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Four in a row


James Joseph, Q, and all the gang at the 12,000-fan strong pep rally at Plainsman Park the night before the ’89 Iron Bowl.

(Taken by Mike Goodson, from the book Tiger Walk to Victory.)

I referenced the above picture in response to a Bama fan’s response to my immediate response to the 2008 Iron Bowl. Sure you can read it!

… I am proud of our streak. Six fingers proud. And I’m glad you bring that up, because the thumb’n’fingers raping of the Crimson “soul” lo these many years is something I’ve meant to explain since this blog began.

Alabama fans started it.

Doused-yourselves-in-gasoline-struck the match-and-called-the-flames-classless started it.

This might take a second.

I was at the 2005 Iron Bowl. Ground zero. Ground into the dirt 11 times. I didn’t see Tommy Tuberville hold up four fingers – to Auburn fans – on the way into the stadium. I was at Tiger Walk, but I didn’t see him. Neither did 99 percent of the people there. But on that first touch down, I shot four fingers up in the air without thinking. And when the 3rd quarter ticked 3-2-1, I did the same. So did all the Auburn fans around me. We smiled at each other, because this time it meant something more. “Four, four, get’em up.” We kept them up on the way out.

It wasn’t orders, it was natural.

And it was nothing new. Flip through any commemorative “First Time in Jordan-Hare” book, and you’ll see photos of the same. Before the ‘89 game, after the ‘89 game.

What Pam and her fellows may not realize is that “four” has special significance in the numerology of college football. Four quarters, four downs, four years (in theory) as a player*.

(You’ll note that this did not occur in, funnily enough, ‘04. Three fingers would have been weird.)

Winning the 2005 game meant an entire senior class never losing to Alabama – four in a row, then still rarefied Iron Bowl air. The last time that happened was a mini-golden era for Auburn football. Holding up four fingers at the end of that game’s third quarter was a non-verbal pun for victory. It meant something deeper.

Tuberville did it because the fans were doing it. It was a salute, a high five (literally, the next year), and as classless as an index finger “#1,” which is to say, not at all.

It was chummed into scandal by Bama fan extraordinaire Paul Finebaum, and the internet, a fact I noted at the time in a story I wrote on the emerging influence of football blogs (I interviewed some dude named Orson Swindle, and this Jay Coulter guy, and there was this Auburner thing…).

The slogan “Fear The Thumb” was not pre-printed. It did not become the phenomenon we know today overnight. It was born several days after the 2005 Iron Bowl in unique reaction to the feminine hysterics elicited from Bama fans by Finebaum … and Tiger Rags pounced.

But the resulting t-shirt, now a collectors item, was not a unprovoked taunt. It was a message, a proportional response to Bama fans saying Tuberville holding up four fingers (to Auburn fans) was classless (because Paul Finebaum said it was classless). It was advice: Don’t worry about that, don’t worry about four fingers. Worry about next year. Worry about the thumb.

I have only seen Tommy Tuberville hold up four fingers, five fingers, six fingers, or seven fingers to Auburn fans, and even then, only when asked. I have never seen him or heard of him holding up four fingers, five fingers, six fingers or seven fingers to Alabama fans, except when asked to… by a (classless?) Bama fan stationed in Iraq.

So from the description of this picture, I was expecting to see a seven finger pantsing of Terrence Cody. Instead, I see only Auburn fans. You know why? Because it’s at Tiger Walk. Not midfield. Not the Bama bench. (Should he have shouted ‘we’re going to lose!?’).

Alright, that’s settled.

Did you see something AUsome? Weird? Today? Whenever? Take a picture of it?
Send it to us at [email protected]

About Jeremy Henderson

Jeremy Henderson is the editor of The War Eagle Reader and co-host of Rich and Jeremy in the Mornings on Wings 94.3 FM in Auburn. Follow him on Twitter: @wareaglereader / @jerthoughts / @RichandJeremy

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