This is Luke, everyone. Luke’s the son of a good friend of mine from high school, and he lives in my photos folder like the refrigerator magnet you bring back from your vacation to Oahu or the Grand Canyon. We all need the reminders, crammed into the corners of our daily business, that it’s not all offseason drudgery; if we wait long enough, stay busy enough, eventually we’ll look up and we’ll be watching the pier recede in the blue distance from the deck of a cruise ship, one day we’ll go to sleep in an Auburn shirt because we’re going to watch our mascot soar and our team run onto the field and our players play football in their orange-and-blue uniforms the very next day.
There are times when it feels like it’s never going to happen. But Luke reminds me that it will, that it will always be worth the wait. And now even though he’s a long way away and it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, I know we’re both in the same car of the same roller coaster. We’re just about to the top of the hill. Trust me, buddy, my hands are in the air, too.
There’s two dozen moments you could pick out of any game at Jordan-Hare Stadium as your favorite, not even including the moments that happen when Auburn does something momentous on the field. That’s why it’s college football.
But most of the time, the one I’d pick out as mine–even ahead of the eagle’s flight–is those beautiful slow seconds right when you’ve walked out of the tunnel under your section, when you finally get a good look at the field you’ve caught little glimpses of as you walk around the concourse.
The field! The first thing is how shockingly, stunningly green it is, like a golf course on special hormones, just this side (the oh-so-right side) of unnatural. Then there’s the players, just warming up at this point, both teams going through their separate drills at any number of separate points; it’s like looking at one of those old harvest-time farm paintings, where there’s something different happening in every corner of the canvas and you feel like you’ll have to stare at it all day to see everything. Then there’s the field again, really, absurd in its lushness and all the more so by being framed by so much steel and concrete. (Wonderful steel and concrete, but still.)
This green and wide-eyed moment is my favorite because it’s the one where I feel most intensely the joy of football for football’s sake. Once I settle down in my seat and start getting a better look at the opposition, start looking over a program roster or discussing with the seat next to me the possible final, it’s not about football any more; it’s about winning, and that’s great, too, because if you stretched out that moment for the entire game, it would be boring. But I also love that for just a second or two, I can put aside the worry and stress and nerves and potential disaster of Auburn football and soak in the fact that it’s Auburn football. Right there, right in front of us, on that green field. We are all so lucky.
Since the Mrs. WBE and I moved out of Alabama four years ago, I’ve only experienced that moment firsthand once, laid my own eyes on Pat Dye Field in all its glory just the one time. (There are tentative plans to make the Georgia game this season; I’m all but praying about it.) So days like today, nights like tonight, mornings like tomorrow morning: it’s as close as I can get these days. There’s going to be Auburn football. Soon.
So I’m doing my best to enjoy it, yes. It can’t last all season. But it’s better than anything other than victory, and in some ways even better, and that’s pretty damned good.
We’re having a baby, the Mrs. WBE and I. A little girl, we’ve been told, due in late October. Her name is Tessa. But my father joked that if I’m WBE and the Mrs. is Mrs. WBE, then isn’t the baby the WarBlogEaglet?, and that made me laugh.
I’ve been thinking for months–about seven of them–about how to introduce the news in this space, most of them variations on her birth as a metaphor for the start of football season. Eventually I gave up, because there’s not one that makes sense. It’s comparing apples to spaceships.
But the giddiness of these last few hours before kickoff overlapping with the giddiness of the last few weeks before her arrival does, at least, help me understand why college football seems to travel in bloodlines, why its fandom has more to do with the roots of family trees and less with the temporary tendrils of geography-based professional sports fanhood.
It’s because of change. When she’s born, everything about my life will change. By the time she’s 10, everything will have changed again. By the time she’s going off to college, everything about the world will have changed, in ways both amazing and terrifying. It is like casting off into a wild, azure sea on a sunny-but-blustery day, not on a cruise ship but a small sailboat, exhilarated and sure above all we’ll reach the other side somehow, but wary of all that swells and troughs that lay between.
But we’re bringing a few anchors, too. And one of them is Auburn football. The giddiness of today will be there again next year at this time. Pat Dye Field will still be immaculate the year after that. The helmets are still going to have the same A-and-U logo the year after that. The year after that very season of autumn itself will still begin with the first kickoff, rise with the skirmishes against the likes of LSU or the Gators, finally climax with the battle against the Tide, and hand the baton off to winter when the last stragglers have left Jordan-Hare of Bryant-Denny.
These things, they’re not going to change. By the end of October, everything else will. But they will not. And as thrilling as opening up our sails and leaving behind the shore of our old lives may be, to hold their old weight in my hands is a very reassuring thing.
