Adrian Karsten baited him—surely the Bama fans who called for his head, and the administrators that gave it to them, could see that.
He was asked—no, told—by an ESPN personality, on the spot, on live, national television, to say “Roll Tide”, which he did, and then “War Eagle”, which ha ha, sure, OK, whatever, “War Eagle.” But ESPN wouldn’t take the cameras off him, even as they talked about how they should probably take the cameras off him.
Talk more about this crazy thing you did, Marked Man!
“It was hard, it was real hard to do because I spent four good years in Auburn and my heart’s in Auburn, but you know, I’m a cheerleader, and I’m cheering for my team.”
It was the last time Christopher Bailey cheered for his team, or any team. (Can’t see the video? Try here.)
Bailey, who had been Auburn’s head cheerleader the previous year, had transferred to Tuscaloosa in the fall of 2003 out of a desire to cheer competitively, something Auburn cheerleaders didn’t do, and to be closer to his girlfriend, who also cheered for the Tide.
It was a hard decision to make, and an easy angle for a story leading up to that year’s Iron Bowl.
“Coming back to Auburn to cheer at this year’s big game will be tough,” Bailey told the Plainsman in an interview the week of the game. “I know I am going to be nervous.”
But the nervousness stemmed from wondering how he’d be received back in Auburn—by Auburn fans, not Bama fans. The Bama folks already knew he still had feelings for Auburn. He was a lifelong fan. His dad was a graduate. He’d spent four years there. It was only natural. And they were cool with it.
In fact, though Alabama’s cheerleading coach insisted in the Plainsman’s feature that the Tide did not poach other school’s cheerleaders, Bailey was basically recruited to Bama, and not just by a girlfriend who no longer wanted the hassle of a cross-state, cross-rivalry relationship (and whom he eventually married).
Bailey’s father, a 1970 Auburn grad, told the Plainsman that Bama had been trying to secure his son’s services for two years, which seems to jibe with a quote from Bama cheerleader Adam Rhoden: “I’ve been trying to get him to Bama for a long time.”
“I know he’s still an Auburn fan at heart,” Rhoden said. “Nobody here has a problem with that.”
The following Monday, after receiving a barrage of angry emails from Bama fans who most definitely had a problem with it, or at least with Bailey’s comments to Karsten (made while the Tide was down 16 points), University of Alabama Athletic Director Mal Moore issued a press release stating that Bailey, after learning “a valuable lesson in dealing with today’s media”, was no longer a Bama cheerleader.
“He wanted to cheer competitively, and he didn’t want to give that dream up,” Bailey’s mother Cel told the AP when the news broke. “I guess it’s a dream he won’t be able to realize.
“He got himself in a jam. He didn’t really say what he meant to say. I guess he learned a life lesson here.”
Judging by the response “the most courageous man in the state of Alabama,” as Adrian Karsten called him, gave to my interview request last week, I’d say he learned it well: “Hey Jeremy. Thank you for reaching out. I am going to decline on the interview. Take care and War Eagle!”
Video: Auburn Obsessive.
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More Iron Bowl:
* Five Auburn fans named Chris Davis tell what it’s like sharing the most famous name in Iron Bowl history
* Were Auburn fans really pulling for the Russians over Alabama in 1977?
* Bama students did this to their own campus before the 1953 Iron Bowl
* Congrats, Auburn fans—you survived an earthquake
* Cremated remains found in Jordan-Hare Stadium after Iron Bowl
* Cam Newton ‘War Eagles’ throughout his post-game press conference Sunday after Iron Bowl
* New York Post: Iron Bowl ending ‘greatest in the history of sports’
* Pensacola bridge completely covered in Auburn graffiti after Iron Bowl