Football and Tradition Reign in Auburn, AL… not so in Eugene, OR
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, January 4, 2011
The Nationally-Ranked Number 1 Auburn Tigers (13-0) meet the Nationally-Ranked Number 2 Oregon Ducks (12-0) – quack! (Good grief! Ducks?!? Give me a break! Please!) – January 10th in the BCS Championship Game in Glendale, AZ. The game will be telecast on ESPN, and ESPN3D, with kickoff at 7:30PM CST.
The ol’ quackers think they’re “king of the heap.” They’re fixin’ to learn an extremely valuable lesson… the HARD way. The SEC plays SMASH MOUTH FOOTBALL, and the Tigers are comin’ to getcha’! So, say your prayers, and ask for God’s mercy, ’cause the Tigers will have NONE on you!
WAR EAGLE, baby!!
Football and tradition reign in Auburn, Ala.
BY BOB WELCH
Published: Saturday, Dec 11, 2010 05:01AM
Karen Spears Zacharias, a writer from Hermiston with roots near Auburn, Ala., is trying to explain the difference between here and there.
“I have this girlfriend in Atlanta — a former Auburn Tigerette, a hostess for the football program — who’s a New York Times best-selling author,” Zacharias says.
In Oregon, she says, people would want to talk to Patti Callahan Henry about her novels.
“In Auburn,” Zacharias says, “people will say: ‘Oh, my gosh, you used to be a Tigerette!’ ”
The point isn’t that Auburn University, which plays the University of Oregon Jan. 10 in the BCS National Championship game, is a mindless football factory; U.S. News & World Report ranks it 38th among public colleges, 14 notches above UO.
Still, you can’t explain this eastern Alabama city of 57,833 people without repeated references to football.
“All of America is wrapped up in football in the fall,” says Chad Gibbs, author of “God & Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SEC.” “But in Auburn, they’re wrapped up in it during the first week of July. And at lunch in the spring. That’s all you’re talking about: Tiger football.”
Auburn sits hard to the Georgia border, midway between Montgomery and Atlanta.
Think of a town roughly the size of Corvallis — but mostly done in brick — that has a university with an enrollment slightly higher than Oregon State’s. Now, picture football weekends with twice as many fans on hand — 87,451 is the stadium capacity — than for your average Beaver game.
And, after the game, picture them leaving a couple of oak trees at Toomer’s Corner festooned with miles of toilet paper.
It’s tradition. “Started back in 1972 when, before the Alabama game, Auburn players said they were gonna go up there and beat ‘the No. 2’ out of the Crimson Tide,” says Gibbs, an Auburn grad. “Auburn won 17-16 and, back home, everyone celebrated by throwing rolls of toilet paper into the trees.”
Now, the trees are regularly decorated in postgame streams of white, which won’t score any points with Eugene environmentalists but, in Auburn, merits a live webcam.
T.P. aside, Auburn is no podunk place. It has its artsy parts, Zacharias says. Scholars. Wealth. Even, she says, some microbrews.
“What would surprise Oregonians about being down there is how literate the community is,” says Zacharias, author of “After the Flag Has Been Folded,” about growing up in the South while dealing with her father’s death in Vietnam. “People are incredibly well read. I don’t associate rednecks with Auburn in any way.”
In Eugene, 37 percent of the population has a four-year degree or more; in Auburn, 56.
If Eugene has a hippie feel, Auburn has a post-yuppie feel.
“If you’re in an airport in Minneapolis, you could pick the gate with the Auburn-bound people,” Zacharias says. “Nine out of 10 guys are wearing Dockers and brightly colored polo shirts.”
As with the Oregon- Oregon State rivalry, the University of Alabama likes to traipse out the “culture vs. agriculture” line against its land-grant-college rival. But Auburn’s educational prowess is well proven, particularly in its contributions to the space industry.
“Auburn fans,” Gibbs says, “have been known to flash signs at games that say: “Astronauts: Auburn 7, Alabama 0.”
UO has traded tradition for billboards, state-of-the-art training facilities and uniforms-of-the-week, some of which, unfortunately, don’t even include school colors.
But tradition reigns at Auburn.
“That gray look Oregon used last week — that would never happen at Auburn,” says Zacharias, who grew up in Columbus, Ga., 30 miles east and returns often. “You can’t take the field in uniforms that aren’t your school colors. If anyone even suggested it, the alums would revolt.”
Auburn is deeply rooted in the historic south. Here in Oregon, the “Civil War” is a yearly football game; in Auburn, the real deal closed the then five-year-old college, which was turned into a training ground for the Confederate Army in 1861. (UO would not open until 1876.)
ROTC is big at the university — and the city is home to lots of retired military folks.
Not surprisingly, the city is as conservative as Eugene is liberal, the percentage of Republicans (59.3) far above the national average (45.6) and far, far, far above Eugene’s (34.9).
“With liberal professors and conservative students, the joke at Auburn is about brainless professors teaching heartless kids,” Gibbs says.
Auburn has nearly three times the national average number of Baptists and only a tenth the average number of Catholics.
“In Auburn, you’re either employed by the university or a protestant church,” Zacharias says. “God plays a way bigger part in their football than in our football out here.”
Meanwhile, in Eugene, a close town-gown connection has never been anyone’s bragging point.
“In Auburn, everything revolves around the college,” Gibbs says. “On Sunday mornings, city employees are cleaning up the mess at Toomer’s Corner. And they’re happy to do so, since a few hours before they were helping create it.”
And come Jan. 10? “If Auburn beats Oregon,” Gibbs says, “I expect a serious toilet-paper shortage.”