Give Auburn Students a Break!

Expect a pretty empty student section at the Auburn-Tennessee game. And, sadly, expect the media to blame student apathy.

Give the students a break. Blame lies with the Southeastern Conference.

This weekend is fall break; Auburn does not have class on Thursday or Friday. It’s a fairly recent schedule addition–previously, students, and faculty, endured a long journey from the early-semester Labor Day holiday to the late-semester Thanksgiving break. It was a grind for everyone.

In 2015, Auburn instituted a two-day fall break, to much rejoicing. The football schedule included either off weeks or away games (and an off week next year as well).

This year, however, the SEC scheduled Auburn-Tennessee for that weekend. More recently, Auburn basketball added the Tip-Off at Toomer’s, which filled the Thursday of the break and gave students an attractive distraction.  That has been canceled by Hurricane Michael-related concerns.

So now, students who have just completed midterms (all the time knowing that a rapidly developing hurricane will pass through the neighboring states and affect southeastern Alabama) will likely prefer to go home for the four-day.

As we look ahead, we can expect broadcasters and sportswriters alike to decry the emptier-than-normal student section and draw conclusions that blame student apathy and disappointment with the team’s performance.

You won’t even have to wait until Saturday. SEC Nation is planning to broadcast from the site, in part drawn by the now-canceled Tip-Off at Toomer’s.

I wonder how many within the media will lay blame not with the students, but with the SEC for forcing students into a choice with a false level of significance. Given the first three letters in their names, I would not expect much criticism from either Network or Nation.

We are in a time when context is an annoyance and Millennials a favorite target for whatever they’re blamed with killing, so I expect the hot-take artists to be in attack mode. The students deserve better.

They deserve a two-day break following midterms, and the SEC should have respected that in setting the schedule. Moving the break back a week to accommodate the Tennessee game ignores its timing, immediately after exams.

Beyond that, the students deserve to be more than a convenient means to a click-baiting media end. They have reasons for missing the game that relate more to decisions out of their control, and media members who gloss over their own slacker days should remember that before laying on the “when I was in college” revisionism.

One small mercy is that blame will in part focus on the team’s bad loss to Mississippi State, so that the students themselves will not be the only target. Still it won’t eliminate it.

Perhaps more students than expected will turn out on Saturday. If so, I hope that is acknowledged.

But on Saturday, even if the media members don’t, give the students a break. And SEC, please do the same for all conference university students.

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.



The Thai Cave Rescue, in Cartoons

DhtPvMvUwAITGdDNow that the 12 young soccer players and their coach have been rescued from the Tham Luang cave, it has sparked all sorts of celebrations.

One such celebration involves cartoons, which add a whimsical joy to the celebration. I am not an expert on Asian cartooning practices, but the childlike exuberance of the images certainly catch the spirit of a rescue.

Note — I do not have permission to run any of these and will give credit as I am aware. If you know of any other photos or can provide credit information, I’ll be glad to add it. (I do not make any income from this blog.)