by J. Henderson
Unless I’m guilty of revisionist recollection, the boos of Auburn fans were once reserved only to express their gut’s rare insistence that a particular coaching order was not in winning’s best interest (the fabled disgruntled wave that landed on Shug’s decision to kick a field-goal in the ’72 Iron Bowl for instance — though he of course knew better — or even the two weeks ago booing of Tuberville for opting to not go for the throat in the final seconds of regulation play), to let the refs know you knew where they lived and that you would not hesitate to write a letter to the NCAA alleging cash-for-calls corruption with their name inked everywhere you could fit it (speaking from experience), and, of course, for Alabama.
You boo the refs for their BS calls and even more for their non-calls. You can boo at most Florida teams at will (Satan’s henchman, all), and obviously you boo LSU (Satan-worshipers), and like I said, you boo start-to-finish blood at Bama. You don’t boo Georgia, unless they’ve done something, like thwart our ’92 comeback by sitting on the ball like girls. Same goes for Tennessee and Mississippi teams and pretty much all others. They were “Tiger Meat, Tiger Meat, Tiger Meat,” not the object of boos. You learn this growing up as an Auburn fan the way you learn to walk, it just happens, you don’t question it.
But these will not be the memories of the Auburn youth of today. Today, every Auburn opponent is booed upon their first appearance on the turf, even in warm-ups, even the dinky teams, the one’s we’re paying a trillion dollars to absorb our blows. There are plenty of reasons for it that I plan to one day document and explore in a huge book, many of which pertain to the increasingly difficult task of properly transmitting to our children the tenets of the inner-Auburn culture that has sustained us as a people, but the quickest explanation is that attention-deficient, knee-jerk booing is apparently, in a stadium setting, the only mode of expression available, or rather developed, by a generation brought up on YouTubed wilding videos.
When, in 1987, Kurt Crain landed on Clay Whitehurst’s life-force, knocking him out, I, as an 8-year-old Auburn man at my first Iron Bowl, vocally enjoyed the prospect that Bama’s Whitehurst might, in fact, be dead. But only for a moment; my father corrected me – “no son, we don’t do that” – and, in the several minutes it took for him to regain consciousness, I learned… and joined the thousands-strong Auburn chorus applauding his survival. That was Auburn football.
Brandon Cox has played the role of Clay Whitehurst (another 5th year senior) to the Kurt Crain of Fate in this, his final season. And in the stands at Saturday’s game there was a disgustingly vocal minority of Auburn “fans” – and you know who you are, I got at least one or two of you to shut-up – acting like less than 8-year-olds and toward their own team, Cox in particular.
That was not Auburn football, and in an on-line announcement issued Monday, AU Dean of Student Affairs Johnny Green called upon students to buck up and shut up.
“As a former Auburn football player, I can tell you first-hand that no one wants to win more than the young men that prepare and give their all on the field each Saturday,” Green said. “A loss is devastating but lessons are learned and you move on. Booing your own team – your own classmates and fellow Auburn students – does nothing toward motivating them to a win. In fact, it is times like these when they need to hear your “War Eagle” cries and cheers of support the most… As the season progresses, please be mindful of the importance of good sportsmanship.”
Amen, of course. However, this sort of thing has nothing to do with with lack of sportsmanship. Lack of sportsmanship is the automatic booing of other teams, which has, in the past few years, increased to an almost-irreversible acceptability. The attempted cup-pelting, however slight and for whatever reasons (it is now being reported that South Florida players actually ran over to taunt the student section, which sheds slight explanation, though doesn’t make it right), by a few students in the immediate wake of the loss to South Florida – that’s lack of sportsmanship, that’s Tuscaloosa.
Booing your own team? One particular player? That is un-Auburn. That is un-American. And even more – it is a betrayal of the categorical imperative. Booing your own team, even one player, is philosophically untenable with college football fandom. Auburn / Auburn Spirit is much more than the sum of it’s parts, but while we all carry a Platonic ember of Auburness deep in our hearts and brain stems from Saturday to Saturday (something more than just an ethereal All-Century team we field in our personal “fired-up” fantasies), the beautiful fact of the matter is that every time you have cheered for “Auburn” at a game or from your couch, you have cheered for an actual, particular and unique assemblage of real people.
