I am an Auburn War Eagle ...at least for the next month.
It has been said that there are two dominant faith groups in the South: the Baptists and the Southeastern Conference and that it a good thing for the Baptists that the SEC plays its football games on Saturday.
Those who know me well are aware that I am a fan of the University of Tennessee Volunteers. I didn’t attend UT but nearly every Tennessean bleeds orange. I graduated from East Tennessee State University but, in the wisdom shown by small-minded people, the ETSU administration did away with the historic football program of some 80 years a few years ago. That just made it all the easier to throw my full support toward Knoxville.
When UT is not playing the University of Georgia, I am a Bulldogs fan. I am also a Georgia Tech fan, even though they are not in the SEC. I like smart people who are also athletic. Besides as one Georgia Tech cheer supposedly heard at a Tech vs. UGA game goes: “That’s all right. That’s OK. You’re gonna work for us someday!”
If UT doesn’t make it to the BSC National Championship game, I hope Georgia does. If not Georgia, then I pull for another SEC team to make it all the way. If not an SEC team, then I pull for another Southern football team to win it all. If a Southern team doesn’t make it to the BCS Big Game, then I’ll probably go to the movies and eat buttered popcorn.
And, yes, I think the football teams in the South, and especially in the South (and I do realize that I am capitalizing the word “south.” We used to be a separate country, ya know) are tougher and better than most other college teams.
Did you know that, in the North, they televise Harvard vs. Yale? It is probable that neither one of those teams could beat the high school teams from Valdosta, Ga. There’s just something about doing two-a-days in 98 percent humidity in 100 degree temperatures and squeezing in farm work between those grueling drills that toughens a kid up and prepares him for service in Knoxville, or Athens, or Jackson, or Tuscaloosa, or — this year — Auburn.
Auburn is 13-0, having embarrassed Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks in the vaunted SEC Championship game. Their opponent in the BSC National Championship game is the University of Oregon, who makes the trip with a 12-0 record.
I have watched the Ducks play in a recent game and, I have to say, they appear to be extremely talented and tough. They have surprising power and speed and Auburn must not take them lightly. I do not think they will. After all, one cannot take any team lightly in the Southeastern Conference. Except maybe for Vanderbilt. Harvard or Yale might just beat Vanderbilt.
I have a friend in Selma who does not share my philosophy of pulling for whichever SEC team makes it to the Big Game. He is a die-hard Alabama fan and loathes Auburn. He refuses to consider that the town of Auburn might be part of the state of Alabama. In fact, if Auburn were to play the Taliban, I think he just might root for the Taliban. While I respect his rabid opinion (we respect diverse opinions down here in the South — we just say, “Well, bless your heart”), I do not share it.
I pulled for Auburn in the SEC Championship because I knew South Carolina had no chance of making it to the National Championship game and I didn’t want Texas Christian University to represent the South. TCU isn’t in the SEC plus I don’t think TCU had a hope of beating Oregon. Besides, Texas is only marginally in the South. Texans really holds onto that “We were our own separate nation” thing, even though they were later a part of a real nation that now is simply known as “The South.”
In any event, for the next month I am an Auburn fan. The hopes of the SEC, the South, and all that is good and true rides on their big, padded shoulders. Next season is another matter but, in the meantime, “War Eagle!”
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]