While the teams go at each other on the field, fans take pot shots at each other everywhere else, which is the way it has been and should be.
In past years, University of Alabama partisans have hammered Auburn University fans with zingers like “all dirt roads lead to Auburn,” a reference to AU origins as the state agricultural college. Meanwhile, Auburn supporters insist on calling the team across the state the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa (UAT), thus listing The Capstone as just one of a number of UA-affiliated campuses.
Recently, it seems that Auburn, after years of enduring Bear Bryant-walking-on-water jokes, has begun to fire back. Now, I may be forming this opinion because I apparently know more Auburn than Alabama alumni, or maybe because my son is a student at AU, or maybe something else is afoot, but in the last few weeks I have gotten some new ones.
Question: “Why do they sell houndstooth bras and panties in Tuscaloosa?”
Answer: “So an Alabama man can undress a woman and think of The Bear.”
Sorta funny, but let’s face it, though Bryant is still honored at The Capstone, Nick Saban has weaned Crimson Tide fans from the past in which they were often accused of living, so there isn’t much zing to that zinger.
Then there is another, sent to me by my buddy David, an Auburn alum and as devout a Tiger fan as you will ever meet.
Question: “What do Auburn and Alabama fans have in common?”
Answer: “Neither ever attended the University of Alabama.”
Funny, yes, but facts and figures back it up. Today, Auburn and Alabama have roughly the same number of alumni, but the Alabama fan base is far larger and filled with devotees who never sat in a UA classroom.
These are what have been derisively called the “pickup-truck alumni.”
Much of this loyalty can be traced back to the Bryant era when UA football was about the only thing many Alabamians had to be proud of. George Wallace was strutting across the political stage and losing every time he went national, while The Bear and his “skinny-legged little boys” were winning national championships. The Crimson Tide allowed many to say “we may be, but we whipped you,” and those folks thanked Bama with their loyalty, which they passed on to their children.
Folks don’t usually think of it this way, but Bryant left behind two legacies — national championships and loyal pickup-truck alumni. Both were surely on the minds of the people who hired Nick Saban: (1.) Can he win the big prize and (2.) will the “non-attendees” of today continue to proudly proclaim their allegiance to the Crimson Tide the way their daddies and mamas did?
No. 2 is no small matter, for you see, the “pickup-truck alumni” are what makes the U of A brand a best-seller.
Well, Saban has won championships, but has he kept the cash registers ringing?
My answer is a resounding YES!
And for evidence, I offer another joke that is making the Auburn rounds.
A man wearing an Auburn sweatshirt meets a man wearing an Alabama sweatshirt. The conversation goes like this:
Man in the Alabama sweatshirt: “I see you went to Auburn.”
Man in the Auburn sweatshirt: “I see you went to Walmart.”
Another reference to the Alabama fans who never attended Alabama?
But it also points to the fact that the pickup-truck alumni are on a buying spree.
I dropped in the other day at our local Walmart. And when I turned down one aisle, I was confronted with shelf after shelf of crimson and white, of script-letter As, and of T-shirts and sweatshirts proclaiming the greatness of Alabama football.
At the end of the row, crowded into a space about one-fifth of what was devoted to the U of A, was a pitifully small selection of orange-and-blue paraphernalia.
Over in the school-supply section, there was a variety of University of Alabama notebooks, book covers, satchels and such. For the Auburn fan, there was nothing. Not even an orange-and-blue pencil.
So I decided to take a quick tour of the parking lot to see which school’s fans proclaimed their loyalty on their bumper or window. It was Saturday afternoon and pretty crowded, so I probably missed some, but of those I did count, there were 25 identified as Alabama fans and only two with a big AU sticker.
And of the 25, 12 were on pickup trucks.
Yessir, the fan base is loyal.
Nick Saban has done what they hired him to do.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. For the record, he is an Auburn fan who never attended Auburn. However, he did attend UAT, where he received his master’s in 1966. Email: email@example.com.