How many times have I been part of the multitude gathered in Auburn to watch a football game? No earthy idea. The first one was in the fall of 1961 back when Shug Jordan was coach and the stadium held about 40,000 people.
No million dollar contracts for coaches, no ESPN, no giant video boards. If there were RVs and reserved parking I didn’t know about them.
And Saturday night, Sept. 8, as I waited in the stands for the kickoff of Auburn vs. Alabama State I was flooded with memories. This is where I watched all three of Auburn’s Heisman players perform. Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson and Cam Newton. I saw Auburn beat Alabama in Auburn for the first time ever in 1989. I saw Auburn come up with miracle finishes to beat Georgia and then Alabama in 2013.
I got season tickets for years and remember Auburn beating LSU in the fourth quarter on pass interceptions run back for touchdowns. And suffering through too many seasons of Doug Barfield and his woeful teams.
But it was last Saturday when I finally came to know that the thrill of being in the stadium is about gone. It’s been creeping up on me for several years. Once the hustle and bustle of being there in person was not given a second thought. But no more.
Several years ago I started taking the shuttle bus to the stadium. Which makes far more sense to me than trying to find a parking place that may be way away from the stadium. The bus lets you off about two blocks from the stadium and takes you back to your car away from traffic jams. But too many sausage and biscuits and too little exercise have made even this journey on foot more of a march than a walk in the park. You sweat like someone heading to their cell on death row.
Your steps are much more measured and no guard rail goes unused. You climb stadium steps more gingerly and pray you don’t stumble. Other old-timers navigate cautiously and you know deep inside you are their carbon copy.
The calm and cool of your living room, with the big screen TV and 10 steps to the bathroom seems all the more inviting. Midway through the third quarter you leave. There is not a dry stitch on you.
You pause and look around just before you enter the exit tunnel and quietly utter, “Thanks for the memories.”
You may some day return–or you may not. But you know for sure that either way, Father Time has claimed another one.