A-Day is a carefully orchestrated dichromatic waltz played smooth and slow, drawn out over several unsurprising hours. A-Day is sheet music. It’s following the rules because—because just because; that’s how’s it’s always been done. It’s tradition and manufactured advertised family. It’s new basketball coach introductions and Gene Chizik selling Bryan hot dogs.
The Old 280 Boogie is jazz, at least in concept. It’s free-form and flowing. Children twirl and gyrate to a rockabilly crooner with Elvis hair. Petite ladies wearing tie-dye shirts slither hula hoops around and around and around. Overalls and neon purple American Apparel shirts are paired. Pabst and moonshine. Cigars and old-man pipes. Small towns and hipsters.
It’s hard for me to imagine spending a more diametrical day in Alabama: from Southeastern conference football to a celebration of Southern eccentrics. I can’t say I love one more than the other. Or that one is inherently better or “cooler,” whatever you want that to mean. I love them both—stiff and slow-to-change football and look-at-us-aren’t-we-weird? festivals—but I don’t feel totally comfortable at either.
Maybe if the two were combined. If somehow Auburn could run into Jordan-Hare to the Fleet Foxes’ “Mykonos,” Cam Newton sporting an ironic mustache and Mario wearing a pink “Legalize Gay” shirt while playing the harmonica, I could be satisfied. Never going to happen, of course – Mario hates pink.
The two will forever remain separate, each side’s head swelling with smug superiority. And, people such as myself and Jeremy, who also attended both, get to write mini-essays both admonishing and praising the differences. That way I can pander to each crowd. A splish of athletics mixed with a splash of the esoteric.
A common criticism of Auburn is that it lacks diversity, in thought, dress and race. And that’s probably true, to an extent. To walk around Auburn is to see the same basic caricature again and again. And that’s bad. There should be something to shake these people (excuse the pompous term) from their safe and conformed lives. The sheep need to be attacked by wolves now and again.
But, at the same time, too much ain’t-we-neat, back-slapping from the “different” crowd does nothing. It’s a different verse of the same song. There is such a thing as conformity disguised as non-conformity.
I don’t really know whom I am writing to here. Maybe just to myself. Spending all day in the sun staring at girls in sundresses and skirts makes your mind think weird and circular thoughts. You’ve all probably figured this out already. At least part of this is me broadcasting my ability to watch and understand the subtleties of football while also being able to drink Miller High-Life, browse antique books, and enjoy alternative country with the “weirdos.” Impressed? (Ladies…)
Though my love of Auburn football is not where it was at 12 or 16 or even 19, it’s still present. Watching Terrell Zachary break three tackles and tightrope into the end zone was thrilling, even if it was a scrimmage, and even if it was against Auburn’s defense. I scream “Our receivers are awesome!” You scream “Our tackling is awful!”
I will be there next fall, screaming, cheering and jeering, my conscious mind telling me football doesn’t really matter while my body, rebelling against all higher thought, is racked by chills from the student sections’ rendition of “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
It’s a cliché at this point to mention, but football doesn’t “matter.” Neither does the dancing and the smoking and the drinking. Education and too much of the book learning lets you know that.
But they’re fun. And we need them.
So War Eagle and skiddilydoo.
Ben is a student at Auburn University. Most of his time is spent doing as little as possible, eating and controlling manageable vices. He will one day graduate with a degree in journalism and maybe find a job. Fingers crossed. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.