Saturday, November 26, 2011

To My Kids on the Importance of Auburn Family: Iron Bowl 2011

It is rivalry Saturday in college football, and THE big game is on at 1:30 MST. Now, you guys know I love Auburn football, but you need to understand why daddy acts a little "crazy" on days like this. Today, November 26, 2011, is the first time in my life that I can remember NOT looking forward to the Iron Bowl, but we will talk about that more later. Suffice it to say that this letter is therapy so that I can keep things in perspective on what I am anticipating to be a painful day. There is a wildcard, however, that will come to play! Auburn is bigger than the stats and more resilient than a point spread. So we have a fighting chance with home field advantage and tradition on our side. So win or lose this family (AU family) will stand united and yell with pride, War Eagle!!

Last year Auburn came back from a 24 point deficit to beat Bama and went on to play for the SEC and National Championship. This year Bama is stacked with speed and talent. The landscape of a team changes every year in NCAAF, and that is one of the things that makes it great to watch. But the reason I love Auburn is deeper than what happens between the hedges on any given Saturday afternoon every fall; it is TRADITION.

It seems the culture of our day undervalues tradition from church life to politics to family heritage. People want to write their own history rather than live as a part of something greater than themselves. Individuals are praised at the cost of the collective. There is certainly a place for the individual, but only in so much as he contributes to the whole. The Heisman Trophy is a great example of how an individual contributes to a team for the betterment of the whole. The individual is celebrated, but only because of the contribution he makes to the team. I don't love Auburn because of Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson, or Cam Newton, but they help build a rich winning tradition of which I am proud. So what is the heritage and tradition that makes me believe in Auburn and love it?

We are two generations of Auburn graduates in our family. Your grandfather (O) started us on this journey in the 60's. He ran track, and secured the Swearengin name in Auburn history by assisting his mile relay team to an SEC gold medal win in 1966. Just four years later O and Pops (your great grandfather) went to the Iron Bowl of 1972 named the "Punt Bama Punt" game.

(Kick off just began the game Bama 3 and out-Auburn 3 and out.)

The day I became an Auburn Tiger was 10 years after Punt Bama Punt. Pops took me to see the Iron Bowl of 82. In this game Bo Jackson went over the top of the offensive line across the goal line to secure an Auburn win and snap a nine year losing streak. I asked Pops after the game, "Is this the biggest game in the world?"
He replied, "To some it is."

After graduating high school, I went to junior college for two years. There was no question that I wanted to transfer to Auburn for my undergraduate education. Your mom and I met while we were DJ's at WEGL, Auburn's campus radio station in the summer of 1994.

(Auburn just scored a touchdown off of an Alabama fumble to cut Bama's lead to 14-7)

We both graduated in 1996 and were married in January 1997. The church in Atlanta where we were married wouldn't let us play the Auburn fight song as we left the church. The next Iron Bowl we went to was the 2005 game where Brodie Croyle (AL QB) was sacked 11 times and Auburn dominated the game winning 28-18.

But the TRADITION is greater than our family and its part of the AU story. There are so many people who have built the greatness of Auburn. I am just proud to be a part of the family and hope to represent it well throughout my life.

(Half time and AL is up 24-7)

The AU Creed emphasizes the importance of education, character, country and God. I'm sure other institutions emphasize the same, but there is no personal connection to any other. The family extends to others all around the world and is evident when traveling and saying War Eagle to others donning the Orange and Blue. I have had those moments almost everywhere I have traveled.

(Onterio McCalebb just returned the kickoff to start the 2nd half to make it 24-14)

Well the game is over now, and it turned out about like I expected this year. Final score Alabama 42 Auburn 14. Not the way we ever want it to end, but it is important to understanding the Auburn family. Even after a game that can be frustrating and depressing as a fan, most of us will still say, "It's still great to be an Auburn Tiger!" And as O always says, "We didn't lose, the time simply ran out this year." That is the way it is in this rivalry. It means bragging rights for a year, but the time will start again next November no matter who the score favors. So, even though I was not looking forward to the game, I know that we (AU Family) will stand together through good years and bad years believing in Auburn and loving it! And that is Auburn spirit. War Eagle!!!!


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