so much that she hopes everyone can have one. If that’s not a testament to the power of love, commitment, and forgiveness, then I’m not sure what is.

    3.     Both believe in the power of prayer

    Every episode of “Duck Dynasty” ends in the Robertson family praying over a meal, usually led by Phil himself. Leakes also knows that The Lord is her rock and salvation in times of travail.

    In Season 3, Leakes found herself on a tour bus with then-arch nemesis Kim “Wig” Zolciak. After observing the embarrassing behavior on the tour bus and pointing out that Zolciak had enslaved a young woman named Sweetie, Leakes laid prostrate on the floor of the bus and cried out to God, just as the Hebrew prophets before her, saying:

    “Please forgive me Lord for having to be on this bus … being around people who are pure trash. Lord, please try to protect me, and keep me away from this trash.”

    She’s also gone on record saying that she prays every time she flies.

    4.     Both love themselves despite society demanding that they change

    Robertson may be getting heat for his long beard, camo and his controversial views, but Leakes has also taken heat for simply being true to herself. She’s been criticized for everything from portraying black people in a bad light to being proud of her curvy body.

    Who can’t relate to Leakes when she says something like, “I’m a size 10. I could be a size 8 if I wanted to, but I’m effin’ hungry.”

    5.     Both represent powerful Alabama constituencies

    Just as Alabama has no shortage of camo-clad outdoorsmen, neither do we have any shortage of powerful, intelligent and even famous women of color. Granted, Alabama’s famous women of color are notable for starting a bus boycott and ending segregation in our public institutions instead of threatening to snatch a wig off of another woman’s head. But, the point remains true that Alabama is just as much as place for women like Leakes as it is for Robertson. Or at least it should be.

    For those of you who balk at mine and Senator Fielding’s call to honor reality TV stars who don’t even live in Alabama, maybe you should call your state senator or representative to make sure we’re promoting our entertainment incentives like Louisiana and Georgia are. That way, maybe the next time our Legislature sees fit to honor a reality TV star, it’s someone who’s actually from Alabama and creating jobs right here at home.