Being that I, your intrepid War Eagle Reader columnist, is not exactly rolling in the cash, these days… and knowing that I have every intention of going to the BCS Title Game in Glendale anyway, somehow, one way or another… and being as much of a lifelong comics/SF fan as I am a lifelong Auburn fan… I dragged out almost every one of my most treasured hardcover and softcover graphic novels and collected volumes, along with several of my own books that I wrote, and listed them on eBay last weekend. Didn’t want to do it, but felt I had to—felt I owed it to the Auburn side of my fandom, to not miss this game under any circumstances. (See the Wishbone column from December 1 for my impassioned argument as to why this game matters even more than you might think.)
Learning of this, the kind our benevolent editor has generously asked me to present my case in this forum for why you should bid on one or two of my items and help me afford to go—something I appreciate very much.
After giving it a great deal of thought, I have decided to lay out my “fan resume” for your perusal and (hopefully) your entertainment. If, upon reading it, you feel so moved as to go to my eBay page and actually bid on one of my treasured books from my collection—or one of the books I myself wrote and am offering at huge discounts, signed—all the better, and much appreciated.
So, without further ado, here we go—one modest Auburn alum’s “Fan Resume,” for whatever you might find it worth.
1972: We have to begin with “Punt, Bama, Punt.” I was four years old. It was the first time I can actually remember being conscious of Auburn as an entity, a sports team, etc. My dad (AU ’60) received the audio highlights on a 45 RPM record from the Alumni Association and I must have played that thing a thousand times.
That same year, roughly, I also received a hand-me-down Auburn jacket; it was the most simple and basic thing you’d ever see—solid navy blue nylon or polyester, with “AUBURN” in orange plain letters on the back. I loved it and wore it until it came apart. At school, that jacket (and my emerging love for the orange and blue over the crimson and white) set me apart as one of the distinct minority, laughed at and ridiculed by the vast Alabama majority. It didn’t help that Auburn lost the Iron Bowl every year of my grade school education, nine years straight, from first grade all the way up until…
1982: …until Bo went over the top when I was entering the ninth grade. Seeing as how my high school’s color was red, our band was called the “Half-Million Dollar Band,” and the stadium we played in was “Legion Stadium,” that 1982 victory as I entered high school was sweeter than clean water in a desert oasis. Soon after, the Bear was gone and Bo had ascended to deity status and, bless Pat Dye’s heart, it wasn’t quite so tough to be an Auburn fan anymore.
1986-1990: I’ll skim past my undergraduate years at Auburn, eventful and life-changing as they were, because I’m sure everyone else’s were just as momentous. It didn’t hurt, though, that we defeated the Tide every single year until I graduated, played in two Sugar Bowls during that run (I didn’t make it to either), and won the SEC three times. Of course, nothing could compare to being there on Dec. 2, 1989, for the “First Time Ever” with Alabama. As Wordsworth so aptly put it (was he a Tiger, too?), “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!”
1991: And now we come to the first of the many dilemmas I faced during the 1990s, when my “devoted Auburn fan” side confronted and combated my “time to grow up and get a job!” side.
I had a B.A. degree from Auburn (in fact, I received it twenty years ago this past Tuesday). What to do next? The job offers weren’t exactly bowling me over. I pondered graduate school. Hey—that would mean I would still be an Auburn student, and qualify for student tickets! Bang—I was in. Hello, AU Education Department and “Fifth Year Teaching Program.” Hello 1991 student tickets! (If only that season had actually been worth seeing…)
1992: The Fifth Year deal hadn’t worked out the way I had hoped, and so by the middle of 1992 I was working odd jobs around the Auburn campus, such as manning the textbook buy-back counter at the Haley Center Bookstore, answering the phones at the Vet School, and signing students up for their Glom photos, all while pondering my future.
My best pal (and future Wishbone co-columnist), John, had decided to apply to graduate school at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and I had honestly been looking at that as one option as well. So by the fall of ’92, John and I were both freshly-minted Hoyas—ignoring their hoops team and instead watching Auburn football games anywhere we could find a broadcast. (I still recall John and his wife laughing as I scolded the waitress at a sports bar in DC for the substandard quality of their cornbread and chicken fingers.) We witnessed Alabama’s title and Coach Dye’s resignation (and the swirlings of the Ramsey Affair) from a distance, and I felt bad to be so far away when such bad things were happening to my Tigers.
