Better than perfection

The thing about the football bowl system is that it gives you time to dream and fret and be exposed to endless amounts of hype. It also lets you reflect. I wrote most of the list below at about this time in 2011, the last time Auburn was set to play for a national championship. It was to be their first appearance since 1957. There are people in Jordan-Hare Stadium who waited all that time to watch their beloved team achieve that kind of success. And now we’re going to see them try again for the second time in four years, which is remarkable.

Football is an important part of the culture here, but Auburn is not a football team. Auburn is a community, a history, and sharing in a common experience. Auburn’s biggest dream is realizing her potential and Auburn’s greatest potential has always been her people.


And we’ve got a lot of people.

I want Auburn to win for:

A teacher – One of my favorite high school teachers, an Auburn grad.
A girl – She was a big part of the reason I chose to apply to Auburn.
Mr. Ethridge – Who gave me my scholarship. He died in 2009.
Dean William Alverson – He helped raise that scholarship money and was my academic adviser. He retired just a few years ago.
My roommate – He and his family, all Auburn people, and all nicer to me than they had to be during my first two years at Auburn. He’s going to Pasadena, and no, I’m not jealous.
Chadd – A friend of more than 15 years, he gave me my start on air, was always full of advice, helped me build an incredible professional foundation. He’s never asked for a thing in return.
For Jim and Rod and Andy and Bill and Paul – Auburn athletics wouldn’t sound the same without them.
For an old man – I sat next to him during the 2004 season. He said simply, “I went to school here when it was API.” He was impressed by that perfect season, and I’m sure he’s amazed by this season, too.
For my wife – She was undeclared until I brought her to her first game but she’s been an Auburn woman ever since. Now she teaches at Auburn and is the director of the public relations program.
For the family in Section 52 – They adopted us and let them sit in their section for years. They remember the Barfield years.
For the Browns – Another strong, proud, kind Auburn family that have been indescribably good to us over the years.
For Shug and Doug and Pat and Terry and Tommy and Gene and Gus – And for all of their coaches and players and staffers, the people fans really mean when saying “We won.”

New additions to the list:

For the Hallmarks – Adam sat through last year and celebrated through this year. He’ll watch this BCS game shivering in some pub in Alaska, on his way to his new duty station.
For the tailgating crew – War Drunj Eagle.
For The War Eagle Reader – which loves like no other. War Eagle forever.

Mostly, I want this team to win for this team. We’ve seen great years, and this has by far been one of the best and most entertaining in many respects.

I wrote this, one of the few good football things I’ve written, before the 2011 BCS game, when everything those guys played for seemed to be more about everyone else. Now, I’m eager to celebrate a great season — I’ve said for the last three games, that we were going into the stadium to congratulate a team for a great performance this season — for the guys actually in the blue and orange.

Much has been written about this team turning around last year’s 3-9 effort. Less has been said about what these guys have gone through. Some of them are national champions. Some have two SEC championships. They’ve also changed head coaches. Some are playing for their third position coach. Some of them have lost parents. Others have had children. They’ve lost teammates. They’ve battled cancer. They’ve stuck together and demanded so much of themselves.

And still Heisman finalist Tre Mason told reporters: “We owed them that. Putting them through last year, we owed them a season like this.”

But, no, this is about them. They’ve succeeded beyond the wildest expectations of everyone but themselves. They’ve always believed.


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