I love Auburn more than just about anything. It really does fall in line behind the standard important things in life — family, friends, religion, country, Auburn — and it’s something that becomes ingrained in those that experience it. That feeling is well-documented, and more eloquently-explained than I can jot down here.
With all loves, natural competition is created. Sure, you can be both a Beatles and a Rolling Stones fan, but eventually there’s somebody that wants to pit them together to see which you like the most. It happens with nearly everything, but in sports it’s especially different. You’re not just analyzing the lyrics of two independent albums, or charting sales. You get to see teams actively try to destroy each other. Paul McCartney never actually ran into the studio and smashed Keith Richards’ guitar during a recording session in an effort to sabotage (although that would’ve been incredible).
So, naturally, you get to the point where some things are shunned. For example, the closest to Tuscaloosa that I’ll willingly go is to Centreville for a pulled pork sandwich at the Twix N Tween. I own very few red pieces of clothing, and those usually come at the back end of a very sparse laundry cycle. Upon filling out a baby registry last week, I staunchly vetoed a baby mobile that had a little elephant on it. Essentially, I’m tangled up in blue.
I’m tangled up in the odd cycle of being an Auburn fan. I’ll never get out of it, and I’m sure that it’ll probably shave a couple years off of my life in the process. During my life, I’ve experienced the rise and fall of the Terry Bowden years, the gradual build of Tommy Tuberville’s tenure, and his subsequent Andrea Doria-like submersion underwater, then the lightning quick earthquake Chizik years. That’s just preceding what we’ve got under our belts over the past several years with Gus Malzahn. Being born into an Auburn family gave me patience, strength, passion, and a quiet hope for the incredible.
The others that occupy our state don’t have to worry about such things. It’s very true that most Auburn people are associated with the school in some way, while Alabama’s got the sidewalk fans. It’s natural, and it happens in every state with the big universities. With the historic success, the state name in the school name, and a closer proximity to the biggest city in the state, Alabama’s going to have more fans. They’re also going to have more fluid fans. You didn’t see the hordes leaking out into the Carolinas back in 2004, when Mike Shula was losing to Northern Illinois and Hawaii. It gave an excuse for someone to say “Oh, I’m a casual fan because I live there” or something similar.
Auburn people don’t have that luxury. Yes, I’ve wished for the ability to wave away my cares for Auburn athletics plenty of times (looking at you, 2012), but it’s always a hollow desire. We’re here for the long haul. We’re here for the really bad times. Like it or not, we’ve all signed a blood contract, clasped hands for an unbreakable vow, taken a vow of silence to stand steadfast as an oak in support of Auburn.
We’ve got more to lose, because we actually care. This didn’t come easy. We had to work (hard work) for it. We’ve put in the hours and watched a lot of frustrating football to get to where we are today. Alabama is the old money family that won the billion-dollar lottery drawing. I imagine them like Dudley Dursley when he was attacked by Dementors:
“What sort of things did you hear, popkin?” breathed Aunt Petunia, very white-faced and with tears in her eyes.
But Dudley seemed incapable of saying. He shuddered again and shook his large blond head, and despite the sense of numb dread that had settled on Harry since the arrival of the first owl, he felt a certain curiosity. Dementors caused a person to relive the worst moments of their life. . . . What would spoiled, pampered, bullying Dudley have been forced to hear?
What would an Alabama fan be forced to relive during a Dementor attack? The Kick Six? The two national championships leading up to it must have really been tough to deal with. Cam Newton? I’m sure it completely ruined the Heisman and national championship from the year before. Last year’s rough Saturday in Jordan-Hare? I sure hope the Playoff win soothed the pain.
Living through the Mike, Mike, and Mike years doesn’t qualify you for college football welfare.
I will never pull for Alabama. I will never pull for them, even if a win directly put Auburn into some sort of championship game. I would just trust that they’d let me down, and I could extend my dislike of them for failing to help us.
The worst part is that they don’t understand what they’ve got and they don’t care. Nebraska fans sell out their stadium every single week and their team sucks hard. Alabama has the best team in the country and can hardly fill it out for more than a quarter.
I don’t expect to win tomorrow, not even at my hardest of Barning. I do expect us to play hard and passionately. Sometimes you just can’t beat the machine, and this may be one of those times. And if we somehow do, won’t that be sweet?