This week’s theme on SB Nation is “Times Sports Made You Cry”, and it honestly shouldn’t be difficult for Auburn fans to find something to fit the bill.
From the relentless heartbreak we’ve suffered to the sheer joy of certain seasons and marked victories alike, Auburn fans have always had a reason to shed a tear. Obvious answers come to mind — 2004’s undefeated season, the 2010 national championship and Cam Newton Heisman Trophy win, the miracles of the 2013 season. If you’re a little older, you may draw on some of the wins of the nineties where Nix hit Sanders a couple of times, or Jarrett Holmes field goal going through for the SEC West. And if you’re even older, you may harken back to The First Time Ever in 1989, Pat Dye’s rousing locker room speeches throughout the eighties, Punt Bama Punt, or a hazy visual of Shug roaming the sidelines as the ultimate man of honor.
I’m not going to go with anything super different for my personal reflection, but it might be a different perspective on something that we’ve all seen from a million angles. Here’s when Auburn football made me cry…
THE MIRACLE AT JORDAN-HARE
You’ve seen it from every different angle. This film may have been just as dissected as the Kennedy assassination, only for very different reasons. It’s also possibly the most stark 0-to-60 moment in terms of crowd noise that Jordan-Hare has ever seen. It wasn’t the slow build of the Kick Six, but a cacophony of ear-splitting deafenation when everyone saw what wildness had transpired.
And here’s with the narration, Rod Bramblett’s finest call in my opinion, even higher than the Kick Six.
That hits differently today, just a day after the one year anniversary of Rod and Paula’s passing. I remember listening live, producing the audio of the live radio broadcast for the Auburn Network that evening.
We were all very cautious in 2013. It’s hard not to be a little suspicious of success just a year after the worst season in modern Auburn history. The success in Gus Malzahn’s first season surprised many people, especially when the roster was nearly identical to a team that gave up the year before. Wins over ranked Ole Miss and Texas A&M squads were great, but we knew that we still weren’t at the level of an Alabama yet. Finally, sitting at 9-1, we entered the Georgia game ranked 7th in the country, and we still controlled our own destiny in terms of the SEC race.
That Georgia game was so frustrating. We got up 37-17, absolutely dominating the Bulldogs, before the bottom started to drop out. Aaron Murray led three touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, with the go-ahead score controversially coming on a quarterback dive on fourth and goal. Trailing 38-37, Auburn had just one shot left with less than a minute to play.
It was here that we thought “Okay, well, good season. Nine wins, maybe ten if we get a good bowl opponent, and that’s solid. Great when you consider that it’s only Gus’ first season.” For me, I was too young to remember 1993, but 2004 was a dream, and I never imagined that things could get so good as they did in 2010. The only problem was that as an Auburn fan, I’d seen one year where we did our business actually get rewarded with the proper accolades. We basically forced ourselves on college football in 2010 by going undefeated, and everyone hated us for it. Growing up before that, Auburn football was doing what you were supposed to and ending up as the bridesmaid watching someone else realize their dreams.
Maybe I thought that we’d never have a center stage moment again. Maybe 2012 still stuck too darkly in my mind. It’s all possible that one awful season made me lose true hope that things could be great again. Whatever the reason, Nick Marshall and Ricardo Louis brought back the utter thrill of being an Auburn fan.
I never actually saw the play until replays hit after the game was over. I was too busy smacking Brad Law on the back as he sat near me, and then realizing that I needed to edit the radio call down to something usable for other networks to play. Moments after Auburn clinched the win, the South Carolina broadcast played Rod’s call coming out of a commercial break, since they had a vested interest in the game at the time.
It wasn’t until a little later that I actually started to tear up, though. I’d grown up on Jim Fyffe yelling about Sanders going up over Tommy Johnson, and then really gotten into the broadcasting niche with Rod’s Go Crazy, Cadillac masterpiece. I realized after sending the audio file of the highlight to a distribution list that I’d had a small part in a piece of history. It was almost like you’re the guy who hung the Mona Lisa. A great artist had done his part, but you’re the one who has to frame it and show it off.
After celebrating the win, Brad Law said to me “Man, I can’t wait to hear that call,” and when he listened through a couple times, turned to me and simply said “You just edited a piece of history. That’ll be played at every Auburn game for the rest of time.” The gravity of the moment hit me, and I shed a tear.
BONUS TEARS: 1996 OUTBACK BOWL
So here’s the deal, I was six, and a young Auburn fan. I really didn’t remember watching any games and caring until the 1995 Georgia and Alabama games, which Auburn won.
“This is great, Auburn never loses,” is absolutely the thought that goes through a kid’s mind when he sees his team go 2-0. It’s so easy to be an Auburn fan!
Instead, I got a rude awakening and true initiation into the Family on New Year’s Day 1996. For Christmas that year I’d gotten an Auburn football uniform, complete with pads and helmet, along with a football signed by Terry Bowden. They were my most prized possessions. I was wearing the uniform, pads and all, and clutching the football at kickoff of the Outback Bowl.
It’s shocking that the game was as close as it was for more than a quarter, and Auburn really did control the line of scrimmage for the first fifteen minutes. If not for the wet field, we may have really created an actual lead early on. Auburn led 7-3 a few minutes into the second quarter, and then gave up two more field goals and a late touchdown to go into halftime down 16-7. The third quarter was a bloodbath. 27-0 in the quarter, and Auburn trailed 43-7 before getting a late touchdown from Kevin McLeod to finish the game.
Long before we scored our final touchdown, I took my Terry Bowden football and went to sit on the front steps of 1044 Magnolia Curve and cry. Stupid Nittany Lions. When my dad found me, he was not consoling in the slightest. I learned that we do not cry over football games, and I was treated to a laundry list of Auburn losses that were way worse than the dumb Outback Bowl. Happy New Year.