This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
The old saying goes that at birth you must make a choice between Auburn and Alabama. In reality, most times it's the family that make the choice for you. That was certainly the case with me. On both my mother and father's side of the family, it was all Auburn. Having a choice between the two schools was never an option.
Growing up in the 1970's, it wasn't easy being an Auburn fan. These were the years of Shug Jordan's final teams and the dawning of the Doug Barfield era. Needless to say, there wasn't a lot of joy for a kid who wore an Auburn jersey to school. To make matters worse, Bear Bryant was in his heyday at Alabama and Vince Dooley was doing his thing in Athens.
My formative years were spent pulling for a school in transition. My first recollection of an Auburn victory over Alabama came in seventh grade when Bo Jackson went over the top to beat the Tide in 1982. Watching the celebration on television made all those years waiting and hoping worth it. Little did I know that 1982 was just the beginning of one of the great runs in SEC history - and one that solidified my love of Auburn.
Despite the tough going on the field in my early years as a Tiger, they are some of my most memorable. My grandfather owned a little grocery store for more than 30 years. I was raised in that store and some of my all-time favorite memories are of those Saturday's spent in the back of the store watching the Auburn-Alabama game on his small black and white television.
All of my grandfather's regular customers would roll in to the store on gameday and most of them were Alabama fans. This didn't stop him from talking Auburn up and even going out on a limb (a very long one at that) and guaranteeing an Auburn victory.
After this went on for several years, I remember asking him why he kept baiting these Alabama fans knowing Auburn had little chance of victory. I'll never forget his answer. "What you've got to realize is that every Alabama fan I've picked on today will show up after the game to rub it in," he said. "When they do, they'll buy something before they leave. That makes me the winner." I think of that often.
Another vivid memory of childhood was the stories my dad told me about Pat Sullivan and Terry Beasley. I was a toddler during their playing days, so I have no memory of them playing except for his stories and a few grainy videos. These times were much simpler and with no satellite television and internet, our imaginations were much better.
In vivid detail, Dad would tell stories of all their on-field exploits. To hear him talk, these two guys were superheroes of the likes of which we'd probably never see again on the college gridiron. To this day I can recall games they played in detail, despite never seeing or hearing the audio or video.
All of these things ingrained in me my love for Auburn. When I think of Auburn football, I think of family and life experiences. In a lot of ways they are one in the same. I suspect a lot of people feel the same way about their schools. But deep down, something makes me believe Auburn is different.
The experience of being an Auburn person is different. It's better. Sometimes I look at fans from other schools and feel sorry for them; not because their schools aren't great, but because they are not Auburn. My family has done much for me, but most importantly, they made me an Auburn man.
What's your story?