GAME TIME TONIGHT is 8:30 Eastern/7:30 pm Central on ESPN. Auburn v. Oregon.
UPDATE: I’ve written before on how I understood White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs protecting the interests of the news media. I missed this the other day, but it’s a hoot that Gibbs says he’ll roll the White House if Auburn wins tonight.
I wasn’t born in 1957. I’m told that’s the last time Auburn won a national championship. Believe me, I’ve had dozens, if not more, Alabama fans remind me over and over and over since 1980 when I moved to Alabama for the second time in my life.
We moved back at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school. In getting to know the mates in class, I’d ask who they were pulling for in the NFL. Being a Dallas Cowboys fan since I can remember, it was just the most natural question I could ask.
Auburn or Alabama
But you see, in Alabama, there is no professional football team. (Keep the snod Cam Newton comments to yourselves, please.) I was told, “We don’t follow the NFL here. You’re either and Auburn fan or an Alabama fan. There ain’t no in between and there is nothing else. Plus, the Falcons suck.”
And so in those formative years, I found myself following Auburn. They began a run over Alabama in those days–though that first November Paul “Bear” Bryant beat Auburn and achieved his record setting wins or something.
Three years later, when it came time to choose where I wanted to go to college, there was only one place. Auburn.
After college, when I began working in the Governor’s Office for Gov. Guy Hunt, an Alabama fan, and then Gov. Fob James, a star on the 1954 Auburn team, the loyalties for Auburn became more and more entrenched. Being from North Alabama and hiring a good many fokes from up that way, members of the Hunt administration to me mainly were “Them.” Being in Montgomery and so close to Auburn, I became to them an “Aub.” A “One of ‘em.” And I became an easy mark.
Driving through east Alabama on one of the governor’s stops, someone looked at a dilapidated old country home and said, “Look, there’s the Auburn campus.” One of the security used to send me beeper messages saying there was a 10-54 in the road in Auburn. (A dead cow.) Yeah, with Auburn having done so much for agriculture in the state, it was so easy for them.
Gov. James was different. Well, he at least still pulled for Auburn. And with him were more like-minded people. I didn’t hear anything more about 10-54s.
The History of Auburn Sports
Over the years, I’ve seen Auburn so close to being able to break into the top, only to be let down by a bad play, a bad referee call, or the prejudices of the BCS system where a 13-0 record wasn’t good enough to get into the top game only to see Oklahoma field a team that played as well as a little league squad.
I’ve seen the incredible beauty of Bo Jackson running. I’ve seen good quarterbacks rise up and become household names in Alabama where you could talk about them like they were regulars in sitting across the dinner table. And I’ve seen them try so hard, and just not make it.
It’s been an up and down ride. The ridicule. The crap the BCS pulled. I’ve seen coaches come and go. And now I’ve seen two great players, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton win the Heisman Trophy.
Tonight’s game is going to be an emotional event for many, many people across Alabama and across the country, and around the world. There are Auburn people everywhere, we’re probably just not as loud as fans like Georgia or Oklahoma.
We work hard. We wear orange and blue. And we confuse many when we yell “War Eagle!” at kickoffs, or when we walk past someone else with an Auburn t-shirt or lapel pin, and then describe ourselves as “The Auburn Tigers.”
The stories are rich. To ever see the Eagle fly from the stands at Auburn’s Jordan Hare Stadium down to the center of the field over the AU emblem stirs almost as much emotion in many as the playing of a wedding march or the national anthem. And to see the mascot, Aubie, usually a crazy guy in a tiger suit who has an uninhibited personality, hamming it up with referees, players, children and the hot hottie who’s gushing for him as much as he’s gushing for her, is enough to make you smile and say, “War Eagle” all over again.
Naturally, I don’t know what will happen in tonight’s game. But I can easily get choked up like John Boehner winning a door prize at the pride I have of the guys who will be there on that field tonight, (most likely with Brent Musburger biasedly hyping Oregon).
There are generations of people around the world who have been waiting for tonight to happen almost as bad as Cubs fans long for a return to the World Series. (I’m a Cubbie, too, so trust me, I get it in the Fall and Spring and Summer.)
Hopefully, things will go well tonight. Even so, the 2010 football seasons has been one of the best rides ever. We’re honored to have had you along.
And ESPN, if Musberger sounds biased, I’ll just watch it with no sound.