Auburn’s dirty little secret

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There is a reason Auburn fans are held in derision. This.

Ive always pulled for Auburn and against Alabama. But this year, for the first time, I have to admit I enjoy the latter more.

I watch Auburn games whenever I can, and will stick with it to the bitter end, especially if the game is close. But if we are winning in a lopsided fashion, I might take a walk outside at the half, or wash the supper dishes during a time out, or – don’t tell anyone – miss the ending. If we lose, unless it’s to Alabama, I can accept that without much trouble.

But if it’s Alabama playing, winning or losing, I am there until the Fat Lady – the Crimson Tide’s homecoming queen – sings. Even when they run up the score, I imagine that the other team might somehow pull off a miracle in the last seconds, same as Auburn did in 1972…

I haven’t been blue about lackluster Auburn, because I’ve been totally preoccupied with undefeated Alabama. I’ve been beating the chair arms to pieces cheering for LSU, Mississippi State, whatever army shows up to take on the Evil Empire.

Auburn fans care more about Alabama’s failures than their own success—one of your own fan’s just admitted this truth. Some level of interest at rivals is warranted, and if fans develop a contempt for a personality (like Alabama fans’ distaste for Phil Fulmer) it is understandable to pay some attention and wish woe on your old foe.

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But the Auburn obsession with Alabama seems odd considering the success the Tigers have enjoyed over the last decade. Why isn’t winning your own games enough to satiate fans?

Why does rivalry escalate to hatred? For the last week on blogs, talk radio and even in the above newspaper column, hatred is embraced and celebrated.

And that isn’t a good thing for football. It isn’t a good thing for the universities.

Football is no longer a gentleman’s game where scores are settled on the field of battle. Football is a game of pettiness—victory means nothing; tormenting your coworkers and family are more important.

And that is sad. Football once meant so much more.