(One other semi-amusing note about my Georgetown experience: First day on campus, I inquired at the student union about getting a football schedule. I knew the Hoyas had a Division III team, and figured I might as well check them out. The student workers at the desk met my inquiry with blank stares, and no one ever did manage to find such a thing as a “Georgetown football schedule.” Folks, you do not want to be Division III in football.)
1993: By the following fall I was back in Auburn, finishing up my Master’s Degree in Poly Sci and doing some graduate teaching—and of course getting student tickets again! And just in time, because this was Terry Bowden’s first year and the historic 11-0 season. I made it to every game (save only at Arkansas and at Vandy—I was too poor to travel much!) and handed out the legendary “10 and 0 and One to Go!” t-shirts at the Georgia game and “11-0!” shirts after the Bama game. When Frank Sanders scored the late TD against the Tide, I jumped up and down so hard I smashed into the guy next to me in the stands and dropped my radio, breaking it. I didn’t care.
1994: Auburn didn’t get awarded a recognized national title after the 11-0 season, but some writers had commented during the offseason that, “If they run the table again, we may have to vote for them.” So there was a sense of hope and anticipation in the air. Unfortunately (when viewed in a certain light), I was to graduate that summer with my M.A.—which meant no student tickets for that fall!
I’m not sure if there is a statute of limitations on such a thing…so, in order to avoid prosecution, allow me to be extremely vague here: I contrived with great difficulty to extract student tickets from the system that fall. I was still living in Auburn anyway—as I’ve always said, being a freshly-minted “Master of Political Science” allows you to skip from regular stock boy at Wal-Mart to chief stock boy, pretty much. In any case, while serving as Editorial Page Editor of the Auburn Plainsman that summer, I worked out a deal to lock my tickets in for the fall. I actually made it to all eleven games that season—even convincing my roommate that we just had to drive to Gainesville for the showdown with #1 Florida—something I’ve never matched since. (And Frank Sanders sooo made that first down at the end against Bama, ref…!)
1995: With probation at an end and our coach sitting on a 20-1-1 record, I simply could not allow anything to stand between me and season tickets for 1995. Anticipation was very high. Sports Illustrated, I think it was, predicted we would finish second that year. And I still didn’t have a real career-type job. There was only one thing to do: Doctorate!
By the fall of 1995, I was enrolled in the PhD program in the Auburn History Department—and still safely ensconced in my usual seats in the student section at Jordan-Hare. Unfortunately, behind the scenes, circumstances were conspiring to drag me away from the Loveliest Village once and for all. But not, I defiantly assert, before one last effort to secure student tickets.
The 1995 season proved to be something of a disappointment, but we knew we had Dameyune Craig taking the reins at QB the next year. So as the following summer passed lazily by, all thoughts turned to the fall of…
1996: …and my thoughts turned to one more effort at securing my precious tickets.
The problem, such as it was, was that I had for personal reasons decided to apply to Emory University in Atlanta to continue my PhD work. Lo and behold—and clearly due to some egregious clerical error on their part—I was accepted. Now, Atlanta’s not that far away from Auburn, obviously—but a student at one university can’t really buy student tickets at another, and I was still far too poor to be able to afford regular tickets.
Once again, I must keep certain secrets in the interests of protecting myself from legal reprisals. Suffice to say, however, that I managed to score student tickets one last time, and attended all of the 1996 home games. I knew, though, that my long student ticket adventure had progressed from the sublime to the ridiculous, and it was time to let it go for good. Time to grow up.
1997-2004: Begging, borrowing, and scalping resulted in me securing tickets to most Auburn home games during those years, as well as a few away games with my family, and of course the three Title Game appearances in the Georgia Dome. But then real life intruded and I was unable to attend any games in 2005, and by 2006 I had moved to Illinois to begin my own real life at last.
I did manage to get back down for the Florida game in 2006 (and was I glad I had done so!) and the Iron Bowl in 2007, as well as the Chik-Fil-A Bowl that year. Since then, though, my wife and I and our two girls (all newly-minted Tiger fans) have only made it to the 2008 Vanderbilt game (ugh!) and this year’s Kentucky game (perhaps you saw some of my photos posted on this site).
So here we stand, at the precipice of a National Championship and a trip to Glendale that we can’t really afford, but are nonetheless going to do, for the sole reason that I cannot go to my grave having failed to be there, and because my wife in all her wonderful wisdom actually understands that.
