We’re on a three week journey examining the fanbases of each of the fourteen SEC schools. Last Friday was Vanderbilt; we begin the new week by taking a look at our cultish little brother.
Life on earth did not begin before 1982. Just ask any Auburn fan and they’ll tell you. Whatever the history books say, they’re all wrong. Because before Pat Dye finally defeated that mean ole Bear Bryant in ’82, time and space did not exist. There was certainly no meaningful football played before then, to speak of.
Any Auburn fan worth his salt can rattle off for you the Iron Bowl record since 1982, the year Dye ended Bama’s two decades of dominance in the series. Without blinking he’ll regurgitate the record over the last ten years for you as well, conveniently omitting little details like how probation helped make it possible. And it doesn’t matter that regimes have been processed twice down on the plains since Saban and Co. turned the series on its ear, or that ‘Bama holds a commanding lead in the overall record. Auburn fans are the kings of cherry picking facts in order to support a larger agenda.
The Auburn fan will shed all logic without hesitation in an attempt to posture Auburn against Alabama. They’ll pick and parcel stupid arguments that have no bearing on the state of either program in an attempt to find something, anything that gives Auburn the edge. This because on-the-field achievement between the two schools is not even close.
The Auburn fan will seek you out at work to make sure you know something good happened to Auburn or bad happened to Alabama. The Auburn fan is not content in simply being for Auburn, but must somehow prove to you that Auburn is on equal footing with Alabama. You must believe what he believes, or else.
It’s this kind of radical behavior that in our opinion transports Auburn fans well beyond fandom status into the land of cults. Auburn fans display a devotion to their football program that has one intent in mind: Beating Alabama. Championships aren’t really the focus. They never have been, nor will they ever be. The rare, improbable championship is simply another point of contention to levy against big brother in the tireless, eternal effort to prove Auburn is just as good as Alabama.
Here are five quick characteristics of cults that support this idea:
1) The group is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.
Was there a more accurate display of this when Gene Chizik was “suddenly” enjoying his short ride down on the farm? Did the Auburn Fambly not look beyond his 5-19 record prior to coming to Auburn, ignoring how it stood in stark contrast to his “sudden” success? Did they question how this rapid change could be so?
Did the Fambly display such devotion to their one hit wonder, Cam Newton, worshipping the drive-by quarterback in a way that would make the late Jim Jones green with envy?
Did Auburn fans question the tactics of Troopah and da boyz on the recruiting trail, pulling bush league tactics like Reuben Foster’s “statement” when he decommitted from Alabama and committed to Auburn?
Does Bbbo Jackson not still hold god-like status among the Fambly, or Patrick Fain Dye for that matter, despite his proven history in cheating (Eric Ramsey says what?)?
And count on Auburn fans zealously worshipping their new leader, pointing to any sign of progress, no matter how small, as proof that the orange and blue apocalypse is on the horizon. And this for a man who has been a head coach just one year.
It is this preoccupation with identifying a figure-head for the program and worshipping at his feet that makes the Auburn fan such a bizarre creature.
Excessive. Zealous. Unquestioning. Check.
2) The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
Auburn fans aren’t content with being who they are. They want to argue to the point that once the conversation is over, you agree with them. Spreading the gospel of Auburn is the focus of the Auburn fan, advancing the cause.
I know a guy who goes on mission trips with his church, and every single day on the job he wears something with Auburn on it. His focus is as much about spreading the influence of Auburn as it is spreading the gospel of Christ. And friend, there are a dozen more in my life that I know just like him.
Auburn fans will do weird, creepy things, like go to a Wiggles concert with their kids with the intent of trying to convert one of the Wiggles to Auburn-dom.
3) The leadership dictates in great detail how members should think, act, and feel.
‘Nuff said. Check.
4) Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, employing catch phrases) are used to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
“War Cam Eagle”
5) Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
You can’t question an Auburn fan. They can’t stand up under scrutiny. Instead, things like the “Never To Yield Foundation” are formed to protect all that is Auburn. Check this out, from the NTYF’s website:
An organization with a mission of promoting the “positive image of Auburn”? If you’re on the up and up, why do you need to promote a positive image of Auburn? And secondly, a mission to “help combat negativity from detractors”? Detractors? Really?
