For eight years we lived in the state of Washington and we now live in South Dakota. When you mention “auburn” to many people living outside the southeast, their first thought is possibly a hair color. Football is just not a way of life around these parts. But being born in Alabama (well, the hospital was in MS but my parents lived in AL), and living almost half my life there meant I had to choose the state football team for which I would cheer. It sounds a little cliche to say, but you can ask anyone who’s ever been around it and they will tell you that it is almost impossible to understand the football rivalry if you aren’t from there. We would joke that on an Alabama birth certificate it had a space for your name, gender and the declaration of the state football team you chose. I guess the enthusiasm from much of my dad’s family who graduated from Auburn was influential, because when I reached the age of accountability and had to “declare”, I chose Auburn.
In my teen years, I was able to actually attend a few Auburn/AL games. Through all those other years that I didn’t go to the games, I gathered with loyal fans for the big game that takes place at the end of each college football season. Most of the gatherings in those years were spent bonding over our sadness that our beloved Tigers lost yet again … to big bad Bama.
When it came time to choose a college to attend, I ended up at our state’s Baptist college instead of THE university in Alabama that I had come to love – Auburn University. And I’m glad I did because my person was “waiting” on me there! 🙂
After marrying him, the son of an Auburn grad, we both made a pledge to raise our kids to be only Tiger fans. JK … it wasn’t quite that bad. We only starved them a few times in their childhood when we overheard them using bad words such as roll, tide, elephant, and Bear. Thankfully, they caught on quickly and always tattled on the people who used those ugly words. We had succeeded as parents.
Then one day, it happened. A long-time dream came true and we moved our family to “the loveliest village on the plains.” For seven years Brent and I never missed an Auburn home game, thanks to generous friends. And it was in those years that my love for Auburn grew beyond just football games. I realized that “Auburn” was a place and a people … a family.
Eventually, our kids also grew to choose and love Auburn for themselves. Tailgates, the schools they attended and the fabulous teachers they had (most were AU grads), game day gatherings, our church family, neighbors, the college students … all of it was sort of magical for us. The atmosphere in the town was exciting and inviting. Although the football team had become more successful over the years, I discovered that being an Auburn fan was about so much more than winning a game. As does every fan base, the Auburn family includes a small minority of crazies who don’t know how to treat others. But overall, I am thankful … thankful that I was able to see for myself what being an Auburn fan really means. I discovered a supportive family of fans where something bigger existed than just trophies and titles – although those are very nice, of course! I came to realize that while it is true that some football fans love their football team, Auburn fans love Auburn.
We’ve since moved from that lovely town with the wonderful people who live there. But I’m glad that as we’ve maintained our Auburn connections, having the inside scoop means we know that the university’s football program stands for more than winning games. I love the fact that I can support our coach, win or lose, because he’s a man of integrity and honor. I hope they’ll continue to choose coaches such as Gus Malzahn – who teach faith and life lessons. It really is great to be an Auburn Tiger.
This weekend, there was no miracle or last-second game-saving play. Our team played with guts and gusto all the way until the end of the game. It’s tough to lose a game when your heart gets so involved in it. And when we do lose, I get disappointed along with the rest of our fans. And sad. But at the end of the day, even when our football team loses to our state rival yet again, I stand proud.
Because, you see, I AM a big fan … of Auburn! 🙂