Have you ever noticed the differences in relationships that Auburn fans have with members of the media?
It’s not the same type of kinship that you get to see from sympathetic writers and television personalities when it comes to other schools in the SEC. Auburn has to deal with second-rate status in the eyes of many. Even historically among our own beat writers, there have been disagreements with fans who think that they’re not portraying a sympathetic angle, and are instead trying to dig up dirt. Whether that’s in the job description or not is immaterial — the readers and consumers of said content have expressed disdain for the way that Auburn’s been covered. Personally, I remember standing in the press box during the Georgia game in 2010, and hearing one major beat writer bragging to other beat writers that he would publicly ask Cam Newton “Cam, did you take the money?” the next chance he got. When you see Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee writers writing from a position of fandom, it’s tough to understand why Auburn doesn’t get the same treatment.
Rod gave us that treatment. Rod was one of us. Rod hung on every moment just as we did.
For the Auburn fan that felt as if they weren’t being represented in the state media, Rod made you his constituency. He wanted to make sure that his voice, which mirrored the voice of Joe Auburn Fan across the land, would be amplified to get the message across. He was our guy, and I know that hearing other fanbases make fun of him for being so passionate only made me angrier, since I felt the exact same way in wins or losses.
Remember before the basketball team’s fantastic run to the Final Four? We beat Georgia on the late shot by Chuma Okeke, and then got by Mississippi State at home before heading to Tuscaloosa for the second game against the Tide. It didn’t start well, and Auburn trailed 34-23 at halftime. Despite only committing four fouls to Bama’s seven, the Tigers hadn’t shot any free throws. It was a similar story to what happened against Duke in Maui, and what happened against Kentucky this year as well. Watching those games, you wanted to reach through the screen and strangle the officials, as well as the television commentators who weren’t bringing any attention to this gross injustice.
Rod brought attention to it, made our concerns known, and spoke the words you so desperately needed to hear. He shared our pain in those moments. He also shared our ecstasy in the moments like the Kick Six and the Miracle and Jordan-Hare, among countless others.
Did he take the negative side of things too far sometimes? One criticism of Rod was that he could get down if things weren’t going well. Like, really down. I heard it at times, particularly during the Tony Barbee era of Auburn basketball (really, who could blame him?). Once during a game against Vanderbilt at Memorial Gym, the Commodores hit an early shot to go up 11-5 or something like that, and Rod basically said that Auburn was in danger of getting blown out of the gym. To be fair, this was during the worst of times, and Auburn did end up getting blown out of the gym 65-35. Still, early on in a game there should be a little more optimism.
But he knew his shortcomings. Brad Law (assistant director of broadcasting and basketball host for Auburn) told me that once during the late Barbee era, when things had completely come undone, Rod texted him after a game apologizing for getting so down on the team. Looking back, there’s no apology necessary due to what Barbee did to Auburn, but at least Rod knew that he needed to help bolster the Auburn spirit in this instance. In response, Brad sent Rod the link to his 35 greatest calls on Youtube and said that there’s no need to apologize.
Rod often had help in this regard, as well. He influenced his broadcast partners to feel the same passion as the average fan. Here’s a play you may have forgotten about from 2001, where Rod and Andy Burcham are doing the old CSS tape-delayed broadcast. Interestingly enough, it’s Andy on play-by-play and Rod on color commentary, and once again, it’s Auburn getting screwed in Nashville.
It’s literally the worst call of all time. I can rationalize great missed calls like the Fifth Down and the Miami vs Ohio State Pass Interference, but this one has no room to exist. Rod and Andy could be any two Auburn fans watching in their living room.
While that game still resulted in a win during an otherwise fairly innocuous season of Auburn football, things almost got derailed due to a huge missed call nine years later. Remember when Auburn won the national championship in football in 2010? You probably do. You probably also remember that when the Tigers went to Tuscaloosa, Bama played out of their minds for the first 20 minutes, and got up 24-0. Cam Newton wouldn’t have needed such great heroics if the referees hadn’t called the game with some bias against Nick Fairley. Here’s a big third down from Alabama’s third drive.
After that play, Alabama went down to score another touchdown, pushing the lead to 21-0. Auburn still won, but we were all ready to strangle someone just like Rod and Stan (especially Stan) were ready to do.
The point remains that Auburn fans constantly feel under-represented, and we need voices to help in our fight not to be out-shouted by louder and friendlier media representatives at rival schools. Rod gave us that, and he made us feel like he truly knew our thoughts as fans. There are some that think that a radio broadcaster ought to be neutral. I disagree completely, and if you were a fan of Rod Bramblett, you should as well.
Rod graduated from Auburn, called baseball games for Auburn for more than a decade before becoming the football voice, and ended up becoming a legend. Would his greatest calls be as good or as memorable if he hadn’t been one of us from the start? Probably not.