For Love of the Game … and Auburn

A few years ago, our season tickets were near the top row of the northern end zone. As one OOC easy victory winded down, we started to leave.

The stands were quickly clearing out, but I saw a father and son still in their seats, in Auburn jerseys and hats. As they watched, the father was explaining the game to his son.

To many of us, this was a rest stop between important games and an excuse for an early escape. My guess was that for these two Auburn fans, it was their best chance to get affordable tickets, and a moment that they were going to share until 0:00.

Now, during at least one of those games, I like to wander our section and see if I can find some fans like that. College football has become a high-ticket juggernaut all around, pricing itself out of reach of many fans.

But these fans came to watch Alabama State, and they shared a moment. I’d like to introduce you to a few of them.

(Before I do, I promise to put to rest the “sidewalk alumni” snobbery from here on out. A lot of these folks did not go to Auburn, but they are still fans. They are family.)

This is Burt from Leeds and his three kids. Mom is at home; No. 4 is a month away.

Burt has been coming to Auburn games since he was 7, during the Pat Dye era. His father worked with coach Rodney Garner’s father.

(And check out his son’s Auburn socks.)

Burt and his kids also brought good luck. I was walking to the game as I met him, and we scored a ride on a cart. That also meant they got there in time to see the eagle fly.

This is Tony (right), his brother, Devin, and their niece, Shay, from Notasulga.

Tony sat in front of us and had a great time talking football during the game. He got his tickets through a friend who was working the game.

That is a Notasulga jersey Devin is wearing. He told me that he is a fan of both Auburn and Alabama. Good luck with that.

This is John and his son, Max, from Prattville.

John got his tickets through his boss. They might have moved down from the upper level to these seats.

Note the matching Auburn t-shirt/sunglasses combo. Sharing Auburn style to go with their Auburn fandom.

This is Chris, from Canton, Georgia. He brought four young ladies with him.

His daughters are on the outside; his nieces are the two on the inside. Chris had just made a major investment in cotton candy.

It was the nieces’ first Auburn game. When the older one heard I taught journalism, we talked writing for a while. We might have recruited an English major. Make that two — his daughter sitting between us is a reading fanatic.

This is Daniel and his son, Dawson, from Heflin. Daniel also got his tickets through his boss.

Daniel is an Auburn fan, but his sport is basketball, so we also talked Bryce Brown and Austin Wiley.

While I was talking to them, Auburn fumbled a punt that led to Alabama State’s only touchdown.

I feared my project was bringing bad luck, but Daniel assured me that the game was well in hand.

One father did decline to participate, which is totally acceptable, of course. I approached them because his son was taking a selfie of them with the game behind them. Dad explained, “That was for Mom.”

I also talked to a mother and son who sat next to me in empty seats early in the game. It turned out they have season tickets, but they gave them to other fans so they could help a friend with her food booth. They were sneaking out for a break to watch part of the first quarter. Hash tag Busted.

Disclosure: Given the late starting time and long drive home, not all of these folks made it to the alma mater. But they were able to spend a day together, sharing in the Auburn football experience and its memorable moments.

 

 

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Keep the Foy Trophy, Remember the Foy Legacy

The careless debacle that was Wednesday night’s Foy-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy presentation was sad on so many levels.

What’s saddest is that the actions by the participants reinforced a lack of awareness of who Dean Jim Foy was and what he represented — a memory the trophy is supposed to preserve.

First, let’s talk about Dean Foy. He was born into an Auburn family, but graduated from Alabama. His family moved to Tuscaloosa after his father died, and he worked three jobs to finance his education there. He and Bear Bryant were Sigma Nu pledge brothers.

He became dean of men at Auburn in 1950, a title later modified to dean of students. Foy served 28 years before retiring in 1978.  I was honored to serve as Plainsman editor his last year; he allowed us to break the news of his retirement.

He was known for leading War Eagle cheers (particularly in a weekly competition on Fridays with the Student Union staff), but also helped guide Auburn through integration and the social upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s.

But more than that, he used his background and life as a model for toning down the Auburn-Alabama rivalry and encouraging it toward sane boundaries.

As so often happens, however, his legacy has been forgotten by succeeding generations of students.  When the new Student Center opened in 2008, many of us alumni lobbied to have it named for Dean Foy, as the Student Union had been.

