I told Auburn Police Captain James Tatum about the Facebook campaign to keep the BCS National Championship trophy out of Walmart.
“Now that’s just stupid. That’s just the work of some small-minded people, you know what I’m saying. These last two years have been good for the whole state. I just don’t understand this whole taking sides thing, this fanaticism. That’s just like when I hear talk radio. I can’t listen to it. I have to turn the station. Just small-minded people.”
Tatum, a 23-year member of the AUPD, volunteered to watch Auburn fans stand in front of a “second-tier soda” mural and cheese it up with the crystal football from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
I asked him if he was an Alabama fan, because I knew I was going to write something about the experience.* And wouldn’t it be convenient and a great big hyuck-hyuck, and an interesting anecdote to boot, if a cop that pulled for Bama had to stand resolute and proud in uniform for four hours as a parade of Auburn released 54 years of frustration in front of Diet and regular Dr. Pepper fridge packs, the white Diets inset in the red regulars to spell “War Eagle,” in the clothing section of the Auburn Walmart.
“What difference does it make?”
I’d found the only non-partisan person in the entire Auburn Walmart.
“I don’t take sides. I like for both teams to do well, you know what I’m saying. I even hope Troy does well.”
He had a very Walmart-ian viewpoint.
Walmart is vulgar. There’s a website dedicated to the store’s patrons, at least the absurd and disturbing and downright disgusting ones. (Old man in the hotdog hat excluded.) It’s been accused of improperly employing illegal immigrants and forcing workers to work overtime and off-the-clock without pay. The “Criticism of Walmart” Wikipedia page has 115 references. Walmart is coarse. Walmart is rude.
But the reason some Auburn fans were so indignant about the prospect of the Coaches’ Trophy on display at Walmart stems from the other definition of vulgar — characteristic of or belonging to the masses. The goal of Walmart is to be everything for everybody. Need a toothbrush? Got it. How about a prescription filled? Check. Why don’t you get your oil changed while you’re at it. And grab you some of them Zatarain’s microwavable chicken alfredos. They’re 3 for $5 right now.
Here’s the problem, and here’s the reason for all the letters, groups, and cries of protest: Auburn is not for everyone. We are a select group, not necessarily exclusive but not necessarily inclusive either. We like to think of Auburn as a family. The Family, we say. “Today was a great win for the Auburn Family. He’s doing the Auburn Family proud. She is an asset to the Family. The Family wills it. Drink this, it’s from the Family. Don the familial robes. For the Family.” And etc. and etc. and I took that a bit too far but you get the point, I hope. Some of you maybe.
We have all these high-minded ideals of what an Auburn Man or an Auburn Woman should be, what they should look like, how they should act, what income level they should achieve, but… you can’t pick your fans. Sometimes the Auburn fan is the small Filipino man wearing a championship hat and giving a thumbs-up or chubby Larry David sporting a gray 2010 Iron Bowl shirt (“2 Much for Tuscaloosa”) or unimpressed lady in a Carhartt jacket holding up the No. 1 finger.
Last year, after Alabama won not only its first Heisman Trophy but its 85th national championship, the Auburn fan’s only solace — outside of the “moral victory” of the Iron Bowl — was Alabama’s trophy tour around the state’s Walmarts. Oh! the rednecks and recluses and crazed Alabama Mans. What backwoods degenerates and people of questionable pedigree. We Auburn fans would never stoop so low.
It seems we’re all in this together. Each side feels superior; that’s how sports work. All Alabama fans sacrifice small animals at the final resting place of Bear Bryant’s chalk-white carcass and all Auburn fans smell of cow manure and suffer from little-brother syndrome. The more we accentuate the differences, the more the similarities become apparent.
We stereotype because life is infinitely confusing and complex. If you took the time to truly try to understand each and every person you met, you’d go crazy. There isn’t enough time in the day. Stereotypes are what keep the world spinning. This group is narrow-minded and naïve and that group is greedy and selfish and that one over there smells funny and eats too much cheese.
But sometimes, I think, I hope, and I here argue to some effect maybe, you remember a broad-generalization or stereotype rarely does an individual justice. (Yay for togetherness and empathy.) Sometimes you look in the mirror.**
To summarize: Who cares if people wearing Auburn apparel take pictures in front of Dr. Pepper fridge packs in the middle of the clothing section of Walmart. We’re all hypocrites. It’s not that big a deal.
We all live in Alabama.
