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Undercover Barner: A spirit that is not afraid

This week's Undercover Barner was almost about The Charge of the Light Brigade.

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Well I’ve got good news and bad news.

First, the good news:

Auburn beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl of Feeding People!

This year, Auburn ended Alabama’s winning streak in the Beat Bama Food Drive at two, raising 211,625 pounds of food, nearly doubling Alabama’s total of 116,370 pounds. Auburn raised over 13,000 more pounds of food in 2015 than in 2014, which means the East Alabama Food Bank will be able to serve even more hungry families over the holiday. If you gave during this food drive or at any other time throughout the year, thank you for being a part of something bigger than football.

And while everyone is technically a winner in this contest, I think we can say Auburn won just a little bit harder. We’ll even have the trophy to prove it.

Which brings us to the bad news:

Auburn still has to play Alabama in the actual Iron Bowl of hitting people.

True story: I wrote a good 500 words about The Charge of the Light Brigade and how sometimes, through no real fault of your own, you just have to run headlong into thundering cannon fire and meet your maker.

However, I deleted it before it turned into a longform about how Tennyson just got college football. And as much as I love a good allegory (and The Blind Side), that one was too fatalistic even for me*. I still think there’s a lesson to be found there, but there’s no reason to cross that bridge before we get to the postgame press conference. I won’t eulogize this team before they’ve even played their last game.

Other than those 500 words I deleted*, I’ve had a hard time coming up with anything to write about this game. Writing about writers’ block is probably more clichéd than writers’ block itself, but at least the cause of mine is no mystery: I’m really just not looking forward to this game. I haven’t super looked forward to many games this season post-Jacksonville State, tbh. Maybe that doubt makes me a bad fan, but it’s hard to see something you care about struggle so mightily for reasons you can’t understand, much less write about it. It hasn’t been fun or easy to love Auburn in 2015, but no matter how bad things get, I can’t imagine ever doing anything else.

After Wes Byrum split the uprights to clinch Auburn’s 2010 national championship, I could've happily drowned in the sea of euphoria that formed around Toomer’s Corner. The same could be said for any big win. Loving Auburn is easy when you can throw toilet paper at trees and scream Bodda Getta with some random guy who climbs on top of a column. Cheering for a team that's winning is the simplest thing in the world. Why do you think Alabama has so many bandwagon fans?

But after Florida State beat Auburn to win the national championship in 2013, through shaking hands a teary eyes, I managed to tweet, "When you love something, it’s for better or worse. We were blessed with a lot of better this season. We’ll get through the worse."

I don’t think that statement was particularly profound or anything, but I remember it because it’s illustrative of the way many of us feel about Auburn. I’m only being 35% hyperbolic when I say that in that moment, I was the saddest I’d ever been as a fan of any sport. That was rock bottom. I don't think there's anything more painful than almost. But through all the heartache, what I kept coming back to was the love. Even when it breaks my heart, I cannot and will not stop loving Auburn.

It’s a love that I’ve felt for a long time. It’s a love that was born in me—one I couldn’t escape even if I wanted to****. It’s a love that was ignited by hearing Jordan-Hare erupt from my front lawn on Wire Road when Auburn beat Alabama in 1993 and forged by abject misery when Alabama beat Auburn there for the first time ever in 1999. Since then, rinse and repeat. For better or worse.

Here’s the bottom line: This game may get ugly. Iron Bowls aren’t all that fun to watch even when Auburn has been playing well. This one might be downright painful. But even if it does turn out that way, at least we’ve never been Cam’d or Kick Six’d.

On the other hand, those kids may shock the world. I am aware of all the reasons they shouldn’t, but I won’t give up on a team who’s refused to give up on themselves all season. 2012 was a hopeless cause because they quit. These guys haven’t done that. They’re fighters, and at the end of the night, that’s all we can ask of them. Hell, maybe Auburn’s been hoarding all its luck for this game. I don’t know.

All I can tell you is that when the clock hits 00:00, I’m still going to love Auburn. And when I wake up on Sunday morning, I’ll love Auburn then too. Auburn is more than a game or a season or a coach or even sports. It’s woven into the fabric of our lives because we believe in a spirit that is not afraid.

To hell with Alabama/

And to hell with all the rest/


Until next time—War Eagle.


*For my benefit just as much as yours, I promise. It was a dark timeline.

**Wait! You’re not a fatalist! You pump sunshine to the point of nausea! I don’t deny that. But here’s a thing about me that you may only know if you’ve had the [mis]fortune of watching a game in my presence: I’m actually one of the most pessimistic sports fans you’ll ever meet. It’s a defense mechanism.

***I was also 10.

****I don’t, for the record. I'll take our cheesy, imaginary family/cult over their arrogant, entitled "nation" 10 times out of 10.

*****I keep trying to bring back the long lost words to Glory but no one is interested. It makes me sad in my nostalgic heart.