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What if …

Source: TET image library

Hello again, it’s your laziest member of the TET staff, popping up once again to share a thought related to my own subjective experiences as opposed to the expert analysis by our crack team of football and sports mavens (in which all you knowledgeable readers are probably more interested). Nonetheless, this thought has been brewing in my heart and brain for a while now, and although I wonder if I will be thrown out of the fold of the Tiger faithful by sharing this thought, share it I must.

On the cusp of another mythical national championship game (I give it no legitimacy just because there was something termed a “playoff” involved), it appears that we very well may have to put up with our mathematically-challenged cross-state rivals lording over us for another year while claiming twenty or thirty more national championships than us.

One thing is for sure, even counting correctly, the team in Crimson does have more championships, whether national, conference, bowl or Iron Bowl, than the men in Orange and Blue. They seem to have a “process” that works for them to produce wins.  They seem to embody excellence on the field, on a consistent basis, more than we generally do.

Perhaps their past success simply breeds more success, and like a genetic code that is passed down through the ages, those folks in T-Town simply keep surviving as the fittest. Sure, there might be a few genetic mutations and birth defects (Dubose, Franchione, Shula) and even some outright miscarriages (Price), but a brand like Bama never seems to stay under for long.  Just wave those crystal footballs and what not in the faces of the strongest recruits, and your success keeps sustaining itself.

Now, none of this is said to run the Auburn program down. It just leads to my main premise: What if we, Auburn, are not the best football team in this state?  What if we, through what has been built up in the past, are always going to show cumulatively less outward success than a certain team to the west of us?

Here is something that might be shocking to many of you: Other than the fact that the obnoxiousness on the other side is fueled by this state of affairs, I am perfectly all right with it.  This may seem surprising, as the only time I ever blew my stack against a Bama troll was when he called me a “little brother.” However, allow me to explain. 

As I noted in an old, old post here, college football to me used to exemplify best the axiom of “our best beat your best, making us THE best.” Until a few decades ago, when it seemed that student-athletes started playing more for us than with us, I felt a stronger spirit of actual representation by these young men.  In fact, a friend of mine described players as being recruited not just to the Auburn football team, but also to the Auburn “way of life” which was held to make the program what it was.

Some would say that college sports was never that way and was always a myth: a psychological self-deception that keeps people interested in an illusion that can make their lives seem better as they bask in the reflected glory of the success of others, while being careful to cast off the reflected failure of those same objects of interest. Certainly, most of those on “the dark side” who never had any kind of legitimate connection with UA (whether as alumni or even earnestly “growing up Bama”) probably have deceived themselves thusly for years and years.

Nonetheless, I honestly believe that college sports was powered on an actual truth of representation—that the men in the navy blue jerseys were part of the same “way of life” that was and is Auburn, best defined by the Auburn Creed. And that their successes, to the extent they lived up to that “way of life,” were our successes, too, to the extent we also lived up to it.

In my opinion college football has fundamentally changed into something characterized by every other spectator sport. It has become just another industry—just another endeavor undertaken by those who specialize in it. And we who follow it have become mere consumers of a product produced by others. Within this context, I can show why I am not as desperate to get ahead of Bama as I once was.

I came across the opinion that Bear Bryant was the first head coach who fully realized the concept of the NCAA football factory, and from the historical record, it appears that may be the case. Furthermore, I do not think that we can deny that the latest coach at that institution of higher football has put together a continuing winner with his “process.”

If we accept the premise that modern college football is just a factory, then whatever we can do to get ahead of the other side would just be another cog in a machine that runs on and on without any input from us, other than our cash for tickets or merchandise. And that “process” can presumably be duplicated like any mass-produced item, regardless of the “way of life” of a particular institution.

Add that perspective to the sense of betrayal most of us felt from Mike Dyer, Duke Williams, Nick Marshall’s pre-2014 difficulties, the armed-robbery case, and the en masse give-up in 2012, and you can see why I think that I might not be the only person who believes that college football has left true college football fans behind.

This feeling isn’t due to our recent lack of success on the field, so don’t think I am merely “casting off reflected failure” here. I get this way as I see how discussions are framed at AU and across college sports:
* the pro-Petrino faction during the last (and probably next) AU coaching search;
* the characterization of Mark Richt as “a nice guy who can’t win;”
* the booster politics everywhere but especially on the Plains;
* recruiting becoming more about convincing players than finding and evaluating them; and finally
* the apparent success of the “process” on the other side of the state.

None of this is to say that there is no inherent value anymore in college sports. Excellence in athletic competition certainly is a legitimate form of entertainment, and the analysis and prognostication thereon is certainly fun. Nor am I saying I don’t care about Auburn or Auburn football any more. But I have really lost the feeling that the Tigers represent either me or that which makes me a part of the Auburn family.

Again, there are those who would say that they never represented me or Auburn values, and that fandom in general was, is, and always will be a sham. That may be the case now, but I know that it wasn’t at some point in the past.  And who knows—I might be wrong, and this thing we love may remain not a sham even today.

In short, I am still proud to be Auburn, and still feel proud every time those fellows in the dark blue shirts go out and give everything they have to give. And I’ll feel this way no matter what the outcome of the game tonight may be. But I really don’t think our pride can be measured anymore versus those other fellows, and any attempt to increase our success vis-à-vis Bama really won’t mean what it used to mean (although it would still feel really good to beat those guys up and down again).

