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Undercover Barner: Petty and Willing

This week’s Undercover Barner is still basking in the glow of Saturday’s Bulldog beating*.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Auburn Albert Cesare-USA TODAY Sports

Full Disclosure: This article was almost called “Petty** Davis Highs” but as much as I love obscure pop culture references, I thought that one might be too much of an 80s music deep cut. If you think you’ve got the perfect petty pun, comment away!

This article was also almost called “On Catharsis” because that’s what the last 55 minutes of Saturday’s win against the Georgia Bulldogs felt like to me. It wasn’t as dramatic as the Prayer at Jordan-Hare, but instead felt like four exhausting hours of sustained exhilaration that I couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning to remember again. Getting to be petty was just a bonus, and I was lucky enough to be there.

From the obnoxious Georgia fans in front of us (in lower bowl non-visitor seats that they purchased from someone who should be ashamed) who insisted on taunting and barking at all of the Auburn fans around them until the game stopped going their way, to Nick Fairley’s cameo as Honorary Mic Man, to dancing with the team to Soulja Boy’s “Crank That,” Auburn’s deep cut of its own, as the clock hit 00:00 on Auburn’s first manhandling of the Bulldogs in several years, Saturday just felt good, like some sort of karmic balance had been restored, at least temporarily. Fans lingered in the stands longer than normal, taking pictures of the scoreboard and soaking up the atmosphere before heading to Toomer’s to make it official. Auburn fans have spent the last four years holding our breath, and on Saturday, we finally got to exhale.

If you’ve accused Auburn of being petty during and after that game, you’re not alone. I read plenty of angry #dwag tweets to that effect in the wake their complete undoing. Here’s the thing, guys: we know it’s petty. We just don’t care. I guarantee you the one*** thing that sends us all into a fit of blind rage when the Blackout game in 2007 comes up is the indelible image of Verne and Gary dancing to stupid Soulja Boy. And I don’t believe the UGA Press Box DJ meant it any more maliciously in 2007 than Auburn’s did in 2017. The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry used to be fun and friendly, a contest between two tough opponents full of drama and history that unfortunately turned sour not too long after that Blackout game. Correlation does not always equal causation, though, and I think a combination of things probably poisoned it. As was pointed out to me on Saturday, the popularization of social media has likely contributed the most to the increased vitriol between these (and all other) fanbases. Instead of obscure message boards frequented by only the most avid of fans, now anyone with an email address or phone number can hide behind an anonymous username, hurling insults at strangers for which they’ll never have to answer.

And we’re all guilty of it, in some form or another. I love to snark-tweet, and boyyyyy do I love to screenshot indignantly. I wish I could say I don’t tweet anything that I wouldn’t say to someone’s face, but who even knows anymore? I think the reason the obnoxious guys in front of us who barked in our faces and then told us WE were the problem were so bothersome is that they were the personification of online trolling. They weren’t looking to have a conversation about the merits of each team—they wanted to get a rise out of us and make sure they were the only ones who enjoyed the game****. And part of that is fine: we don’t have to emotionlessly talk Xs and Os all the time. It’s okay to love your team and hate everyone else. Be funny and clever and tease in good fun. Sports are ridiculous and so are sports fandoms, so embrace the weird and wacky. But intentionally making other people miserable because you’re missing real joy in your own life is how people on the internet act. Be better than people on the internet.

Accordingly, on November 11, 2017, that’s where our rivalry stood: face to face with barking adults, arguing about whether grown men really did have the right to do “whatever [they] want.” So when the Auburn’s Press Box DJ cranked up “Crank That,” (well after those gentlemen excused themselves with their heads hanging low) it felt like we were exorcising ten years of bitter sports demons. I don’t know if our rivalry with Georgia will get any friendlier as a result of Saturday’s catharsis, and maybe I’m fooling myself into thinking it’s capable of returning to friendlier terms. I’m sure Auburn inspired a whole fresh generation of #haterz by dancing, and perhaps the cycle of hatred will just start anew. I hope not, though. I don’t have enough energy to capital-H-Hate all these other teams.

To a lesser extent, I think Mark Richt’s exit helped let some of the bad blood, even if we’re just now realizing it. To a lot of Auburn fans, Richt was a falsely pious figure who stoked the fires of discontent quietly and secretly. Now, at least so far, things seem to be better on that front. #BadFanPatrol look the other way, I’m about to compliment another team: Kirby Smart, bad haircut and all, actually seems to be a decent guy. A good guy, even. He could’ve called for an onside kick after Georgia’s last touchdown or called his timeouts while Auburn was running out the clock—he had three of them. But he knew he was beaten, and he walked away with his head held high. In his postgame press conference, Smart said:

So you shake their hand, tell them they did a good job, and we have to pick it up and go get better. Kentucky is not going to feel sorry for us. So humility is always a week away. This team will answer and respond the right way because we have some good leaders in that room, and they want to improve upon what they just showed.

Humility is always a week away: the official slogan of Auburn Athletics.

Nobody knows what the future of the Auburn-Georgia series will bring, but a thing we can be absolutely sure of is that Auburn put together a truly masterful performance this past Saturday against the then-top-ranked team in the nation. Auburn’s offensive and defensive lines dominated both sides of the ball, and its skill players refused to let up, even in the waning moments of the game. No LSU-week blown leads this time. And special teams was * OMG LOOK ANOTHER DIVERSION THAT IS IN NO WAY CAPABLE OF BEING A LIABILITY DOWN THE ROAD *. This team just keeps getting better, which is all you can really ask for in the middle of the Amen Corner. Even though Gus’ job was likely safe anyway due to the number of coaching vacancies at other schools that don’t have to recruit in-state against Nick Saban, this win definitely cooled his seat down. If you were firmly in one camp or the other, both sides were probably right at some point this season, so take solace in that.

As Auburn looks forward to LA Monroe and an early kick, let’s enjoy not worrying about an Iron Bowl for all the Western marbles just yet. Just kidding, I’m already worrying about it and you probably are, too. After the LSU game, few if any people predicted Auburn was capable of finishing as strong as it has, myself included. But on the backs of a shutdown defense and a dangerous offense, Aubie has crowd-surfed his way onto the periphery of the Playoff discussion. Anything that happens from here is just gravy. Can’t overlook an 11am non-con game after an emotional win, though. After all, humility is always a week away.

Until next time—War Eagle!

*No actual bulldogs were harmed in the writing of this article.

** #WellActually I know it’s Bette :)

***I also remember how they tried the Blackout again in 2008 against Alabama AND GOT MURDERED. I couldn’t even enjoy the karmic retribution because I was too mad it worked against us and too upset Alabama won a thing, AS PER USUAL when those two teams play. // Liz Lemon eye roll

****Luckily, we had the last laugh:

***** Speaking of being petty about things from ten years ago, is it considered trolling to actually beat LA Monroe? JUST KIDDING I AM FULLY AWARE WE COULD LOSE.