The SGA Student Senate considered a resolution supporting it that year, but the resolution was voted down after the SGA president at the time spoke against it. She urged the Senate to give the University flexibility to find a naming sponsor or donor.

Ten years later, it is still merely the Student Center, with Dean Foy’s commemoration limited to the information desk instead of the entire building. He deserves more.

Then, on Wednesday, the trophy named after Foy suffered through yet another ceremony that ignored his legacy. First, the Alabama SGA president made a speech that included a dig at Auburn, noting the six national championships that had been brought to the state since 2009. And Auburn fans, you’re not off the hook for booing her, either.

The tradition is for the Alabama SGA president to lead the singing of the Auburn fight song, to commemorate the winner of the Iron Bowl. It would have been a great opportunity for the Alabama SGA president to cite Dean Foy’s example and follow the tradition. (It would have changed the boos to cheers.)

Instead the Auburn SGA president took the mike and directed the singing to begin — one politician letting another off the hook. It is ironic that the two SGA presidents did work together, but in undermining the legacy intended by the ceremony.

It’s natural for college students to enjoy the traditions of their schools, even as they rush past the individuals who laid the foundation. I have no doubt that my generation was guilty of this as well.

We should do better, however, and honor these traditions in a way that shows our gratitude.

Many wonder if the ceremony should be dumped. That would be the ultimate dishonor to Dean Foy. Why not challenge both SGA presidents to restore the ceremony’s original intent and use it to remind the fans of both schools of Dean Foy’s legacy?

Some reflection and intent are needed. Otherwise, halftime of the Auburn-Alabama basketball game will be marked by a ceremony that is more Updyke than Foy, regardless of who wins the Iron Bowl.

John Carvalho is a professor of journalism at Auburn. He graduated from Auburn in 1978.

 

The Kick Six and Me: An Oral History

I have seen several oral histories of the Kick 6, so I thought I would quickly jot down my memories of that night.  Add your own as comments, if you’d like.

I was at the top of Section 44 with a friend, Christie, who was at her first Auburn football game ever.  We had seen Sammie Coates catch the pop-pass and run it in, and we had booed with indignation when the officials restored one second to the clock.

I watched the attempted field goal, and from the North end zone stands, I had no idea that Chris Davis was back there.  Then I realized that he had caught the ball and started running it out.

My first thought was, “How quaint.  This player thinks he actually can do something fielding the field goal, and he is running fast too.”  I honestly thought he would be tackled and we would head to overtime.

Davis cut to the sideline, along with everyone else on the field, and when Cody Mandell and Dee Ford crossed in front of Davis, it was like a curtain opening and revealing Davis running toward the end zone with only Auburn players close.

As that curtain opened, it unleashed a roar as a huge wave cascading from all over Jordan-Hare, as I had never heard before, and suddenly we were all going crazy — cheering, hugging, screaming.

Two weeks before, after the “Prayer at Jordan-Hare,” I had tweeted, “I cannot believe what I have just seen.”  So I tweeted, “Again, I cannot believe what I have just seen.”

Our side of the stadium was not allowed on the field, so we got gridlocked in the stands for a while.  Like Mike Szvetitz quoted in the Opelika-Auburn News, I could not believe that they played “Celebration.”  A 1980 song?  Really?

For the next couple of days, I heard from relatives who did not even care about football (or so I thought) telling me they had seen the kick and they thought it was great.  My favorite was a phone message from my Uncle Mario, age 93, who would pass away the following summer.

I realized this was a moment shared not only with the college football world, but also sports fans across the country, a once-in-a-lifetime play.  Those of us who were there became fortunate witnesses to history, and were privileged to share in it.

I still get choked up seeing Auburn fans who were watching at home or in a restaurant or bar, realizing that the moment was theirs as much as ours in the stadium.

The next couple of weeks, Auburn was like Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth.  I remember seeing a campus tour pass in front of Tichenor Hall that next week, and everyone was gazing around them in wonder.  All that was needed was cartoon birds carrying “Welcome to Auburn!” banners and tour guides dressed as Snow White.

I realize we are mocked, often from another side of the state, for continuing to celebrate this moment.  But that’s what sport is about: the opportunity to share in such moments, and know that we were there, and that it really did happen.