A record of sorts will end tomorrow.
A personal record.
I will miss my first Auburn home game in 53 years.
Not since the Georgia game of 1964, the last home game of that season, have the Tigers played in Auburn without me being there to cheer them on, to live and die with them.
I missed that Georgia game because I was at Livingston State College, now the University of West Alabama, taking the ACT test so I could come to Auburn.
Recovering from double knee replacement surgery, I am not sure how many home games I will miss this year. It matters little. I have a big screen TV and memories. Oh, the memories.
I have not counted the games in the streak, the record, points scored or anything like that. On this Friday morning before the streak is broken, it’s only the memories that matter.
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From that first one as a freshman in 1965, an upset loss to Baylor, to the last one, the 26-14 win over Alabama last year, it’s been a joyful, sometimes tempestuous ride, but it’s always been worth the investment of hopes, dreams and fear that accompany following any college football team, and, of course, the agony or ecstasy that follows.
I’ve seen Cliff Hare Stadium become Jordan Hare Stadium, seen it grow from 44,000 seats in 1965, to more than 87,000 in 2018. I’ve outlived two press boxes, one of which bears my name.
The biggest win, the best, the most exciting, the most disappointing? They all run together after awhile. Almost.
Except the biggest, most memorable games: 30-20, Kick Six, the Prayer in Jordan Hare, the Interception Game against LSU in 1994...
There were others, too, perhaps memorable only to me, but memorable just the same.
The 31-7 upset win over highly ranked Miami on Homecoming in 1968. The 28-17 win over Steve Spurrier and the Florida Gators in 1965, Bill Cody’s great day. Scott Etheridge’s field goal to beat Florida in 1993 and keep the unlikely dream alive. The 11-Oh-Oh-Oh season of 1993, Terry Bowden’s first year, the Impossible Dream come true season.
There were others, too, not so enjoyable, and a few you just want to forget. Or wish you could. The 3-0 loss to Southern Mississippi in 1965, my freshman year. Things like that weren’t supposed to happen.
The 17-9 Homecoming loss to LSU in the rain in 1970, the loss to Georgia that same year that knocked us out of the Sugar Bowl. Some, like the 1980 Tennessee game and the 2012 Texas A&M game, are so painful we simply choose to forget.
The coaches, Coach Jordan, Coach Barfield, Coach Dye, Terry Bowden, Tommy Tuberville, Gene Chizik and now Gus Malzahn. The players, far too many to name, all there, in my mind, in my heart and in my memory.
Along the way, I have come to have more respect and appreciation for our opponents. No more of the spite and hate that I am embarrassed to say describe the attitudes of my early years. But it was there. Then. Not now. When I became a man I put away childish things. And those were childish thoughts, childish things. Very childish.
All of these things come to mind today to form a meaningful collage of my life with Auburn Football here in Auburn.
I look back to that long ago day, Nov. 14, 1964, when I last missed a home game. I got mad and frustrated on the way home from Livingston because Jimmy McDaniel, the driver, wouldn’t listen to the Auburn-Georgia game. He and his Alabama buddies, one of whom may have been Larry Blakeney, a future Auburn player and coach, wanted to listen to the Alabama-LSU game.
That was the last time I had to fret or worry about that.
As a student, a newspaper man, an instructor, an employee and a fan, I’ve seen every home game since. Fifty-three years, 53 good years.
But now it ends.
Time for a new story to begin.
A new story and a new streak.
C. David Housel The Backbooth at Chappy’s
Editor's Note: This piece, written by former Auburn Athletic Director and Plainsman Editor David Housel, was first published on Housel's The Backbooth at Chappy's Facebook page. It is reprinted here with his permission.
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