It's still the offseason. We've reached the doldrums of nothing but professional baseball to sustain us, and if you're like me that just doesn't cut it. We're just past Steelemas and three weeks from SEC Media Days. So what better to take us through the intervening period than a Top 10 series?
Over the next two weeks or so I'm going to run through my favorite Auburn games I witnessed in person. Some of them may seem a bit strange to you. They're not always going to be big Auburn wins. I'd say half of them will seem insignificant to many of you and bordering on the downright strange. Two of them are losses. One was against an FCS team. This isn't a rundown of the most exciting Auburn games I attended. It's not a list of the top 10 important games in Auburn history that I attended. It's a top 10 list of Auburn games that shaped my fandom.
That being said, we have to start at the very beginning. In 1990 my father took my brother and I to see the Auburn Tigers play the Vanderbilt Commodores. It was not a close game in the least. The final score was 56-6 in favor of the good guys. What I remember most about that game is getting my picture taken with Tiger (RIP), that somehow Auburn ended up with the ball at the beginning of both halves, and there was some sort of half-time show that involved people dressed like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was eight years old and TMNT was one of my favorite TV shows at the time, so that was just beyond awesome in my little mind. It's the only time in my life I can ever recall seeing something like that done at halftime in a college football game. It was almost like a small play. How Auburn ended up with the football at the beginning of both halves I cannot specifically remember. I have tried to find accounts of that game online, but it was an unimportant game in an only decent season. I am reasonably confident that it was due to Vanderbilt fumbling the opening kickoff, but for some reason there's a small part of my mind that remembers Vandy messing up coming out of the half and making the wrong choice. I doubt the latter is the case due to never having seen anything like it since, though.
I had attended big football games before that day. Big to me, anyway. Just the previous season I had attended every Georgia Southern home game over the course of Erk Russell's legendary 15-0 1989 season except the famous Hugo Bowl. It wasn't Hurricane Hugo that kept us away from that game, either. It was that my father didn't want to keep my brother and I out of school the next day after the 2.5 hour drive back from Statesboro late at night. We were in the largest crowd in Allen E. Paulson Stadium history to see Georgia Southern win the National Championship in 1989. However, the 1990 Vanderbilt game was my first experience with big time college football on a stage as grand and beautiful as Jordan-Hare Stadium. I was already an Auburn fan at that point through my father's fandom. I remember my father and one of his other Auburn fan friends getting updates on the 1989 Iron Bowl in the parking lot of Paulson Stadium after Georgia Southern defeated Middle Tennessee State for a second time that year (the first being the Hugo Bowl) in a playoff game. 1990 Vanderbilt was the moment I truly became an Auburn fan, though.
It's sad that the Eagles Cage is no longer on the concourse. I understand that the health and welfare of the birds is what comes first, and I know that you can still get your picture taken with various raptors every home game at the Alumni tent. But there was just something special about being able to be there next to Tiger. Golden Eagles are such beautiful and majestic creatures. I remember her slowly leaning over towards my father and opening her beak like she wanted to take a nip out of his ear until the handler gave her a light tap on the head and she snapped back straight.
In the grand scheme of things this game meant nothing to Auburn history. Although I guess ever victory against Vandy means something as we struggle to gain and keep the upper hand in that series. But it meant everything to me. It's the moment I truly became an Auburn Tiger.
Up next is a game against an FCS team that if you know all the minor details about Auburn history and you've been paying attention so far, I'm sure you can figure out. Feel free to follow along with me in the comments. Don't get ahead of me, though. Keep your own top 10 and put them out in order as I publish these. You can choose any sort of top 10 Auburn games you'd like. But I'd really love to hear the top 10 games that mean the most or had the most affect on you.