A Score & Four Years Ago
In my previous life, I got to be in some of the most interesting spaces, including in the press box and on the field for the first SEC Championship game in Birmingham. I was there as a student assistant for the Sports Information Department at Auburn. Since Auburn was not in the championship game, all of the Auburn game staff was asked to work. We did.
I’m sure that there is a picture somewhere of the Auburn gang that traveled over, but I don’t have a copy. I have no selfie with Paul Finebaum or wristband from David Palmer or Antonio Langham. Instead, the only tangible item I have from the game is a small lapel pin with the game logo, stashed away with other memorabilia.
But I also have memories…Roy Kramer putting on a confident face as he walked through the press box before his great experiment…shuffling statistics in an unfamiliar press box…my disdain for Legion Field…Stephen Orr Spurrier.
My most important memory was riding back very late on Saturday night with David Housel, who was the Sports Information Director at the time. With the press box work complete, we took Highway 280 back to Auburn. We didn’t talk much football, though significant things were happening. Coach Dye had recently resigned; we had just watched the most innovative coach in football (Spurrier); Alabama had become the first on-the-field champions of the SEC. Come to think of it, that last one is probably the reason we didn’t feel much like talking football.
Instead, we talked life and the trajectory of life. Housel asked questions about my vision for my future (sports writer). We discussed the important decisions we make along life’s path. We talked about steps toward fulfilling hopes and what happens when disappointment clouds the path.
On that night, I couldn’t have imagined where the path would lead me over the next 24 years. I don’t think Housel could have foreseen his experiences since then, either. However, the conversation was about life direction, and while Thomas Merton wouldn’t have considered it “spiritual direction” in a strict sense, it was more spiritual than I had understood. It was, after all, Housel who, a year or so later asked, “Brian, have you ever considered the ministry?”
Tonight’s 25th SEC Championship will once again have Alabama and Florida facing each other. As I watch the game tonight, I’ll be interested in what happens on the field. I’ll also be thinking about the college interns in the press box.