Hello, I’m Ryan Black.
OK, maybe it doesn’t have the same gravitas as, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” OK, it definitely doesn’t. That being said, I extend my greetings to all readers of War Eagle Extra. I’m glad to be here, and thankful for the opportunity, to — as my predecessor, one Aaron Brenner, put it last year when he started this job — “maintain the solid reputation of Auburn beat writers for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.”
He obviously did that, and that’s one of the reasons I’m continuing Brenner’s popular “7 at 7″ format here in my debut post.
As you may note below in the story highlighting my hire, yes, I graduated from the University of Georgia. Yes, if you “Google search” my name, it will come up with hundreds upon hundreds of stories I wrote about the Bulldogs. But not one of them is “slanted” toward Georgia. I pledge no allegiance to the Bulldogs, the same thing I’d say about the Tigers or any other team I’m assigned to cover. It’s not my job to “cheer” for a team, or be “against” one. I’m a journalist. All I want to see is a good, competitive game, folks. If I’m rooting for anything, it’s for a good story. (And please, pardon that cliché if you like.)
I’m going to report the news, good and bad. I’ll deliver analysis, too. Will we always agree? No. Besides, where is the fun in that? Do you really only talk to people you agree with? I don’t think so. If I ever criticize the Tigers, which — and I’m going out on a limb here — will probably happen at some point, don’t let your immediate reaction be, “There it is. Exactly what I was expecting. What a Georgia homer. He hates Auburn.” Put down your pitchforks. Reporters cover “rival” schools of their own alma maters all the time. It’s the nature of the business.
I don’t profess to be perfect. I’m quite open to criticism. (And quite open to praise, too.) So if you have any questions about the team or other feedback you’d like to send along, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You can tweet to @wareagleextra or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The season is getting ever closer, and I know you readers are as ready for it as I am.
1. Before delving into other links of more recent vintage, I figured I could share a pair of my older stories, one showing my willingness to criticize Georgia (here) and another being a feature centered around Auburn’s struggles last season, told from the Bulldogs’ perspective (here).
2. Now, on to the Tigers. Auburn defensive end Dee Ford was named to the Bednarik Award preseason watch list on Monday. The award is given annually to the nation’s top defensive player. Ford, a senior, is the Tigers’ top returnee on the defensive line, as he led the team in sacks last season with six, as well as tallying 34 total tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss.
Along with Ford, 75 other players were named to the watch list, which is presented by the Maxwell Football Club. The semifinalists will be announced Oct. 29, and the three finalists for the award will be released Nov. 19. The winner will be named during the Home Depot College Awards show on Dec. 12.
3. Former Auburn running back Michael Dyer hasn’t given up on playing in Division I’s Football Bowl Subdivision. Far from it. All he’s looking for right now is a chance, according to USA Today. After washing out of both Auburn and Arkansas State due to myriad issues, Dyer is immediately eligible to play this season and would be classified as a junior. He graduated with an associate’s degree from Arkansas Baptist College last month.
To read the whole story on Dyer, check out George Schroeder’s piece on the USA Today website.
4. If you’ve got $10,200 to spend in one lump sum — a luxury I can’t afford, unfortunately — there is one-of-a-kind opportunity awaiting you, Auburn fans. Want to have all 17 letters that once graced the entrance welcoming you to Jordan-Hare Stadium? Well, you’re in luck. The letters are for sale.
Thanks to the folks over at The War Eagle Reader, we know an Ebay seller in Lewisville, Texas is willing to part with the letters for $10,000. (The additional $200 is the cost to ship it to your home.)
The description on the Buy It Now Listing is as follows:
“We are offering something very special for vintage sports collectors and Auburn football fans! In 2011, the entrance to the stadium got a new sign. Through another dealer we were able to purchase the entire sign that was removed! It is big, it is heavy, and it is one of a kind! These have seen Heisman winners and National champions!
“The letters are heavy cast aluminum, 8-12 pounds each and two foot tall! These were on the northeast side of the stadium, or to orient yourself, they overlooked the intersection of Donahue Dr & Heisman Dr. If you go on Google Maps Streetview, you can see these on the stadium! Google: 251 S Donahue Dr, Auburn, AL”
The 17 letters would be quite an addition to any person’s collection.
If nothing else, they would make for a great conversation starter at your next party.
5. Love him or hate him, Paul Finebaum knows how to stir the pot. He did so once more on Monday during a radio interview with ESPN personalities Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo. Widely-regarded as one of the biggest games of the coming season, the Alabama/Texas A&M tilt didn’t get high marks in Finebaum’s book, since he’s predicting a one-sided affair.
“I think Alabama is going to win that game and I think they’ll win it easily, Finebaum said. “That doesn’t make A&M a bad program. I mean they’re in the top five in the country and Manziel is certainly on everyone’s list to repeat, although we both know he won’t.”
“Even though it’s a revenge game for Alabama, I think the pressure’s on A&M. They’re still newbies with all this fame and fortune and I think there’s just going to be too much pressure.”
“This is the biggest game maybe in Texas A&M history and I just don’t think they’re quite there yet in spite of everything they did last year.”
I’m sure those comments will go over just fine in College Station. Don’t be surprised if Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin responds to Finebaum in kind. It wouldn’t be the first time “The Prez” gets the better of an exchange with Finebaum, after all.
6. Speaking of the Crimson Tide, there’s a new writer joining the beat in The Anniston Star’s Marquavius Burnett. My colleague tipped me off to the “great reporting” in this article by Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com, as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft broke his silence on Aaron Hernandez.
Regardless of how this case eventually unfolds, it is a tragedy for all involved.
7. And to make sure we end my initial posting on an upbeat note, check out a couple of lighthearted links I came across on Monday.
The first came from a Cleveland Browns fan named Scott Entsminger, who died on July 4 at the age of 55. According to his obituary in The Columbus Dispatch, the accomplished musician and longtime season ticket holder had one last favor to ask of his beloved team: “He respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time.”
While the last link isn’t a story, it doesn’t need words. Pictures sometimes speak for themselves, right? This photo of Larry Brown while he was coaching at North Carolina in 1975 does just that. Take a second and let it sink in. Or take a look at it, walk outside and come back to it later.
Let us all be grateful that wardrobe is exactly where it should be: in the past.