"Which one are you?"
If you were raised in Alabama, like me, you've no doubt heard and probably answered this question countless times.
"Auburn. War Eagle."
I grew up in Auburn and then later Opelika. My parents met at Auburn. Auburn is a part of who I am. But I went to school (twice) at Alabama. Some of my closest friends not only cheer for the Tide, but also hate my beloved Tigers. Don't worry--I return the favor. I want Alabama to lose every athletic event it ever attempts.
But it doesn't get in the way of what really matters: People. Friendships. Families. Graduations. Moments. Life.
I was fortunate enough this year to attend both Auburn's and Alabama's respective Homecomings. One of my dearest friends, fellow Alabama alum and Alabama Law student Nathan Cordle did the same. With this post in mind even in September, I asked him to pen a few thoughts about his experience on the Plains as an Undercover Bammer.
Undercover Bammer: Behind Enemy Lines
I write this as I’ve just returned to Tuscaloosa from a weekend on The Plains. I’ve called Tuscaloosa home for the past 6, nearly 7 years, but I’ve been fortunate enough to meet friends who bleed orange and blue, yell Bodda Getta, stand up for Two Bits, and scream "Go To Hell Alabama" instead of "Give ‘Em Hell Alabama." Honestly, Auburn fans are some of the most genuine people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Sure, there are bad apples (or bad Tigers, I should say), just like there are bad fans of the Crimson Tide. However, overall, the Auburn fan base is a family, and they don’t shy away from showing hospitality, even when they know you’re an Undercover Bammer.
After tailgating with Undercover Barner and her entourage at their "War #Drunj Eagle" tailgate, I found myself standing for three quarters in Jordan-Hare this past Saturday alongside my person and a few Auburn friends. Though I did not enthusiastically cheer (or cheer at all, to be honest), and though I got nauseated at the Chris Davis kick-six coverage and the "one second" jokes, I was there in good faith and tried my best to be a good sport and true Southern Gent. At the end of the third quarter, I found myself seated in a comfy air conditioned Executive Suite surrounded by alums, the War Eagle faithful, the Auburn Family. When asked, "do you go to Auburn?" I proudly responded, "no ma’am, I’m an Alabama alumnus and am currently finishing law school at The Capstone." After a good-spirited "bless your heart" or two, they welcomed me into their inner circle, and told me to grab a plate and pour a drink. They finished watching Auburn roll (maybe "cruise" is a better verb) over L.A. Tech while I sat back and cheered the hardest for N.C. State to crush FSU. It was camaraderie and civility at its finest.
All in all, my visits to Auburn have been pleasant (aside from "The Game That Shall Not Be Named" last November). The Auburn Family is just that – a family. I admire their loyalty to the school, the team, and each other. I also appreciate the civility and friendship that so many Auburn fans have offered me. However, my loyalties will always lie with my beloved Crimson Tide and The University of Alabama, because there’s nothing like Sweet Home Tuscaloosa and a Saturday on The Quad. I might venture off to The Plains for a nice weekend or two every so often, but mama always calls me home…
Thank you, Undercover Barner, for your hospitality this weekend and your friendship. Roll Tide from behind enemy lines…
You can't see, but Nathan is wearing some pretty fancy orange pants. He's a good sport.
That's what this is all about. Auburn and Alabama fans share a state. We live together, work together, go to church together, and make fun of the North together. So when a Bammer wears orange or a Barner wears crimson, especially if it's to make someone you love happy, there's no sense in going to the mattresses.
I mean, I toted a crimson and white shaker in my boot en route to skipping the Western Carolina game last Saturday. I wore tuxedo cutaways, rode the Homecoming float*, and managed to lose my anti-elephant pin** all while smiling and enjoying a beautiful day with amazing people.
Nathan is going to run this state one day.
This "us" versus "them" thing is a false dichotomy. Yeah, I hate Alabama. And Alabama fans are sure hard to deal with. But I've loved many a Bammer in my lifetime and I don't see that changing any time soon.
I've said "Roll Tide" and meant it more times than I can count. Of course I didn't say it in reference to football or any other sport, but I've said it about our law school ranking or when we finally got Starbucks coffee in our cafe. The point is, saying Roll Tide or wearing crimson doesn't make me any less of an Auburn fan just like wearing orange didn't make Nathan any less of an Alabama fan. We're actually just pretending this game isn't happening this week because that's what friends do.
Look, I'm not telling you to go out and buy an Alabama shirt. I'm just saying that we have to live together. Might as well make it pleasant 364 days of the year. And fight like hell on gameday.
I honestly have no expectations for Saturday's game against the Crimson Tide. There's a lot to like about Auburn, but unfortunately we saw a lot of that toward the beginning of the season. Alabama, on the other hand, seems to be on the upswing. Both teams are coming off of slow starts last week against FCS opponents but with one major difference: Alabama still has something to play for. Before you hit me with "We can spoil Alabama's season!" comments, that's not what I'm talking about. These last few games have been the first time we've really seen a Gus Malzahn-coached Auburn team without national title hopes. I hope the Georgia game wasn't indicative of Auburn's current mentality, but it could have been. The first half of the Samford*** game was certainly concerning. But this is uncharted territory for these Tigers. Without a national championship to play for, how will they respond with their backs against the wall in front of 101,000 screaming Tide fans?
Here's the deal. I think this game goes one of two ways: I think either Auburn gets run out of Bryant-Denny or Auburn wins. I don't think there's a grey area here.
Either way, I'll be watching the game at home with my mommy. Don't worry, I sold my ticket to an Auburn fan.
If you're making the trip to Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl, come early or come in on Hwy. 82. The construction on 20/59 is horrible right now and it'll be a parking lot until kickoff. Enjoy the quad and the scenery before you head into the Temple of Doom****. I really don't mind it here, despite the evil.
To Hell with Alabama! /
And to Hell with all the rest! /
Until next time--War Eagle. Beat Bama.
*Instead of yelling "Roll Tide," however, I yelled "Don't talk to cops!" So I'm counting that as community outreach. Seriously. You don't have to. Also don't consent to searches. Make them get a warrant. The Fourth Amendment isn't dead.
**My beloved favorite possession. I has a sad. If you know where I can find another one, I would pay you a handsome finder's fee.
***I tweeted in all caps WAY TOO MANY TIMES for a Samford game. But War Damn Pat Sullivan forever.
****Bryant-Denny is one of my least favorite places in the world. I don't get chills like I do in Tiger Stadium, even though it's a similarly hostile environment. It just has no redeeming qualities. That video of an inebriated Bear Bryant warbling just doesn't do it for me. I'll take Nova and the AUMB any day, thank you very much.