If history is any indication, Syracuse.com’s Bud Poliquin may have just written the second-most popular column of his career.
Because it’s basically a cut ‘n’ paste Hey, remember this? repeat of what he says is “without a doubt” the most read thing he’s ever written, the column he wrote after returning home from covering the visiting Orangemen’s triple-overtime loss to Auburn in 2002, the column people are still talking about and forwarding around and posting on message boards and Facebook and even framing 12 years later—Auburn people, at least.
“It’ll be 12 years ago this very weekend that I wrote the only column in my career that drew responses from all seven continents … including, yes, Antarctica,” he wrote Friday. “And to this day, hand to God, I still receive periodic correspondence from Auburn football followers…”
“So when was the last time you heard from one,” I ask him.
“About three weeks ago,” Poliquin replies. “A guy wrote and said ‘I saw your column on my doctor’s office wall.'”
He also once heard from someone who said their grandmother had it hanging in her living room—she’d embroidered it… if not the whole thing, then at least the last few, powerful lines:
“I have descended into college football’s Grand Canyon. I have stood in its Alps. I have gazed at its ocean sunset. I have attended a game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala. And I’ve been changed forever.”
Put quotes around all that and hit enter—Google stops counting at around 33,200 results.
Poliquin says he stopped counting the letters and emails at around a thousand. He still has a shoebox stuffed with the good ones, the ones from people saying his column brought comfort to sick relatives, from people saying what he wrote was exactly how they felt at their first Auburn game. And then there are the invitations.
“It’s amazing how many invitations I had (from Auburn fans) to come down to a game and stay in people’s private homes, to play golf,” Poliquin says. “I actually had two offers from people saying ‘we’ll fly you down to a game.'”
When I suggested the response was similar in style to the treatment given a newly converted Christian, Poliquin laughed in agreement.
But his original column basically reads like a testimony—here’s an unchurched Yankee coming into the fold, discovering there was infinitely more to football life than whatever the desolate Carrier Dome had to offer (“Um, let’s see. We can’t fill 49,000 seats.”).
“I think people were eager to validate my experience by telling me their experience,” he says—eager enough to drop him a line from the bottom of the earth.
Poliquin says he later he wrote a follow-up on the overwhelming response he’d received about the Auburn column, about how he’d heard from Auburn fans on every continent except one. A week or so later, a letter showed up on his desk from a US serviceman claiming to be stationed on a ship off the coast of Antarctica thanking him for what he’d written. Poliquin says he couldn’t believe it. But there was also a photo. Was it real? Photoshopped?
“I don’t know. But there was snow in the background and he had an American flag and an Auburn flag.”
“You Auburn folks,” he says, “are serious.”
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