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War with friends

This is not the column I had intended to write this week.  Mary Lou and I attended a panel discussion in Auburn on Thursday night.  The topic was North Korea.   It was much more interesting than you might suspect and I left feeling encouraged that perhaps there was hope for a positive outcome. 

Unfortunately, I left my notes from the meeting in the pocket of my coat which is still in Auburn.  That leaves me with no choice but to write about the other war I saw this week between the Auburn Tigers and the Georgia Bulldogs.

The “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” is the common phrase you hear when the long series is being discussed.  The two teams first met in Piedmont Park in 1892.  They have played 120 times since that inaugural game . 

The series has ebbed and flowed for both teams over the years.  There was a time when the visiting team always won.  The teams were tied with the same number of wins on multiple occasions and even the cumulative points scored over the years remained remarkably close. Georgia has had the edge the past 11 years, only losing to Auburn’s 2010 National Championship Team, and the 2013 Auburn team that was only 17 seconds away from winning another.   

Granted, Auburn’s Prayer in Jordon Hare was a heartbreaker for Georgia, though most people forget Georgia came from behind and scored three times in the fourth quarter to take the lead.  I don’t feel too sorry for the Dawgs, though since Auburn was on the losing end of several games in which they were heavily favored in the past decade.

This past Saturday was Auburn’s day in the sun, though the normal orange and blue sky over the stadium was obscured by heavy clouds before the sun disappeared.  It was the most complete game Auburn has played all year, one which will be remembered by Tiger fans the world over.

As many already know, my family has deep ties to both Auburn and Georgia.  My brother is named for our great-grandfather, Ernest Ford, who graduated from Auburn’s School of Pharmacy in 1903.  Our parents met near the famed Toomer’s Oaks.   

My brother and sister both attended Georgia and I have visited the Athens campus more than any other school besides Auburn.   I attended every freshman football game Ernest played in, though they were often played during the week.  Mary Lou and I attended my sister’s Sorority Formal the week before we were married.

As much as my own family is intertwined with Georgia and Auburn, we are not alone.  Vince Dooley was at Auburn at the same time my parents attended.   Pat Dye played between the hedges.  Many tailgates in Athens or Auburn fly the flags of both schools, having their own connections to both institutions.

For 45 years I have attended Auburn football games, but none more faithfully than the Auburn – Georgia game.  If I am an Auburn Tiger, then the Georgia Bulldogs are my close first cousin. 

Ernest and I sat together at the game, no small feat for two people as passionate about their football teams as we are.  He left at some point to get something to eat.  The gentleman in front of us turned to me and said he had never heard two people talk like we did during the game.   We had opinions on everything, but never got cross.  You must be very good friends, he said.   

I explained that we were brothers, partners and next door neighbors.   We cannot afford to get mad. 

I have believed for a long time that Auburn versus Georgia is the best rivalry in college football.  If you can tailgate together, as many do, then you can survive the closest of games.  No official’s call will ever come between me, my brother and sister, or any Georgia friend I have. 

Football can be a grudge match, a take no prisoners game with a passion seldom seen in the civilized world.  Don’t let the lunatic posts on Facebook fool you though.  This is just a war with friends and that is the way it should be.

War Eagle.  Go Dawgs.  Hope to see you in Atlanta on December 2nd and may the best team win…..again.