Michael Val
(who felt the same way about “Star Wars” after seeing the prequels, but BEFORE seeing the new one!)


  1. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Football is, and always has been entertainment, for me. In my youth, Alabama beat Auburn 8 of the first 9 games, and Bama won 18 of the first 22 in my lifetime. I made the mistake of believing that the worm had turned after Bo over the top and the tornado Iron Bowl. However, the Tigers choking one away in 1984 to a 4-6 Bama squad brought me back to earth.

    …..It’s always going to be a struggle to match Alabama. There are more state resources headed that way, more backers, more regional recognition. How many times have we seen a school in the Bowl Alliance, the BCS, or the new College Football Playoff, that don’t have their state in their name?

    …..Miami in 2001 and 2002. Auburn in 2010. Notre Dame in 2012. And now Clemson in 2015. That’s it, out of 21 years of this national championship deal.

    …..The main reason I chose Auburn over Alabama was that there was simply less jackassery from Auburn family and friends than from the Alabama camp. I’ve never minded playing the underdog role. That’s why you’ll see me still sitting there and cheering on, even when Auburn is getting blown out. That’s why I liked this year’s Auburn team, despite the lack of success. These guys battled, and that’s all I ask for.

  2. …..Pretty good battle going on in Glendale. Bama cashed an interception, and Henry’s second touchdown has this tied at 14 in the 2nd quarter.

  3. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Don’t know if I’ll stay away for the whole title game, as I’ve been up since 4:10 AM. I got home from work just in time to see Henry break the long run. I’ve settled in with a couple of plates of leftovers and a stinger.

    ….Wish me luck on the mashed potatoes. I made ’em from scratch, way back on December 30th. They passed the “sniff-a-roo” test, and still taste decent. I suspect ToTM would have something to say about my disrespect for the bacterias…

  4. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..End of the 3rd, and Clemson leads Bama, 24-21.

  5. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Bama ties, then pushes ahead, for a 31-24 lead. Clemson struggles down for a field goal to close, but then gives up a KR TD to give Bama a double digit lead, with 7:31 left in the game. Bank it. Bama will win another…

  6. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    Watching the game tonight it makes one think of what a successful program could be if only certain things would come together. Auburn has a lot going on. Perhaps with this new change in staff and a good recruiting season things can change for Auburn. I’ve always said that Nick Saban was the best thing that ever happened to us. I still stand by that. Why? Because he challenges Auburn. And because of that he challenges the fans that support the school . He makes even the most ardent supporter of Auburn look at itself in the mirror and say here are the things that are wrong with the program. To me that’s more than any Bobby Lowder or any other one person could ever do. Yes, he makes us EARN it.

    Bama won fair and square tonight. There can be no argument of that.

    I hope Gus Malzahn and his staff and Jay Jacobs behind them can stoke the fires of competition during the offseason. Because I guarantee you that Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers will be looking for some sort of retribution come 1 September. And if Auburn is not prepared he will take it out on us.

    So after a disappointing season of 6 and 6 and a relatively surprising finish to a bowl game that was inconsequential Auburn looks forward to the 2016 season with great anticipation. I mean great anticipation not just for having an opportunity to put a new a team out on the field but opportunity to win a championship. A championship that Auburn did not compete for in 2015.

    So suck it up Auburn fans. Let the burn sink in. As my son is worrying about tomorrow and what folks are going to say when they say….16!

    Do we accept mediocre or do we demand excellence?

    My vote is excellence.


  7. tigrrr tigrrr says:

    If you really believe the Auburn Creed many of the above statements and this article need more thought. We can only count on what we earn. We have got to come up with a better system to consistently beat Alabama. It is no good to rationalize our non success in the rivalry.

    I thought Gus had us on the right track but it seems he has sold out his competitive schemes.

    We have hard work to do to get us through the coming hard times.

  8. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    During the “$aban era” Auburn has played in 2 National Championship games and won one. Any other non UAt [SEC] team saying that?

    War dam, errybody

    • wde1988 wde1988 says:

      And Saban has won 4 national championships and played in a play off for another? Did I have to say in 7 years?

      How many other Universities in the nation can say that?

      Just saying.


  9. Sounds like a bunch of Auburn folks are throwing in the towel then recanting to say, We gonna get better. Well, enough of the bowing down to abalamer, and nik sabin. Facts are facts though but if our people bail what can we expect from the team. I was disappointed like others over the past two years. But I’m stickin’. I was disappointed in the 2012 team quitting. I was disappointed in the Auburn team in the 2015 abalamer game. Our guys battled and it was respectable until the last play when they quit again. henbry walked in untouched from 22 yards. Our guys stood around and watched. No more quitting is what I expect to see. And if quitting becomes our axiom, it will be difficult to bear. WAR EAGLE, and all you tiger banner wavers get back on board and stop the whine from the keyboard.

    • wde1988 wde1988 says:

      Speaking for me bailing isn’t on the menu. Been an Auburn man my entire life… if I didn’t change my stripes with the bear… ?

      I am in it for the duration.