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I don’t think you understand … but there is crying in football
50 year perspective of the Auburn National Championship … Max Sconyers
I have been trying all week to put this National Championship into perspective. As you know, or may soon surmise, I have many friends of various allegiances all around the SEC who have been stating, “Enjoy the moment”, which, of course, I have been, but it is much, much more than just that game. After watching the game as the lone Auburn fan in a bar of 80 some odd folks in Amarillo, TX (my latest consulting assignment), as humbly as I could be, I congratulated as many as would shake my hand. The women of the men-folk Oregon fan were the surprising bitter mouthed losers, but hey, as they say, times are a changing you know.
What really surprised me though, as I sat there trying to return some of the 300 odd text messages I had either generated or received during the game and as I was trying to compose myself after consuming more beer and cigarettes in one six hour period than I had in several cumulative years of recent. I started to cry. Not little tear in the corner blurry eyed tears, but boo-hoo, try and catch your breath tears. The emotional relief was as comforting as it was confusing. It is, by the way, only a game, right?
Well, yes it is only a game, of sorts, but then again, that wasn’t what these tears represented. Not to me, not to many in the Auburn family. Now I am nothing special but my experience with this institution goes a little deeper than just being a fan. Not wanting to take anything away from any fan of any sport. I love college sports of any kind over professional sports. The pride, the allegiances, the history, the rivalry, the emotion in college sports has absolutely no equal in the professional arena. This is particularly true of football in the SEC, and more particularly true, in the Heart of Dixie, the state of Alabama. I don’t care how much the Eagles fans hate the Steelers fans, it ain’t the same, I’ve been there, trust me on this, it just ain’t the same. Now, in my situation, lets add to that already hyped up college emotion, over 100 years of family school pride in attending, then throw in your own dirt and sweat for five years, and now we’re getting close.
Perhaps the tears were for my grandfather who attended there as well as my dad, who, at 16, tried out for the football team in 1945 but was sidelined with an injured shoulder. Not hard to imagine considering the equipment in those days. Both were there when the school was called API, Alabama Polytechnical Institute (Imagine trying to scream that with any enthusiasm). That was old school before it was fashionable to be, old school. And that was followed by all of his seven of my dad’s brothers and sisters, one of which was the first female veterinarian in the state. And that was followed by literally hundreds of cousins, nieces and nephews, including my own kids.
Perhaps the tears were from my own football playing days on the Loveliest Village on the Plains. Walking on an SEC football team in the late 1970’s is probably no different today. With of course the notable exception in the gargantuan size of the players in today’s game. I was 5’-10” and 210 pounds and, though small-ish for an offensive lineman, I fared pretty well. I Captained a JV team that beat an Alabama JV team on Legion Field in Birmingham, with Bear Bryant barking up a storm, hounds tooth cap and London Fog flappin’ in the wind and rain, on their sideline for the second half. Having driven over from Tuscaloosa at half time when he got the news they were losing to us. He’d rather beat Auburn in women’s volleyball than Notre Dame in football. That’s the passion that rivalry provokes.
Perhaps the tears were for all the ribbing I took as a kid being an Auburn fan from all of my Alabama brethren. Being the constant brunt of jokes, cow college and red-headed step child whipped, as we were. With the lone exception of the Punt-Bama-Punt miracle of 1972, by the time I was ready to graduate in the Fall of 1982, it had been almost ten years since we had beaten Alabama. So with Pat Dye coaching and Bo Jackson running, we did just that the same month I graduated. That’s when, as they say, the tide began to turn.
Perhaps the tears were for all the near misses and stolen championships that followed that. 1983 we were ranked third in the polls, we beat Michigan the Sugar bowl and after losses from teams number 1 & 2 in the polls, we thought, we’re national champs. Not to be, we woke up Sunday morning, still third in the polls. Because, you know, we’re Auburn. Or the 1988 Earthquake game in LSU, a loss by one point, which otherwise we, most probably, would have played a weak Notre Dame team for the title. Or the undefeated seasons of probationary Terry Bowden in 1993 and then again in 2004 under Tommy Tuberville in the 13-0 season where Oklahoma & USC fought it out for the crown.
Perhaps the tears remember that despite besting Alabama in almost every conceivable category for 30 years, we still get the, Rodney Dangerfield, no respect. Since 1981, more SEC Titles (AU 6 – U of A 5), more undefeated seasons (AU 3 – U of A 2), more head-to-head Iron Bowl wins (AU 17 – U of A 13), wins in all games (AU 254 – U of A 226), SEC wins (AU 141 – U of A 129), bowl wins (AU 22 – U of A 19), Heisman Trophy winners (AU 2 – U of A 1). Auburn has one National Championship during that 30 years and one probation period. Alabama has two championships and three probation periods. Even after this season, with the dominance Auburn displayed with “once and done” Cam Newton at the helm, my Alabama fan, old school friend, said “next year things will be back to normal.” Well for 30 years, the normal is Auburns been the better team.
Perhaps these tears were for this team, these players, this QB, this coach. Despite whirlwind of emotion that must have been surrounding these young men, especially Cam Newton, they displayed, what can only be termed as remarkable, poise, perseverance and gritty determination. With a constant drum beat of doubt (much deservedly so) expressed all year regarding their defense, the two goal line stands, the safety and the 4th and goal at the 1 foot line, stop, in the national title game, were the stuff of SEC legends. The most prolific and productive runner and running game in the entire college football world was held to less than 100 yards all night. Don’t tread on me.
The entire Auburn athletic program has taken ire and criticism (myself included) over the appointment of the much maligned Gene Chizik. Can you imagine a man or program that has been more vindicated?
Well, who really know what those tears were really about. But here is my point. To all my loyal friends, you know I love you because I tell you all the time, and I mean this in the best of terms, who say to me, “Enjoy the moment”, you just don’t get it. There is no way you could. Some are fans who never attended their favorite teams’ schools, some did, and most have attended games at their respective teams’ stadiums and campuses. Trust me I get the attraction to these programs, the pride, the pageantry, the quality of play in the SEC is unquestionably the best in the country. Four different SEC schools have claimed the national title in the last five years …. In a row! No other conference even has a BCS Championship Game winning record. People scream for a play-off system? Sure. Any team in this conference would lay this challenge out, because that’s how we are. Come on down and play ANY schedule you want from an SEC school. Then we’ll see.
BCS National Champions by conference (1998–present)
Conference Championships Schools BCS Championship Game Record
SEC 7 Tennessee (1998), LSU (2003, 2007), Florida (2006, 2008), Alabama (2009), Auburn (2010) 7–0 (1.000)
Big 12 2 Oklahoma (2000), Texas (2005) 2–5 (0.286)
ACC 1 Florida State (1999) 1–2 (0.333) (2–4 current alignment)
Big Ten 1 Ohio State (2002) 1–2 (0.333)
Big East 1 Miami (2001) 1–2 (0.333) (0–0 current alignment)
Pac-10 1 USC (2004) 1–2 (0.333)
So why does a grown man of 50 some odd years cry over a game? Well there is a story behind those tears. And I know some would call me silly, overly sentimental and possessing a warped sense of priorities. Well, you know what? I don’t care. This was a long hard emotional 50 years of my own personal Auburn journey preceded by 50 years before me that only deepened the pedigree of the bloodline. This was the family of my dad and grand-father, two of the greatest men I have ever known. This was my school of hard knocks and sheepskin combined into one. This was my team, my game, my national championship, my Auburn.
It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want.
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