If you’ve made it this far, I congratulate you and hope I have not bored you too terribly much. This sort of mini-biography of one humble Auburn fan can doubtlessly be matched and probably exceeded by many of you. But I hope I’ve presented my Auburn fan bona fides to your satisfaction.
If you’d like to help us get to the game, click here and check out some of my items I’m selling and, if you feel so moved, make a bid or two. If not, no problem at all. I hope you enjoyed my walk down memory lane. War Eagle Forever!
Van Allen Plexico managed to attend Auburn (and score student football tickets) for some portion of every year between 1986 and 1996. He realizes that’s probably not something one should brag about, but hey. He teaches college near St Louis (because ten years as a student was somehow just not enough time to spend at school) and writes and edits for a variety of publishers. Find links to his various projects at www.plexico.net.
I’d help ya if I hadn’t already spent every dime I had to go to the game myself, good luck…
adam in bham says
Van, having a ridiculously large comic collection myself I am in no position to buy yours, but i’d be happy to put them up for auction (or ship them to you so you can get a better price) to help you get there. My collection could easily fetch at least $300-$400. Feel free to respond to the message if you’re interested.
We should also start a fund to replace that radio you busted! 🙂 War Eagle!
I don’t care one thing about comics, but I may have to start a collection all of a sudden! I am VERY fortunate that my mother is the biggest Auburn fan in the world and gave my sister and me a trip to the game (with her) for Christmas. See you in Glendale!
Van P in Southern IL says
Thanks, folks, for the kind words.
Adam– you are vastly too generous and there’s no way I could take you up on that. But I appreciate the sentiment.
I want to make clear here to everyone that I haven’t been asking for charity– I’m just selling some items to try to raise money to help pay for the trip.
I appreciate the good wishes very much, too!
adam in bham says
Well, crap. I’m too lazy to get rid of them without a good cause. Guess the ol’ complete Infinity Gauntlet mint condition set will collect dust for, well, infinity!
Van, I bought “Seeds of Empire” (books 1-3) back in the day at The Comic Strip in Auburn. I haven’t cracked them open since back then, but I remember enjoying them. And nice cover art!
I recall your name from grad school but I don’t recall having any classes together… I was in the MPA program at the same time you worked on your masters in poli sci. Those were good years in the political science department.
I wish you the best on getting to Glendale!
As my friend put it, “sometimes you just have to ignore your inner Dave Ramsey and just go for it”. Its been 53 years since the last one, not going to take a chance on waiting for the next one. Make it happen Van, see you in Glendale.
Hurray for alliteration!
I wish I could help out but I don’t have the $ either. Good luck!
Hey Van – are you Leesa’s brother?
Van P in Illinois says
adam: Hey, I have those issues, too. Great series. (I’ll never sell those! Have to draw the line somewhere!) Starlin is one of my favorite writers.
Ed: That is awesome! I’d nearly forgotten those. Thanks!!
I’ve not yet gone back and rewritten that story “professionally,” but (just FYI) Airship 27 last year published my newer “prequel” to it: http://tinyurl.com/25uyb82
Van P in Illinois says
WarDamn & Zac: Thanks! (And the alliteration is all Jeremy– he is a headline-writing machine!)
Sandy: Indeed I am, and proud of it! 🙂
I’m hoping she’ll get to go, to!
Very cool 🙂 I’m originally from C’burg and know Leesa. She’s mentioned “her brother, Van” on FB and was wondering if you were one and the same 🙂 Small world.
I purchased the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen that you had up for auction. I would have purchased more, but I don’t read many superhero comics. Anyways, good luck with your other auctions and War Eagle.
Van P in Illinois says
Much appreciated, Tree! Both of the books you’re receiving are very good. The League is always a fun read, and the bonus book is a good old fashioned pulp action adventure from the creator of Hellboy. Enjoy and thanks!
Van P in Illinois says
For those who missed the tweet earlier, the auctions ended on Sunday afternoon and we raised enough money to almost cover the price of our two plane tickets.
From what I’m hearing from other folks, we got a pretty good deal on our flight via United Airlines. My wife’s uncle in Phoenix is putting us up, and may have a car we can borrow. Now that the plane tix are almost covered, we’re really only out of pocket for the cost of the game tickets. So everything’s working out pretty darned well. Thanks, everyone. Stay tuned for my reports and photos once we head out there on Jan. 8!