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 tagĀ 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.)















The Power of the Professor

A University of Texas English professor and his sexual harassment of female graduate students got the Dan Solomon/Jessica Luther treatment on the Splinter News site. (Click and read here before you get much further down my piece; I’ll wait.)

That a male English professor would use his power over female students in that way is yet another chapter within a disturbing #MeToo time of reckoning. What makes this chapter even creepier is the perceived lack of enthusiasm displayed by those who supervised Coleman Hutchinson (many of them women) to discipline him.

The article details the reason why. There’s the defense of tenure stuff, yeah, and college faculty can circle the wagons as reflexively as any other profession.

But there is also a chilling thread that seeks to indulge the professor-student relationship, in particular at the graduate level. One essayist wondered if “erotic longings between professor and student” were “unavoidable.” Graduated to the community of advanced scholars, some speculate that sexual fireworks ignite intellectual curiosity–a needed component for graduate students.

And academics wonder why the rest of society thinks we’re crazy.

Call me stuffy and puritanical, but to me, any relationship that gives an inch to such a natural impulse is asking for a mile’s worth of problems. It would be comically clumsy if it didn’t leave so many exploited, damaged souls on the outskirts of a career they had dreamed of pursuing.

As a professor, whether dealing with graduate students or undergraduate students, I start from a basic assumption: I operate from a position of power and authority over them and they know it. Thus, I need to be careful not to exert that power in a way that unnecessarily hurts them, particularly to indulge myself.

That power might be emotional power, academic power, social power and, yes, even sexual power. But the instructor has no right to wield it in a way that hurts a student.

There are reasons for boundaries between the professional and personal. Of course we expect certain benefits from our romantic relationships. But when any professional seeks those benefits from a working relationship, it’s almost certain to turn out badly.

And when a professor projects any such expectations–romance or friendship–onto students, it’s can unfairly put them into an awkward situation within which they have little power.

A working relationship does provide personal benefits, and college students are awesome to work with, but those benefits are limited. The professor who flirts with students is as inappropriate as the professor who exults in the intended compliment, “You’re just like a fellow student.” (My response is, “Get thee behind me, Satan.”) By projecting peer benefit needs onto students to fulfill, the professor is putting unfair pressure on those students to be something to him/her that they are not intended to be. Friends and acquaintances, yes; peers, no.

In a balanced life, we draw benefit from a variety of sources — work, friendship, family and faith, for many. When life is unbalanced (and the academic life is the champion of unbalance), we look for friendship, acceptance and love in all the wrong places.

Policies that limit romantic relationships between faculty and students do not limit academic freedom and certainly do not endanger the academic process.

Those in a position of power also have a responsibility to protect those in a position of weakness, and that is our duty toward our students. Yes, the classroom is a place of great enjoyment and in so many ways, students bring joy to our task.

That’s a benefit, yes. But it’s not their responsibility, nor is it the students’ function.