Therefore, to not just withdraw support from, but to actively denigrate even a single player by booing him – and especially the most prominent and important of the team’s constituent parts, regardless of how disappointing his performance thus far this season – is to have renounced your right to enjoy his and the team’s future successes (and failures), for you have become, in effect, the enemy, an agent of defeat. Don’t believe me? Here’s what Carl Stewart, quoted in this post by Phillip Marshall, had to say about it:
“I was pretty upset. To be in your home stadium and have your fans boo you, that’s just disheartening.”
To boo is to dishearten. Disheartened teams do not win games. Therefore, to boo is to cheer for defeat.
Here is a piece of choice commentary on the subject:
“If you were not a student and booed Brandon Cox at the game Saturday, I would like to kindly ask you to donate all of your Auburn gear to the Salvation Army, burn your tickets, and never set foot inside Jordan-Hare Stadium again. To have Cox–a guy who for all his struggles has shown time and again he’d give up a kidney to help this program and has been responsible for win after win after win the past two seasons, whether you’d like to pretend said wins fell from the sky or not–booed that loudly in our stadium sickens, disgusts, and above all shames me as an Auburn fan… If you want to boo, you are welcome to do so at home. I would rather have an empty seat telling the team their “fans” don’t care than a full one busy telling them they suck. Just stay the hell away. (And students, I’m aware you’re young, stupid, and drunk, and prone to doing things like booing. Whatever. Just please don’t make a habit of it–you see how quickly it spreads these days.)” — Jerry at The Joe Cribbs Car Wash
(Also, see this from Jay at Track’em Tigers, who was sitting in front of Brandon Cox’s grandparents at the Mississippi State game. And of course Jim Fyffe’s take on the general principle of the matter, written not long before his death, has been making the rounds, and rightfully so.)
Once the shame is wiped from your eyes, this entire episode can also be seen as powerfully indicative of just how used to near-perfection the Auburn Nation at large has become since Holy ’04, the warmth from which is fast dwindling, at least on paper. (Deep down? No, we’re still there, still sweating.)
Still, I really do not know what to make of those that claim – and they do exist – that booing the Auburn quarterback was justified economically… that, since they pay ‘good money’ for tickets, refreshments, and merchandise (might I recommend the $4,000,000 metro-sexual Mike Fink Keelboat collection.), they have a right to demand, with boos, superior product, which is not currently being supplied.
First of all, as self-evidentially and previously indicated, boos simply worsen the situation. Secondly, college ball is not the NFL and that is why you love it, why it is better – for God’s sake, Brandon has already graduated. Roll cliche eyes all you want, he is playing this year for the betterment of Auburn, because he loves it.
Auburn is not pro-football, Auburn is not some damn, trendy logo team, we are Auburn University, we are Auburn, Alabama, we are the heart’s hail mary, the twice-blocked punts, we are 1989, we are 1993, we are 2004, hell, we are 1950, we are Christ-painted sunsets, we are hope in things unseen, we are Spirit – I kid you not, we are Christmas, and Coca-Cola, we are Tygers burning bright in the Forest of the Night…
… and though Future Boy will likely be under center for much of the rest of the season in Cox’s stead, we are behind Brandon Cox be he winning us the game or costing it…
“[Brandon’s] had a rough go these first couple of games,” said Auburn center Jason Bosley. “Hearing those fans boo Saturday was a killer. That made me so mad. For a guy who has done what he’s done and fought through what he fought through last year to get booed just blew me away. I told him as soon as it happened, ‘Hey, man, don’t listen to that. We’ve got your back. We are riding with you. You’re our quarterback…When Kodi came in, I said ‘It’s your show. Take charge. We’re riding with you.’ When Brandon came in, I said ‘It’s your show. We’re riding with you. Take us down to win the game.'”
So friends, it is time to get your game-soul on, time to decide if you’re a man, then to decide if you’re an Auburn man, an Auburn Tiger, because, Saturday Night, we ride! Tonight Eternal! Glory, Glory… and, duh, do not boo the team.