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Damn you, Auburn

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Auburn man Rich Perkins in his Damn Eagle shirt, 1981. [But not really.]
Damn you, Auburn.

Damn you for making me care. Damn you for being irresistible. Damn you for making me fall in love with you. Not your football team, but you. All of you. Your campus, your city, your academics, your history, your townspeople and your culture. Damn you for being as close to perfect as I can imagine.

There are times when I wish that I had attended some generic school. Somewhere that I had no ties to. A school that I could attend, graduate and leave. A school I could follow from a distance with a sense of detachment. But I know that is not who I am. I am my father’s son, and so I have followed in his footsteps, and it has brought me here, to Auburn.

My father passed at the young age of 34 in a car accident that in many ways defines our family. I was not yet 4 yrs old, so my memories of him are fragmented snapshots. I know him primarily through the stories of others. And through the small possessions that have been passed to me, many of which involve in alma mater, Auburn University. To my young mind, the two became intertwined. I could not and cannot think of one without the other. When I finally made my way to The Loveliest Village on the Plain, there was a bit of trepidation. I had built the idea of Auburn to such a monumental stature that I was certain it could never live up to it.

I was wrong.

Very few things in life live up to their expectations, but Auburn did. Not only that, it surpassed them. I instantly fell in love with the place. Not just the school or the football team, but the Auburn Family. Yes, I know it sounds trite and childish, but it is true. I fell in love with Auburn.

I love that I am as proud of an engineering department that has produced more astronauts and NASA employees than any other singe university. I love that I can, and do, boast about the fact that Auburn University consistently ranks in the Forbes top 50 Colleges and Universities. I love Samford Hall lit up at night. I love that sunsets look more beautiful here than any I have seen in my life, and I’ve seen them all over the world. I love that there is no “Town vs Gown” animosity here. I love that Auburn is a choice and not a default. People don’t end up here by accident.

I love it all so much that I didn’t leave. I could have. I have turned down numerous opportunities in other, larger, more lucrative cities. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t leave. Some of that is because I still feel close to my father here. Some of that is because of my own roots that I have sunk deep into its fertile soil. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t bring myself to leave. It is my home.

All of that makes certain days in the fall both brilliant and painful; glorious and terrifying. I wont make any excuses for the fact that I love watching football. It’s a great game. And, as Auburn is situated in the heart of college football, its most public image and representative is its football team.

Saturday, Auburn will play in the Iron Bowl, it’s annual gridiron battle with the University of Alabama. I wont go into the details of the rivalry. No doubt if you are reading this, you are fully aware them. And because this team is the physical representation of a place, a concept, a culture, a family that I love so much that I have made it my home, I care. I care a lot.

Damn you for making me care, Auburn. It would be so much easier to not care about this game. It would be so much easier to wake up and watch the game and just not care.

But that is not me. I do care. I am passionate in my love for all things Auburn. I know that others don’t get it, or don’t care, or think I am being simple and base. But I don’t care. Some of you do get it. Some of you have experienced your own love affair with places like Athens and Ann Arbor; State College or College Station; Annapolis and West Point; Gainesville and, yes, even Tuscaloosa. You understand what I mean.

If I didn’t care, I would not know the pain of a bad season. But I also wouldn’t know what it’s like to walk around campus and around town on a fall day, with electric anticipation in the air. I would never feel the sting of a loss to a bitter rival. But I also would not know the euphoria of an unexpected win. The pains are horrible, and lows, low. But the heart yearns for joy, and no greater joy can be found than the elevation of something you love.

And damn you Auburn, I do. I  love you…

Rich Perkins hosts The Drive, a weekday sports call-in show heard in Auburn on ESPN 106.5 and around the universe at espnau.com. He also has a little blog he occasionally updates with things that mostly amuse only him. Also, he thinks the movie Diner is one of the greatest movies of all time. Don’t ask.

More Iron Bowl:

* Yet another parallel between Alabama’s first trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium and their first trip to Jordan-Prayer Stadium
* Auburn fan who ran onto the field during the 1969 Iron Bowl tells all!
* More like the BUST Bama pep rally…
* The Snorg Tees Girl in a 1987 Auburn Iron Bowl victory T-shirt
* This song about the 1969 Iron Bowl is awesome
* A rap about the 1989 Iron Bowl
* Aubie romances early 80s coed on Bear skin rug
* David Housel’s radio address before the 2002 Iron Bowl

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