Where does truth come into play? Can’t truth stand on its own? If one of them “bammers” makes fun of Auburn, won’t whether or not it’s true determine whether or not it sticks? And if it is true, shouldn’t your primary energies be put into righting that wrong instead of putting lipstick on a pig and covering it up?
With only two new articles published since November, it appears the foundation has finally yielded. Although something tells me a third may soon be in the works.
Perhaps the Auburn fan’s biggest trouble is he doesn’t know who the heck he is. Throughout the years, the school he cheers for has had four official names:
• East Alabama Male College (1856-72)
• Agricultural and Mechanical College (1872-99)
• Alabama Polytechnic Institute (1899-1960)
• Auburn University (1960-present)
At an Auburn game you’ll hear “Glory, Glory to All Auburn”, a knock off of “Glory, Glory Hallelujah”…or more notably, a complete copy of the University of Georgia’s fight song. You may also hear “Hold’em Tiger,” a knock off of LSU’s famous theme.
Heck, as an Auburn fan, you don’t even own your own fight song. “War Eagle” was written in the mid-1950’s (1955 to be exact) by New York composers Al Stillman and Robert Allen. The reason why you won’t hear Auburn’s fight song play with other fight songs on EA Sports games and the like? Auburn doesn’t own it. Stillman passed away years ago, and left the rights of this song (with others) to his wife.
So along with the strange tradition of having a bird fly around the stadium before you root on your Auburn TIGERS, and yelling War Eagle as your TIGERS kick off, you don’t really know what song or tradition to embrace.
Auburn has won eleven conference championships in its history, though three of those came before women’s suffrage was guaranteed through the 19th amendment in 1920. It has also won two national championships, the first as Alabama Polytechnic Institute while on probation, prohibited from bowl play in 1957, and the second and last in 2010.
The orange and blue inferiority complex grew exponentially in the 1960’s and 1970’s, as big brother across the state began racking up gridiron superiority in the form of conference championships (12) and national championships (6), not to mention a 16-4 head-to-head record in that time span. Alabama holds 15 national titles and 27 conference titles (4 Southern Conference, 23 SEC) to date, and the record for the most wins in a row in the series (9), and the widest margin of victory (55-0).
But then, remember, championships aren’t really the focus for the Auburn fan. Why make something perenially out of reach your focus?
Perhaps it’s this lopsided history that has led to the tiger-clad Aubsession with all things Alabama. Auburn fans will go out of their way to see what others are saying about their team and program, completely consumed with feeling the need to defend her honor. And notable figures in East Alabama Male College/Agricultural and Mechanical College/Alabama Polytechnic Institute/Auburn history will go out of their way to play to the fanbase, doing and saying things in the public eye negative to Alabama to gain status or favor.
Barners will hold up fingers…and endorse their leadership doing so as well…to mark a string of victories over a then hapless rival. Factors such as scholarship limitations and a weakened Alabama program are clutter. As long as they win it on the field, the finger is going up. Even if it’s in the face of a child in crimson leaving the stadium (witnessed first-hand).
Others take a more seedy approach, making racist claims that african-american Alabama players couldn’t possibly afford car accessories without improper benefits, taking to the web to, again, try and advance their cause (cult).
No one outside this area truly understands the Alabama-Auburn rivalry, because to understand it, you have to understand the mindset of the Auburn fan. That world is a scary place, filled with unicorns, leprechauns and other make-believe creatures that coincide with whimsical fantasy about Auburn’s legitimacy and relevance on the landscape of college football.
But in a strange way, like fans from other schools, you have to tip your hat to the Auburn fan. For his devotion to his love comes not from achievement, superiority or anything real, tangible or concrete. Instead, he pursues his empty, cultish obsession with a zest that we can all learn from and appreciate.
And that’s enough to make anybody say “War Eagle!”