Friday, November 28, 2008

Hate Week: We are Auburn, they are Alabama

You may remember the Looney Tunes cartoons* in which a sheep dog named Sam and a wolf named Ralph wake up, say hello, clock in, spend their day in vicious competition over the fate of a herd of sheep, and then clock back out and walk home together at the end of the day:



This is a good illustration of why I never get too exercised about Alabama fans--even the smart ones--claiming that they don't care about Auburn, that it's just another game, that Auburn fans are pathetically obsessed with Alabama to the point of not caring about anything else, that Auburn will always be the second-best football team in the state no matter what the actual, you know, on-field results have to say about it. This is why Auburn fans have been more than entitled to wag their six fingers in any and all 'Bama fans' faces for the last 12 months, why we get to lord our victories over them in a way we would for no one else, why we should always always always laugh at them for believing A) "little brother's" success is some sort of short-lived, doesn't-really-count fluke when we've had the better of things for most of the last 25 years B) they don't care about us when their endless denials are the classic example of doth protesting too much.

These are our jobs. They are Alabama fans. They are supposed to be arrogant, dismissive, hopelessly entitled, and oftentimes outright delusional. We are Auburn fans. We are supposed to be insufferable about the Streak, derisive about the Tide's mouldering claims of superiortiy, and yes, we are most certainly supposed to be obsessed with Alabama. When we sign up on one side or the other in this state, we clock in. And then we go to work.

I would say fans on both sides of the Iron Bowl should stop holding our jobs against each other and realize this is just how this business works--and there are times, certainly, when they should be held with much less stridency--but then again, holding them against each other is also part of the job.

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I say that as preface to this: I have no problem admitting I am more-or-less obsessed with Alabama and want Auburn to win tomorrow's game so badly it makes my teeth hurt.

I've never understood--other than the requirements of the job--why Tide fans would make fun of Auburn for their obsession. For a whole laundry list of reasons:

1. Doesn't the fact that we'd be obsessed with Alabama sort of imply that they're a program worth obsessing about? Isn't saying something along the lines of "Haha! You losers are losers for wanting to beat a team like us so bad!" an admittance that your team is also, well, a bunch of losers? Isn't "Well, they're obsessed with us, but that makes sense when you consider how awesome we are" a much more positive response? See, Tide fans can admit their team's failings, they just have to do it in a neurotic, roundabout fashion that makes sure they can bring us down with them.

2. Maybe, just maybe, said obsession and the full-time devotion to it has something to do with the fact that outside of the efforts of one particular museum-inspiring coach, Auburn has been the far superior team? We win because we care, yo.

3. I think I've written this before on this site, but it doesn't make sense to put your national cart before your in-state horse. You can't win a national title if you don't win the SEC, you don't win the SEC if you don't win the West, you don't win the West if you don't win your own damn state. If you're second-best at home, you can't be first-best anywhere else. Why wouldn't beating Alabama always be Auburn's No. 1 goal? Again: maybe trying to run to national glory before walking past Auburn is why the Tide has tripped and fallen on its face so often, hm?

4. This one is important.

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Hate and rivalry are not in the blood of college football. Hate and rivalry are the blood of college football. Its first game: in-state rivals in search of a gentlemanly way of tearing the limbs off of the representatives of the other school. Get past the ginormous television contracts and multimillion dollar bowl purses and crystal footballs and Tim Tebow discussing circumcision on ESPN College Gameday built by the Home Depot and this--the competition, the hate, the blood--are still what the game is about. Untether it from those things, and it's just minor-league NFL, Arenaball played outside.

To deny rivalry is to deny that your team is even playing college football. Of course, many Tide fans (though not all) will admit to having a rivalry with Tennessee, or that Auburn is a rivalry game--just not an especially important one. Again: this is their job. This is who they are.

This is, nonetheless, another reason they are wrong and hopeless and forever hated Alabama. Whether they like it or not--or rather, in part, because their obnoxious asses don't like it--this is the greatest rivalry in college football. It is**. And they willingly forsake it just to try and prove a point about their imagined superiority.

They must be punished for it. They are hypocrites, blithely claiming the current outcome of the Iron Bowl irrelevant until such time as they win it again, at which point the outcome will be, of course, of tremendous importance. In response to the same WBGV post by Todd I linked above, Grotus (in his own tour de force post) writes the following:
What's most interesting is the simultaneous embracing and rejection of Tide history that distinguishes the new Bama fan. On one hand, he's obviously denying more than a century of vicious, gladiatorial combat in the form of football. As I need not mention, this is a war fought long by our fathers and grandfathers - and in my case, great-great-grandfathers. To claim that the Iron Bowl holds no significance is to completely ignore the bitter feud that has shaped our two institutions. All while simultaneously proclaiming the resurrection of the Tide, return to the glories of the Alabama past, the days of a new Bear - this itself is an appeal to history, to trudishun, to legacy. Mmm, crimson cake to be eaten and to be had!
If they won't respect the Iron Bowl, they don't deserve to win it. And: for six years going on seven, they don't.

They are Alabama. We are Auburn. We are the obsessed, because we see things as they are. We are the disrespected, because we dare to respect the sport and its blood. We hate, because their screaming arrogance deserves hatred. We are Auburn: the underdogs, the Davids, the storybook heroes. This is why we clock in. This is why we take the job.

This is why War Eagle. War Damn Eagle, forever.

*I embed Looney Tunes as metaphors a lot, I know. But can you come up with anything more awesome in our shared cultural currency I could use instead? Of course not.

**Army and Navy aren't just two sides of the same coin, it's the same face on both sides, too similar to share a hate outside of the context of their 60 minutes of football. Michigan and Ohio St. hate each other, but they don't share a geography and college football just isn't the end-all-be-all of sporting passion in the Midwest the way it is in Alabama***. Texas-Oklahoma perhaps comes closest--certainly (as with UM-OSU) the national stakes are much higher than they are in the Iron Bowl. But the undercurrents of Tide arrogance vs. Tiger grievance aren't there and again, very few Longhorns have to go into the office and face the victorious Sooners on Monday. And what else is there? USC-Notre Dame? Florida-Georgia? Kansas-Missouri? No. Your mileage my vary, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

***Confidential to my friends in Ann Arbor: Sorry. But true.

4 comments:

Ben said...

Well said. We hate because we care and we care because we hate. Or something like that.

The Trainman said...

Joe,

Well said.

""little brother's" success is some sort of short-lived, doesn't-really-count fluke when we've had the better of things for most of the last 25 years."

What's the title count over that period? SEC and National variety.
Top 5 finishes?

Also, how was the previous 25 year stretch?

The Trainman

Brandon said...

What an awesome post. That gave me chills. Thank you for reminding why it's great to be an Auburn Tiger. War Damn Eagle. Buck Fama.

Grotus' Acorn said...

War Damn Eagle forever!