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Undercover Barner: One Last Time

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The Undercover Barner is saying goodbye.

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Auburn vs Central Florida Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

If I’m being honest with you, this is probably the thirteenth or fourteenth introduction this column has had. I’ve been lucky enough to have this platform for six years with virtually unfettered editorial freedom and without many strings attached. Despite that and an entire world wide web at my disposal, I’ve spent most of the day avoiding actually writing anything. Forget what I said last week. NOW my house has never been cleaner. But since I gave myself a deadline of publishing before we all go dark for a few days, I guess it’s time to mix some metaphors, mash the caps lock button, and google image some GIFs.

First, we have to rip the bandaid off. As much fun as this season has been, 10-4 is such a weird record. After Auburn’s Peach Bowl loss on New Year’s Day, a day where absolutely nothing else happened with implications for a global meltdown, I assumed no one would want to read anything Auburn-related. I didn’t even want to be on the internet so I decided to get on an airplane* instead, despite my severe and well-documented acrophobia. I survived, but only because I discovered that drinking wine makes flying (and life) 100% easier. But nearly a week removed from an uninspired but not altogether unsurprising loss to UNDERCOVER BARNER NATIONAL CHAMPION UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA, I can say that the Peach Bowl went as expected once it became clear that Auburn wasn’t firing on all cylinders. I mentioned this on Twitter, but when 2017 Auburn was on, it was nearly unstoppable. Unfortunately, between injuries and spotty offensive line play, Auburn couldn’t keep it on all season. It doesn’t mean they weren’t fun as hell to watch, but this team wasn’t meant to play in Atlanta again. And that’s probably just as well. I hate it there now. I just hope the 2017 Auburn Tigers are remembered more for their ten wins than their four losses.

And I hope they’re remembered for the seniors and special juniors that got them there. To Kerryon, Carlton, Kamryn, Jeff, and the seniors** who finished their careers at Jordan-Hare Stadium by beating two teams ranked first in the nation, I don’t know of a single Auburn fan who won’t be rooting for all of you. You gave us untold amounts of joy this season, and for that, we will be forever grateful. Whether your football career has ended or you go on to play on Sundays, you will always be Auburn Tigers, and you always have a home here.

As we look forward to this year and to the 2018 football season, it’s hard to imagine one with as many ups and downs as this year. And maybe that’s a good thing. The good news about this next season is that we’ll have largely the same coaching staff and the rare treat of a returning quarterback. The bad news is that we’re in for another even-year Amen Corner. But that’s future Auburn’s problem. Present Auburn is enjoying the off season because football is over and congratulating UNDERCOVER BARNER NATIONAL CHAMPION UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA. Well done, Knights. Enjoy Disney World.

In all seriousness, Georgia playing Alabama for a national championship*** in a season in which we beat them both in the regular season is less than ideal. It’s the opposite of ideal. It’s nodeal. But that’s the hand we were dealt. Auburn had the opportunity to win it all themselves and fell short. And what we’ve been left with is a bowl of lemons with which we are expected to make delicious Toomer’s quality lemonade. Except the lemons are full of seeds and some jerk has stolen all the sugar. And our hands are covered in paper cuts. But we’ll do it. Beyond what is in our immediate control, to quote Patton Oswalt and his late wife Michelle McNamara, “It’s chaos; be kind.” And by that, I mostly mean stay off the internet until it’s safe. So like ten years from now.

But I also mean it in a real sense. After the first and one true Georgia game, I wrote about teasing and ribbing but not losing yourself to a rivalry. It’s fun to “hate” but it’s damaging to yourself and everyone around when you begin to hate. I almost wrote about this next thing then, but with an Iron Bowl for all the marbles looming, I didn’t think it was the right time. Honestly, it may never be the right time, so what better time to say something horribly unpopular than on my way out of the door?

Because of my job with my previous employer, I’ve been unable to comment on one of Auburn’s most notorious villains for the better part of two and a half years now. I loved my job. It wasn’t difficult to stay neutral, especially publicly, and I managed to make it through my clerkship and beyond without commenting on Harvey Updyke or anything else we handled. I still won’t comment on the procedure of Harvey’s case, but I do want to share something else related to him:

In my heart, I have forgiven Harvey Updyke. I’m not saying that I suddenly like Harvey or would welcome him into my home, but I don’t hate him anymore. He is a broken man with only Alabama Football to keep him warm. Only a person devoid of joy and empathy could’ve done what he did, and I think living a life like that is a punishment in and of itself. So some time ago, I put my hatred for Harvey in a box, untied the boat, and let it drift away. You don’t have to, but I did.

What I’m saying is that when given the choice between light and darkness, I will always strive to pick light. People and our connections with them are what make life worth living. Undercover Barner was so named because I spent several years in Tuscaloosa, though undercover has always been a misnomer. But the point is that I lived there. On purpose. And while I would like to see all of their athletic teams lose every contest they attempt in perpetuity, I wouldn’t trade the years 2012 to 2015 for anything in the world. I could’ve hunkered down and hated my life for three years, but life is too short to be miserable for stupid reasons. I met some of my very best friends in Tuscaloosa, and I left with a law degree. I’ll always be grateful to Alabama for that. I “hate” the Tide, but I won’t hate them. I choose the light.

When the original crew was dreaming up College and Magnolia way back in 2012, we all agreed on three basic things:

  1. We loved Auburn.
  2. A lot of people loved Auburn as much as we did.
  3. Those people deserved quality Auburn content, free of sexist overtones or problematic stories that go viral for the wrong reasons but full of accurate news and realistic, passionate opinions about a place many of us consider home.

I think that’s why I do this, why we all do this. Auburn is a part of who we are and a home we can always go back to. Some of us are lucky enough to have been born there, but many, many more were not. Maybe they sat on their dads’ shoulders while rolling Toomer’s Corner, or heard stories of Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson from an aunt or uncle, or maybe they went to college and never left. But no matter how we got bitten, once we became a part of Auburn, Auburn became a part of us. So when we got the call that SBNation was looking for a new Auburn site, we were honored and excited for the opportunity. We brought on a couple of new people and shuffled some assignments (apparently 1L year doesn’t lend itself to co-editing responsibilities), and Auburn’s football rewarded us by promptly going 3-9. But in the six years since its inception, CaM has gone from an idea in a group text of tailgate friends to a site we’re all proud of. Leadership and writers have changed over the years, but I think our original mission is still being fulfilled.

And so as one of the last of the Old Guard, I think it’s time for me to step away. I made the decision a couple of months ago when I accepted a new and challenging job, and I’m still at peace with it. I know the site is in good hands, and I’m sure someone will take up the mantle of resident listicle-author in my absence. My Twitter account won’t be changing so if you need a GIF fix, you know where to find me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to bombard you with the inner-workings of my mind for these past few years, and I’m sure I’ll miss my manic Monday editing blitzes eventually. Thank you for inviting me into your lives and for letting me share what I love with all of you. It’s been a pleasure to write for College and Magnolia and to write about Auburn. Fight on, you orange and blue.

There’s probably a million ways to weave in a sad song lyric or line of poetry about saying goodbye into an ending, but I’ll always come back to Jim Fyffe:

My time is up; I thank you for yours.

War Eagle.

*I’ve finally recovered from being sick, but my punishment for enjoying football briefly continues as we were met in the Atlanta airport with both jubilant UCF fans AND gleeful Georgia fans. #Sherman

**Stephen Roberts, you make Opelika so proud. Go Dawgs.

***But not THE national championship ;) --SMR