This is not a non-partisan post. When it comes to picking an allegiance on the football field (or the basketball court of in swimming or tic-tac-toe) I am orange and blue through and through.
I have wonderful friends who graduated from the University of Alabama. I have great respect for former Bama president David Mathews, greatly enjoyed my friendship with former chancellor Tom Meredith and truly appreciated former president Judy Bonner.
But it was Auburn University that took in a farm kid in 1961 and did their best to open his eyes to a whole new world. And for this I will always be grateful and always cheer when Auburn competes with anyone else, especially the University of Alabama.
I saw my first AU vs. Bama football game in 1961. That was 57 games ago. I have no idea how many of them I have seen in person. A lot for sure. I was there the day Auburn blocked the punts in 1972. Ditto for 1969 when Connie Frederick ran about 90 yards on a fake punt. Also the first time the game was played in Auburn in 1989 and in 2013 when “Kick Six” happened.
I suffered through the hey day of Coach Bear Bryant and the nine straight Bama wins from 1973-1981. Coach Nick Saban has taken Bama on an amazing run during his time in Tuscaloosa. But he will NEVER rise to the mythical place that Bear Bryant occupied Bryant was the coach for Everyman. Forged by the Great Depression and rough as a corn cob, Bryant touched a warm place in the heart of many Alabamians whose Scots-Irish ancestors told them to not take a back seat to anyone.
The world has changed since Bryant and Shug Jordan walked the sidelines. College football has morphed into BIG BUSINESS. Very big business with multi-million dollar coaches’ salaries, sky boxes and all the other glitz and glitter.
But on the day of the game it is still Auburn vs. Alabama and a win is still as satisfying as ever. So it was Nov. 25 when Auburn beat No.l 1 Alabama 26-14.
Life has been more tolerable for those of us in orange and blue since Bryant retired after the 1981 season. That was 36 games ago. Auburn has won 19 of them, Bama has won 17. For decades the annual contest was played in Birmingham’s Legion Field. That changed in 1989 when Auburn hosted it’s cross-state rival in Jordan-Hare stadium. Auburn won.
Bama played Auburn on campus for the first time in 2000. Auburn won that one too. It was a raw late November day with the temperature just above freezing and sleet falling. My son Kevin and I were there. Auburn kicked three field goals and won 9-0. Interestingly enough, there have now been 23 on campus games since the one in 1989. Fourteen in Auburn, nine in Tuscaloosa. Auburn has won 14 of the 23.
I am not a football fan per se. When Auburn is on TV, I am there from kickoff to final whistle. But other college games get only a quick look at the score and no way could I tell you who won the last Super Bowl. In fact, as I write this there is a pro game on my TV in another room. I hear the announcers and the crowd. But honest, I don’t even know which two teams are playing.
But then, none of these other schools and teams took me in nearly 60 years. They did not form life-long friendships and allegiances. Only Auburn has that claim.
WAR EAGLE!!! 26-14. How sweet it is.