I’ve tried so many times, to so many people–girlfriends, Europeans, academics–why I care so much about Auburn football. Why anyone would care so much about any college football team. I’ve hauled out all the old hoary socio-psychological explanations–it’s a way of displaying regional/geographical pride and superiority without combat, it’s a safe outlet for pent-up emotions it’s not proper (especially for men) to express otherwise, it’s a substitute for the personal competition we crave since “everyday life” doesn’t give have winners and losers–but the people I’ve offered those explanations to have thought they’re pretty much bunk and I’ve come to think they’re pretty much bunk, too.
The best explanation is the one Nick Hornby offers in Fever Pitch, when he’s leaving yet another Arsenal defeat, one in a series of them, alongside his significant other:
A different version of the world. Yes. It’s that simple. A version that may be a little drab around the edges from mid-January through the end of August (with the exception of this blinding, bewildering flash of color in March, in my personal version, anyway), but then explodes into hypercolor edition of the world that leaves the pulse always on the edge of quickening, and offers an outright fireworks show every single Saturday. It’s not so bad. I think it’s better than what some other people have, quite honestly.
I don’t know if my daughter is going to share this world with me or not. She’ll have her own worlds to discover, her own anchors for her own adventures. But I can’t wait to offer her the invitation. I’m already counting down the days until I can hold her hand as we walk down a Jordan-Hare tunnel on a crisp September afternoon, come out into the sunlight, point towards that riot of green, and say: Look at that.
Of course, it’s easy to be excited about football when you are an Auburn fan and the calender says “2010.” Our team is loaded with exciting and likable players*; our coaches are charismatic and intelligent, and are recruiting new exciting and likable players all the time; the misery and trauma of 2008 and its subsequent coaching transition seem like they are the full two years behind us they just about are. We can do more than idly wish for big, delirious wins, since it seems so likely we’ll get a few of them. We can almost expect them.
But that’s not really why I wish I could wrap the feeling I’ll get when the alarm goes off tomorrow around me like a blanket and wear it all winter long. We’re past that point. Now it’s just about the football, the crack of pads, the fight song you sing without noticing you’re singing, the smell of that grass even if you’re too far away to smell it.
And that’s enough. Auburn football kicks off tomorrow. So raise your hands, little ones, point ’em towards the orange sun and blue sky and say together the thing I say when I am most happy, when the day is today, when everything good and green is stretched out before us, just waiting, and don’t worry, your Mom won’t mind the swear:
WAR DAMN EAGLE!
*A note that the “5 to root for” series will conclude next week; this is the final post for today. I don’t think I’m giving too much away by spoiling the ending here, am I?
Congradulations to you and Mrs. WBE!!
Little girls are the best, mine just turned 16!
Hard to believe the season is here!!!
I have good vibes about this year!!
Sleep all you can now. You’ll thank me later.
AUsome news Jerry! Congrats!
Congrats on the baby, my wife and I are expecting our first, a little boy, the week of the iron bowl. Good thing the hospital room has a nice flat screen! War Eagle!
Congratulations Jerry! Couldn’t be happier for you.
Dude, that is some great news. With writing like that, I’m afraid we may have to start paying you more to be able to keep you at TWER.
Aubiece, I’m with you. Mine just turned 16 also. Tough watching her leave the house driving herself to school that first day.
Anyway – forget Labor Day. Saturday is the holiday. WDE!!!!
Congrats Jerry. It’s definitely a game changer, but you’ll love it.
Awesome news, Jerry. Congrats!
I’ve been going to games at Jordan Hare since I was 5, and I’ve been on hand for a lot of the classics in recent history. Yet my favorite game hands down was last season. Kentucky. No kidding. Despite a humiliating loss in what had to be the coldest Saturday in the history of Lee County, that October night was the first time I walked my 4-year-old little girl into that stadium…just the two of us. I can’t describe to you the excitement and joy that beamed out of her that whole day. Aubie, the band, the eagle flight, the cheers, the fanfare. She’s in! It’s a day neither one of us will forget. It was awesome, as you’ll find out soon enough.
Welcome to the family, Tessa. And War Eagle!
Tiger in the shade says
Congratulations Jerry! and War Eagle.
Acid Reign says
……Great news! Congrats, Mrs. and Mr. WarBlogEagle! You just have NO idea what you’re in store for!
…..Kids will ground you. That has its ups and downs. On the other hand, while my wife was still expecting with our first, the little one helped me deal with losing to Southern Miss and Bret Farve on homecoming. After all, I had spent the day with earbuds in, hitting garage sales looking for baby stuff. Kind of took the sting out of blowing a 12-0 lead in the 4th quarter. There were more serious matters afoot!
…..I was sent out in the yard with a rake the year my second kid was born. He was just six months old, and there was NO WAY my wife was letting me in the house during the Iron Bowl while my son was napping! As it turned out, he got his whole nap. I was REAL quiet as we got behind Bama 14-5, and that idiot Bowden was going for it on 4th and 15… Luckily the nap was just ending when Nix to Sanders happened. No one within a mile radius was still asleep after that TD!
