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Living With An Asterisk?

Thayer, Thayer now...

Auburn begins this season as the National Champions. Lots of folks, in the media and out of it, seem to hope they can change that by talking about various impending this-and-thats: on-going NCAA investigations, bagmen about to jump from behind closed doors (impelled, apparently, by their disinterested love of truth and desire to keep Danny Sheridan’s reputation free of blemishes), or who knows what other dire prophecies muttered by the Deep Throat du jour. And Auburn fans seem restless, seem to feel that they have been deprived of something.

But here’s the rub: When lately has the fan base of any rival ever simply and collectively acknowledged its rival’s championship? Contemporary American sports, in part because of the journalistic and moral bankruptcy of what passes for sports reporting, exists wholly in the realm of envy. What other teams have (a player like Cam Newton) or win (a National Championship) provokes sidelong glances, narrowed eyes, on the part of their rivals. A rival—shall we say by definition—cannot deserve any good thing. So of course if they have them (Cam Newton; Sears Trophy), their agency in getting them must have been—shall we say it? all together now—Outside The Lines.

If you will forgive me taking refuge in an ancient and venerable tongue: what horseshit!

Auburn won the Trophy. Nothing has been proven. And nothing has been denied Auburn. My own view is that if Auburn’s rivals must envy (and I wish they wouldn’t, just because it is such a miserable state to live in), then Auburn fans should embrace the envy, not as a cost of the Championship, but as a lovely bonus provided with it: “Here is the Sears Trophy, and, as a bonus, the seething, boiling bubble guts of all your rivals!” Every phone call to radio shows, every spouted idiocy on television, every illiterate post on message boards, all unite together in a hymn to Auburn, hallmarking a complete and demeaning inability on the part of rivals to—shall we say it? all together now: Get Over It! If you must spice Auburn’s championship by pouring out your life’s few precious moments memorializing it in the dayglow green of your envy, who am I to tell you No? Memorialize, memorialize; and thank you!

Oh, but the rivals will say, what if Auburn is guilty? Well, then Auburn is. But I am not going to worry about it. I will bask in the Championship and the envy of it, until I can’t. Then I will move on. It’s just football after all, lots of fun and all that, but not important enough to corrupt my character for. I haven’t lost any sleep worrying about the Championship being recalled, and I won’t if it were to happen. That season is history now. And although the bookkeeping concerning it would change if Auburn were found to have done something wrong, not a moment of the season would change or go away. Even if the score of the Iron Bowl is marked with an asterisk, it will still be a game Auburn won: 28-27. The old saying that winners write history isn’t wholly true. In contemporary American sports, the winners make the history, and the losers try to rewrite it.

But before Auburn fans subside into a tranquil glow, before we bask in the collected during-the-season and after-the-season goodies of last year, we should check themselves and our relationship to Alabama’s Championship. How much envy did we send Alabama’s way? I hope the Alabama fans enjoyed it then as much as I am now. It would be nice if we could grow up and all stop being sore losers. But if that doesn’t happen—and of course it won’t—there is no way I will let the tantrums of a legion of sore losers deprive me of one bit of joy in last year; as I said, the tantrums are a bonus. We should take them that way, as a bit of unintended magnanimity by our rivals.

Dr. Jolley is a philosophy professor at Auburn University. He works in the theory of judgment, the history of 20th-century philosophy, metaphilosophy and philosophical psychology. He was recently profiled by The New York Times. He also likes football. His book “The Concept ‘Horse’ Paradox and Wittgensteinian Conceptual Investigations” was published in 2007.  His column Leisure with Dignity runs bi-monthly to monthly to whenever. Write to him at [email protected].

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About Dean Jolley

Dr. Jolley is currently Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Auburn University. He works in the theory of judgment, the history of 20th-century philosophy, metaphilosophy and philosophical psychology. He also likes football. His book, "The Concept 'Horse' Paradox and Wittgensteinian Conceptual Investigations" was recently published in Ashgate's Wittgensteinian Studies Series. "Leisure with Dignity," his column for TWER, will run bimonthly to monthly. Write to him at [email protected]

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