Monday, November 25, 2013

Musings During Iron Bowl Week

The summer of '78, I somewhat reluctantly began graduate work at Auburn University. It wasn't that I liked or disliked Auburn, it was more a feeling that I, a full-time English teacher and commuter, would not fit into the scheme of things on a primarily residential campus known for its agriculture and engineering programs.  I was one of probably thousands of Alabamians who think they understand Auburn.  I was wrong.

Auburn University is everything the Auburn nation claims it is--warm and accepting, beautiful, academically tough, and spirited.  I discovered in Auburn people a resilience I had never before encountered in the education field, and by that I mean that they were undaunted by setback, criticism, or the size of the task at hand.  The faculty were demanding and good-humored.  My fellow graduates, progressive-minded and creative.  By the time I graduated with a Master of Speech Communication degree in 1980, I was orange and blue through and through.

I admit that I am somewhat of a legacy Auburn Tiger--my mother was an Auburn undergrad back around 1948.  I still kick myself for not having the foresight to keep her freshman beanie and the stuffed orange and blue tiger she brought back to Birmingham with her when she left school.  Unfortunately, she never finished that degree, but she did pass on what all Auburn people pass on, and that is a permanent affection for the Plains.  I suppose I was destined to call Auburn, Alabama my home away from home.

Ah, but this is Iron Bowl week, and we are supposed to be talking football, right?  OK, except that I am not an authority on football.  Like any kid born in this state, I have sat through many a game, and I know pretty well what's going on on the field, but who am I to describe--muchless predict--what a bunch of D-I caliber athletes will do on any given Saturday?  Which brings me to the point of this blog:  the incessant, obnoxious, ill-conceived squalling also known as trash talk or smack.

I don't want to seem prim, but stop it.  Yep, just like that.  You see, it doesn't make any difference whose rear-end you think will get kicked, how murderous you think your team is, or whose coach has the people skills of a porcupine.  Do you hate the kids on the field?  What for?  They're the ones who will have sod between their teeth, not you.  Do you think the coach is overpaid?  Would you still think so if the paycheck went into your pocket?  Or do you for some inexplicable reason just hate one particular university or the other?

One of my friends had this to say. "Hey, this is the SEC; do you whatever you have to do."  I think he may have meant that all the venom-spewing was all in good fun, but he's wrong.  It detracts from everything we're supposed to be doing in this state, including supporting students.  If you're an Auburn grad, and you're a little nervous about this game, welcome to the club.  I well remember laughing with delight at the amazing  Iron Bowl comeback of the 2010 Championship team, but I also remember howling in frustration over a certain short kid's field goal kick.  The upcoming contest could go either way.  Many commentators say that every year, as they do about other traditional rivalries.  So yes, let's do throw the record book out, and be who we are--the most cohesive, gracious, and classy supporters of a football team as can be found anywhere.  And one more thing--This may not always be true, but for the 2013 season it is most definitely true:  No matter what is on the scoreboard after 60 minutes, there will be no such thing as defeat for the Auburn Tigers.  Not this year.  We've already won.  War Eagle!