Saturday, 90,000 people will come home.
We haven’t been home in nine months and, since then, everything has changed. New coaches, new players, new buildings. A new scheme that’s always more versatile and aggressive than the one it replaced. A freshman who is going to make an immediate impact. It’s like this every year. We come home to discuss the news with friends.
We haven’t been home in nine months and, since then, nothing has changed. We see old friends. We tell the same stories. We laugh in amazement that we’ve survived this long. We get older; the students never do.
The moment of homecoming connects past and present. We walk the familiar campus reliving past glory and dreaming about a trip to Atlanta.
After we’ve grazed enough, we head to the gate. There’s a crush of people coming from all directions and walks of life. The crowd funnels wildly at the back, then separates into neat lines at the front.
Under the stadium, it’s cool and dark. Then, you walk slowly up your tunnel. The cool, darkness of the concourse melts away and you’re standing in the bright, warm Auburn sun.
This moment at the opening game is the most magical of each year. Expectation meets reality in this moment. What could be is gone; all that’s left is a season.
You realize, briefly, that you will only experience that moment so many more times. You will only enter Jordan Hare six more times in 2017. One day, you’ll enter the stadium for the last time.
But for now, it’s time to take your seat and hear Ric Smith call the correct Jordan Hare Stadium time. The specialists are warming up and the Auburn University Marching Band has taken the field.
Soon the eagle will fly. Soon the game will kick off.
The season may excite; it may disappoint. But no matter what, it’s great to be an Auburn Tiger. In that moment when the dark shadow of the offseason melts into the glorious light of another season on the Plains, nothing else matters.