Carmen Britton was recently granted diplomatic immunity from missing out on the most important season in Auburn football history.
The 25-year-old Auburn graduate is currently four months into a 27 month commitment to the Peace Corps, assisting children with special needs in a rural community in the Philippines. Despite limited internet access, she’s kept up to date with this year’s stats and scores via friends and family on Facebook (YouTube highlights take 30 minutes to load if you’re lucky), but has been unable to catch a single Auburn football game.
“Since August I’ve been asking how I could watch Auburn football and no one could tell me a specific place, even the volunteers who’ve been here for years and are football fans.,” says Britton, who grew up in Auburn, and graduated with a degree in Psychology from Auburn University in 2007 and with a masters in Applied Behavior Analysis in 2008. “I’ve yet to see or hear anything remotely resembling live football here. Other volunteers have told me military bases may be the best bet to finding U.S. sports, but I haven’t tried it yet.”
When she learned that the Tigers would be playing for the national championship, she knew she’d finally have to try something.
Her plan: take the four hour motorcycle sidecar, then bus, then taxi ride to Manila, crash at a hostel for a few hours, then wander the streets for an open bar that might be showing the game at the crack of dawn.
The first problem? The rule prohibiting new volunteers from overnight travel.
The second? The whole barhopping in Manila at the crack of dawn thing — the dangers, the next-to-nil chances of finding the game.
The second took a chance meeting with an unlikely hero: Harry K. Thomas Jr., the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines.
“Last weekend, all of the Peace Corps Volunteers were invited to attend a United States Embassy Christmas Party in Baguio City. I traveled the 4 hours by bus, mostly for the food,” Britton says. “I met a few Embassy employees, and finally saw my chance to introduce myself to the ambassador.”
Thomas asked her her name. He asked her where she was from. When she told him, the conversation picked up.
“He said he had seen Cam Newton play in a few games, and that his family from South Carolina were upset [with the season], but that ‘Cam Newton is good’,” Britton says. “I told him I was excited because I was granted permission to travel to Manila to catch the first game I’ll see this season. I asked if he would recommend a bar or hotel in Manila that might be showing the game.”
Thomas frowned. Then he motioned for a staffer.
“He told his assistant, “This is Carmen. Get her information. She will be coming over to the house on January 11 at 5 a.m. I’ll be asleep, don’t wake me up, but she is welcome to watch the game.'”
Britton says she almost started crying.
“I haven’t gotten to feel like a fan this year. I’m so fortunate to get to watch the game live.”
She’ll still have to spend two days allowance to get to Manila, and still have find a Jeepney route that will take her to the right address. And she won’t be enjoying burgers and brats for dinner, she’ll be snacking on a pack of Clif Bars sent from her mom – for breakfast. But she’s going to wear her Auburn shirt. And if there’s internet, she’ll going to find “Eye of the Tiger”on YouTube and rock out like she always used to before a game. And then she’s going get her first glimpse of Cam Newton, and her first feel of the team of destiny… from the comfort of the living room of what an embassy worker told her was the nicest house in the nicest neighborhood in Manila.
“I think it’ll put me back home for a few hours.”
Will she find a makeshift Toomer’s Corner to roll when Auburn wins?
“I’d love to, but toilet paper is a serious luxury here,” she says. “I’d feel wasteful. But maybe a small bush and then clean it up and save it for later.”
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