……I guess what I resented most about little kids was the TIME that they eat. You can never drop your vigilance. Never do a household chore with single-minded attention. If you are not paying attention, they are almost certainly doing something dangerous. Either that, or making a legendary mess. Or both. Your time is no longer your own. Yes, you can work while they are asleep. You WILL pay for that, however. Let ’em sleep while you are awake, and you’ll reap what you have sown that night!
……As far as being an Auburn fan, my kids have helped me more than anything during the dark times. They’ll pick you up, because you can’t stay in a funk around them! My daughter, with newly minted drivers license took me out to see the Batman “Dark Knight” movie at the dollar house, after the 2008 Iron Bowl debacle in Tuscaloosa. That was a timeless gesture, and really helped.
……Some 15-20 years later, I no longer have to worry every single moment of the day about them killing themselves. Oh sure, there are still worries. Does Sam’s Club have enough food in stock to feed them for the next week? What new fee is UAB going to sock us with this week? He’s signed up for HOW many tennis tournaments this month at $50 a pop?
…..I’ve gotten one out of two interested in Auburn, football and the like. The other hates crowds and noise. Ended up with the wrong dad, for sure. I’ve always felt that you can’t get a really good guitar sound without overdrive, and at least two 1-hundred watt amp heads cranked up to at least 8! My neighbors know this well!
……What hooked my son on Auburn was a walk through the Quad before the 2007 Ole Miss game. I don’t think there is is a more “babe-a-licious” location on the planet. He’s had an absolute blast playing in the junior state team tennis tournament the past two years at Auburn. For those who don’t know, Auburn has an absolutely amazing tennis facility on the outer ring of Shug Jordan Parkway, on the east side of the city. My son’s Pelham Pacers finished second in the tournament. Fun times!
……My kids learned at an early age what autumn Saturdays are for. Like my ancestors before me, I’ve taught them that if they schedule a wedding during an Auburn football game, I won’t be at the wedding. I missed three Auburn games last fall due to family obligations (outside the immediate family), and I’ve sworn that it will NEVER happen again. I’ve acquired LSU and La Monroe tix for this year, and every other game I WILL be at the TV with a keyboard, screaming my lungs out.
……War EAGLE! HEY!
Jerry, you realize that if all the cards fall into place, and all the games turn out just right, and every crazy thing that has to happen happens and this year is THE year, you’ll have to have a kid every October to keep the good times rolling, right?
Seriously, though, congratulations!
congratulations man… my first daughter was born 11/28/08, so it was happy and not so happy. 🙂 Our second daughter’s due in a couple weeks, but I imagine she’ll be early, too. You’re right, it ain’t nothin’ like football season!
You will be amazed at how much of your life (and checkbook) can revolve around a 7 pound object.
That being said, being a dad is the greatest thing in the world. Congrats and War Eagle.
Congrats, Jerry! Awesome news for you and your wife.
Alex P in Smyrna G says
Awesome news Jerry!
As a father of three I can tell you that you are in for a lot of fun. Fathers and daughers have an extremely special relationship. The cliche is that you’ll be “wrapped around her little finger.” This is no cliche.
You’ll have a blast. Teach her who Bo is. Teach her about 1983, 1993 and 2004. Teacher why we are the Tigers who cry War Eagle. Let her say the ‘damn’ when it’s appropriate and ‘give em hell’ too.
Don’t get your hopes up about getting to view wall to wall football all day for quite a few years.
And my oldest is six and I still can’t take him to any stadium without visiting the bathroom 15 times and spending a small fortune on funnel cakes, hot dogs, cokes, and dippin dots.
Congrats again! You’re gonna do great`
Very cool, Jerry. Blessings to your family,
Army Apache War Eagle 86 says
Your beginning what the frau and I just wrapped up. Our last child, a daughter, is an incoming Freshman this quarter, oops, semester. Shows my age, and we are delighted for you two. You are correct that life will soon change for you but I assure you it is for the better. You will turn around twice and she to will be off to AU.
Foy Onion says
As a new dad I can tell you that you’re going to love every second of it. If you’re anything like me everything is about to come into absolute focus for you. I can’t wait for that special moment when I take my son to his first game.
Van P says
Congrats! My Mira is two and she adores Aubie (& knows which DVDs he’s on) and loves to shout “War Eagles!!” while waving a shaker. It doesn’t take em long to start figuring it all out!
Congrats, Mr and Mrs WBE.
Thanks, many thanks, to all of you. And yes, Ovar, we’re trying to stock up on sleep as best we can. The Mountain Time Zone and 8 a.m. Gamedays make it difficult, though.
Your life is going to change in ways you can’t imagine.