Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rivalry Weekend

I live for college football. Football, its not just a game its a way of life. Alright so no I don't really live for college football that would be silly, right? But I am passionate about college football. I found it funny and ironic that while I was in labor we were watching Texas vs. Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout. Wait, I was really watching the game I was in labor and between the extreme pain and epidural I was out of it. But the doctor that delivered MC well he was watching the game.

When he walked in to deliver the baby, his exact words were "alright let's get this done so we can watch the game" and he wasn't joking. I can't fault him too much because I can relate to wanting to watch college football expecially the big rivalry games. But it did make me a little nervous that he was turned towards the tv, watching the game as he was waiting to "catch" MC. I guess if I'd not been so out of it I probably would have complained or turned the tv off but I also needed a distraction and I felt drunk. So even when I had a coherent thought other than "I'm dying" it was gone as fast it had come.

Rivalry weekend for me is some of the best football of the season. I look forward to rivalry weekend and make sure my schedule is clear. When I was employed in the real world I would not work on rivalry weekend and that was non-negotiable for me. As someone that attended Auburn for almost a year and graduated from the University of South Carolina I can tell you without a doubt that the "Iron Bowl: Auburn vs. Alabama" is the biggest college rivalry of all. Both ESPN and Sports Illustrated have referred to this rivalry as one of the most intense.

I had a chance to experience the Auburn/Alabama rivalry firsthand in 1993 as a student on the Plains. Auburn was undefeated entering the game against Alabama. Now if you are not familiar with football in the south, especially Alabama then it may be hard to understand the passion of these fans. There was so much excitement surrounding this game that the fans began arriving in their RVs on Monday. Everywhere you looked there was an RV parked on any grassy spot, sidewalk and anywhere else the RV would fit. By Wednesday the town and campus were so crowded with fans that my classes were cancelled. And let me say even if you aren't a football fan when classes are cancelled because of an upcoming game you begin to wonder what all the hype is about.

So as an 18 year old that thought she had the world by the tail or at least the southeast, I took advantage and began enjoying all of the festivities. At the time I was living on campus and our co-ed dorms has lots of "green space" so we had RVs all over the place. I decided that if these people were parked in "my yard" then they should cook for us. My friends and I approached people sitting outside in their lawn chairs with their grills and coolers and asked if we could join them for a beer and some food and you know what, they all said yes. For three days, Wednesday afternoon, Thursday and Friday anyone that we aapproached invited us to join them and provided us with food and refreshments, we even got a few to give us underage kids a beer.

What started as a cheap form of entertainment for me, became an experience that I will always remember and cherish. I met so many people that were die hard fans. Some of them had driven for more than 12 hours to see this game in person, some hadn't missed a game in 20 years and some had come just to tailgate and celebrate with other fans because they were unable to score tickets to the game. On Thursday morning I called my Dad and told him he and my brother needed to come down and check out the insanity. I was one of the lucky ones with a student ticket which meant guaranteed entry to the game but for those looking for tickets the prices started at $500 for one regardless of the seat's location. I was offered $250 for my student ticket and considered selling it but didn't and feel I amde the best decision. Without a doubt watching the 1993 Iron Bowl from inside the stadium in the student section was a one of a kind experience that can't be duplicated.

My friends and I spent Friday evening circling the campus in the back of strangers trucks. Yes, I realzie that sounds strange, crazy and just plain stupid but you had to be there to know this was part of a tradition and everyone was particiapting. We'd jump into one truck as it slowed, make a few laps while tossing rolls of toilet paper, singing the fight song at the top of our lungs and chanting "I say it's great to be an Auburn Tiger." And the Alabama fans would yell "Roll Tide" and shout right back at us. For me this was a blast and an experience I won't forget.

On Saturday morning Dad and Brian pulled into town. Neither of them could believe the number of RVs, cars, amount of traffic and people everywhere. Dad became determined to buy two tickets to get inside the stadium to watch the game. Unfortunately, they never found tickets for less than $500 each and ended up missing the game completely. Dad was so frustrated that when the game started he decided to drive on back home and missed the entire game.

I watched the game with friends and strangers from the student section. If you were wearing orange and blue and cheering everyone there was a new friend. We stood the entire game, shouted at the top of our lungs, sang the fight song over and over for four quarters. I don't even remeber sitting down at halftime. And when the clock was out and we'd won the game to finish the season undefeated at 11-0, I headed to Toomer's Corner with thousands of others.

Now if I were reading this and unfamilar with Auburn I would assume Toomer's Corner must be a bar or restaurant where people would hang out after a home game. But Toomer's Corner is literally a corner located across from Toomer's Drugs. Its a tradition to gather at Toomer's Corner after every home victory to celebrate with the band and the throng of Auburn fans while rolling the trees. Before I was a student at Auburn I had witnessed this one weekend while visiting the campus and well I fell in love with the tradition. It was one of many traditions Auburn has that made me fall in love with the Village on the Plains and want to be an Auburn student. If you haven't been to Toomer's Corner after an Alabama victory you can't understand the intentsity. I hope one day I will have the chance to take MC to an Iron Bowl and share in these traditions with her.

This weekend was a good rivalry weekend. Auburn lost but they played an excellent game against the #2 team in the country. The chicken curse was overcome and the Gamecocks defeated Clemson. Oh and don't let me forget the Texas win over A7M on Thanksgiving evening. MC watched a little football with me but I am lookign forward to the day when I can teach her about the game and hopefully this will be a pastime we can both share and enjoy.

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