* Which is always a weird conundrum. Because part of my brain is always constructing and arranging the experience for the eventual writing. It’s all: this is a good opening and here’s an interesting anecdote and I should stand over here and not talk to that person because he or she might destroy the delicate web I’m trying to weave here. I am trying to develop what Gay Talese calls the “art of hanging out.”
** For the record: I still think Auburn fans are superior to Alabama fans in every way.
Ben Bartley is a graduate of Auburn University. He would one day like to get paid for this whole writing business. (Feel free to offer him money.) In the meantime, he’s TWER’s assistant editor / water boy. Write to him at [email protected]. Did you read his essay on coming to unspeakably marvelous terms with the personal impact of Auburn football? You should.
* The Secret History of Pat Dye Field
* Erin Andrews at Toomer’s Corner
* In the time of “Got 13″ she was a Tiger
* Was Walt Disney an Auburn fan?
* AU fan possibly contributed to Courtney Love’s teenage delinquency
* Player on 1972 ‘Amazin’s’ squad battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease
Alex P in Smyrna G says
“We all live in Alabama.”
No. we. do. not.
And Walmart is AWESOME! Brilliant business model that helps infinetly more people than it hurts. I buy stuff there often.
But that doesn’t mean I am comfortable with AU’s BCS trophy being displayed there. Bama’s trophy belonged there becuase, let’s face it, it’s not like their fans have a connection with the Tuscaloosa campus.
Conversely, the vast majority of adult AU family members can explain the quadrant system used to number rooms in Haley Center (1 faces the football stadium and 2 faces the library – just as God intended). THIS IS BECAUSE WE HAVE DEGREES FROM THE DAMN SCHOOL!
Unless you do live in Alabama. Then we all live in Alabama. You know what I’m saying.
For me, it’s not so much being displayed at Wal-mart as it is the way they do it. The fridge pack background is terrible. It looks cheap and makes the trophy look cheap. You can’t help but look like a redneck rube standing in the midst of all that. If they want to take it to Wal-Mart and display it, why does it have to _look_ like it’s on aisle 9? Surely they can come up with some better looking background than that.
Thanks for writing about this. I actually love about 98 percent of the Wal-Mart photos on Deadspin. All of these Auburn fans just wanted to be a part of the fun too. We are supposed to be embarrassed? I am actually proud in seeing that the photos featured there show a good cross-section of people that live in Alabama and love Auburn. War Eagle!
While I agree with 99.999% of this article, let it be known that Dr. Pepper is NOT a second-tier soda! It’s better than Coke and Pepsi. COMBINED.
Amen on Dr. Pepper being the superior soft drink. One thing I look forward to every football season, almost as much as the actual games, is the appearance of the football shaped Dr. Pepper 20oz bottles in stores. This year the upped the ante and added an extra couple of ounces for the same price. Meanwhile I can’t buy a 24 pack of Coke anymore, only a 20 pack disguised as a 24 pack and priced the same. Nice try Coke, but I’m on to you!
this is dumb. it’s out of our hands. i’m glad to see more converted auburn fans everywhere i go now. at least they’re not bama fans. more power to us. and at least the display isn’t dr. thunder
On a sidenote, just what is a sidewalk alum’s definition? What if a parent went to Auburn, but you did not?
Auburn Elvis says
J.D. & Marcus, Are you sure y’all are Auburn fans? There’s no Dr. Pepper in War Eagle Country. No Pepsi. There’s Coke and a bunch of flavored waters.
“THIS IS BECAUSE WE HAVE DEGREES FROM THE DAMN SCHOOL!”
I’d say a good 75% of the AU fans in this state did not attend school at AU. That’s just delusion on your behalf.
Some of you act as if UA has no alums whatsoever, when in fact, they’ve produced more graduates over the years and currently has a larger student body than AU does, and that’s why many UA fans can’t help but wonder if many of you have ever left the confines of your living room. I see four times as many AU fans (and Alabama for that matter) on a daily basis that, based on appearances alone, did not attend college whatsoever opposed to those who appear as if they actually did (and this applies to all SEC schools, with the exception of Vandy of course). Each time I hear the “we all have degrees” cry from the internet Auburn fans, I can’t help but scratch my head in response.
Like flies on shiz, being two major SEC powerhouse programs is going to attract an inordinate amount of fans with no affiliation to said schools whatsoever. I don’t know where many internet Auburn fans get the notion that all of their fans attended AU from, but it’s laughable. You’re not Troy (a school that can claim their fans actually attended school there) for crying out loud.
I tip my hat to the writer of this article. At least one person actually gets it.