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“Are you about TREE, or are you about FOOTBALL?”

By on September 2nd, 2012 in Uncategorized 3 Comments »

by Michael Val Hietter, ’86&’88  on September 1, 2012

My wife Eileen and I were enjoying our first
not-visiting-relatives vacation since…our honeymoon four years ago, staying at
her mother’s vacation condo in Hilton Head (which is about the only way we
could afford to “do” Hilton Head). After our beach-and-pool day, we decided to
go to the iconic Salty Dog Café for dinner. Getting a table meant an
hour-and-a-half wait, so we took a seat at one of the outdoor bars to eat.

Although she is a Montevallo graduate and a total non-sports
fan (yes, I don’t know how we got together either), I finally got my wife to
understand what it means to be a part of the Auburn family after taking her to
the National Championship celebration and a Homecoming game. I think she got the
picture after seeing 80,000 people all wearing the same shirt. In any case,
Eileen and I were both wearing Auburn t-shirts and coordinating shorts, not
quite matchy-matchy (although I really don’t mind going completely
matchy-matchy, which is one of my endearing qualities according to her) but
close enough.

A fellow sitting by himself on another side of the bar to
our right was talking to everyone around and no one in particular, with a
misplaced sense of bravado and self-assuredness that men sitting by themselves
at a bar often have. He wore a cap with the legend “NO1 GR8TR” on the front and
the Kentucky “K” on the side. It didn’t take him long to notice our Auburn
attire. “Awww, you’re from Auburn,” he said, thereby becoming Mr. MOTO (Master
Of The Obvious) in my mind. “That’s okay, I like Auburn, they’re SEC, that’s
good,” he continued. “But look out for these folks,” he said, pointing to a
couple on the other side of the bar from us, “They are Alabama!” Eileen and I
exchanged a pleasant wave with the Bama contingent (who incidentally were not
wearing colors, and didn’t even look like they were going to make a deal about
AU, Bama, or anything else for that matter).

Someone asked him what the notation on his cap meant. “It
means ‘No One Greater’—that sure describes me!” Mr. MOTO guffawed, and
explained it also represented Kentucky’s recent NCAA Basketball Championship. I
really couldn’t ignore this fellow, and the misplaced bravado and
self-assuredness was starting to rub me the wrong way. I butted in, “If the
ball isn’t pointy or has laces, I don’t really care about it,” which refers to
my love of football, rugby, and baseball, and my total present indifference to
basketball. “That’s what happens when you can’t win championships,” he
rejoindered, thereby scoring a cheap and inelegant, yet nonetheless valid,
zinger on me.

True to what I dubbed him in my mind, Mr. MOTO continued on:
“Hey, you got those trees down there at, what-do-they-call-it?” thus engaging
me in more conversation than I wanted. “Toomers Corner, right in front of the
Auburn campus,” I filled in. “Yeah, they poisoned them trees, what’s going on
with that?” he asked. The Bama people then jumped right on into the
conversation, chirping brightly, “But the trees are alright now.” “No, they are
not,” I replied back, “They are biologically alive, and may stay that way for a
while, but our horticulture department at Auburn says they may be what they
call ‘aesthetically dead’ soon.” Not wanting to be left out of the conversation
that he started, Mr. MOTO interjected, pointing at me and saying “Hey
listen—Are you about TREE, or are you about FOOTBALL?”

My heart skipped a beat for a second when I heard that, and
I had to catch my breath. I’d like to think the whole outdoor bar went silent,
like in an old western movie, waiting for my reply (of course, it didn’t).

“I’m about AUBURN,” I told this fellow, and the Bama folks,
and anyone else who wanted to hear my voice at normal speaking level. “Those
trees are a part of our campus, and that campus is a part of our tradition, and
all those things, plus every Auburn man and woman who ever passed under those
trees, make up Auburn. Auburn is more than trees, or football, or any other thing. I’m about AUBURN.”

Fortunately, our food finally came, and I was relieved to be
free from the conversation into which I was reluctantly drawn. A woman came up
to me and said, “I think it is just TERRIBLE what they did to those trees.” And
it is terrible, but it is more terrible to think why someone would do that to our
trees. Folks, the man who “allegedly” poisoned our trees did that not because
he is a jerk, not because he hates trees, and not because he has “too much
Bama” in him (a sentiment which was repudiated by the family of Tommy Lewis, the originator
of the quote). That man “allegedly” did this because he wanted to
hurt all of us that hold Auburn dear. As such, he “allegedly” did this because
he stands, at heart, against all that Auburn really is. The thing is, he really
isn’t smart enough to understand that about himself, but it is still true
nonetheless.

So, folks, as we live our lives and scream “WAR EAGLE” and
mourn our trees and enjoy our football, let’s remember one thing—at heart, we
are all about AUBURN, and no less than all of AUBURN.

Michael Val​

(who believes in Auburn…ALL of Auburn…and LOVES IT!)​

3 Comments

  1. Acid Reign says:

    …..Great piece! We are about Auburn, no doubt!

  2. AubTigerman says:

    Amen! Excellent post.

  3. Im4 Auburn says:

    I believe in Auburn and love it. Enjoyed this article.