Legends of the Fall
Photo by Vasha Hunt, AL.com
It’s hard to put into words what the last two games have meant to fans of the Auburn Tigers. It’s hard to recall a team of ours this over-achieving with this big a can’t-say-die attitude. From last year’s depths to this year’s soaring heights. Football magic occurred this weekend. To beat your most bitter rival in a way like that transcends the normal bounds of college football glory and fandom itself. With one win, and with one play, Auburn has jumped from the mere pages of sports headlines and the football media. She has entered the realm of pop culture and soared to nationwide–maybe even worldwide–stardom. Relish in that for a second.
The spotlight is bright but the glory is fleeting. We have another game in five days–even bigger than the last. Fame is fickle. The country reached their arms out to us to deliver them from the Alabama machine that had enveloped and consumed the sport. We delivered–in the most spectacular way of ways–and plays. Had we merely delivered the victory in an academic manner it would still be cause for great fanfare and celebration. But they got a game that is the stuff of legend. It’s okay if we accept their gratitude. As a matter of fact, I would have liked to see a little more of it in the BCS formula last night with us grabbing #2 in the computer rankings or either poll. I guess they’re going to wait one more week though. Hello? Is this mic on?
I’ve taken the time the last two days to soak up all the press we’ve gotten–from the big play, to the tiniest of minutia. I just can’t get enough. This is the reason why I am a college football fan. It’s why I take every loss with a dagger in my heart–so I can bask in the glory that is knocking off the #1 ranked, two-time defending national champions in the Iron Bowl.
Even with that joy, I’m tempered by the fact that I know plenty of good Alabama fans, and I can’t help but feel for their loss. We Auburn fans know what it’s like to lose this game–even get clubbed– but I’m not sure we know what it’s like to be knocked out of our third national championship by our biggest rivals. In my 29 seasons as an Auburn fan, it’s always been us knocking them from glory. And perhaps it’s getting to them. From the online meltdowns I’ve seen, I’m surprised that fan base hasn’t yet consumed itself in a bright crimson fireball.
Even Nick Saban, who has total control at the Capstone, can’t stand this element in the state and feels their burning enmity towards everything non-Alabama. Those bitter fans are the reason he’ll one day leave sooner rather than later. When he grants his wife permission to do interviews by proxy, you know the writing is on the wall. And now that those ingrates are questioning his coaching? Wait a second, Nick. To be fair, I think everyone is right now. Scoff at the luck thing all you will. There were cracks in your game plan Saturday that go to the core.
While I have a problem with a large portion of their fans, I still have respect for Alabama the program. We’re located across a two-horse state from the greatest college football program of all time. Many rivals in this situation just wither. If you ask a Georgia fan who their biggest rival is, you’re likely to be presented three distinctive, convincing cases for Florida, Georgia Tech, and Auburn. Alabama itself is the biggest rival for three schools: Auburn, Tennessee, and LSU. Alabama, however, will only tell you one team is their most intense rival: Auburn. And while the Tide enjoy an all-time winning record against every team in the SEC, no one plays them closer than we do. Face it. Without Alabama, the Auburn world doesn’t have as much joy. Especially on weekends like this last one.
In the SEC, one can’t rest on their laurels for long. We now have the SEC championship for which to contend. Our work is not done. Without that crown, we just beat our rivals in a slightly extended regular season. The conference crown is the number one goal each season and we must take it. We’ll take care of business this weekend and just leave our fate to a few other teams, voters, and computers. One reader lamented that it’s looking like 2004 all over again. I always said that it was that season where Auburn took one for the conference that continued to pay huge dividends during the SEC’s mighty 7-title streak. We got shafted once. Please don’t do it to us again in this, the last year of the BCS. I expect to see Mike Slive lobbying starting Saturday evening for starters. We saved college football from the clutches of the Alabama juggernaut. Now it’s time to settle the bill, national media.