Auburn Tigers: Reflecting on Oak Trees and Football Games
This past Sunday morning I stood at Toomer's Corner in Auburn, Alabama.
It was early, before the cleaning crew had arrived to begin to undress the Toomer's oaks of the strands of toilet paper that laid atop their branches.
Toomer's had been"rolled" after the victory over Mississippi State the day before.
As it does most every time Auburn wins a big game, it seemed as if it had snowed; but somehow was not melting in the morning sun.
As I stood under the trees, I couldn't help but remember how many times I had been to this spot.
Some of my very first memories of Auburn are as a little kid when my mom and dad lifted me up so that I could toss a bit of paper onto the lowest branches of the trees; or my older brother and I running around in the piles of paper that flooded the grounds.
Since then, I have been to that corner literally hundreds of times in my life.
It is a place that feels familiar, like home. A place where families and friends, like mine, spend time celebrating and being part of something positive. Celebrating what Auburn, and Auburn people, mean to them.
Because, you see, Toomer's corner is far more than oak trees. It is a place to celebrate success, and do so with those who understand why you are celebrating. A tradition that is uniquely Auburn.
As a matter of fact, I kissed my wife for the first time under those trees. We have been happily married for eight years now.
She was with me on Sunday, looking up at the trees. We tried to be optimistic, but the trees were sick. Smaller, and less full. The paper hid most of the bad spots, but you could still tell they weren't the same.
There is something sad about a symbol of tradition fading in front of you.
However, as green leaves poked through the paper and the long branches held up the weight of the many layers of white, somehow you could tell they were fighting. Refusing to let a pathetic man with poison take away their purpose.
Refusing to lose.
It seemed similar to what I had seen the day before.
The Auburn football team, while stricken for different reasons (youth and inexperience after losing so many stars from last season's national championship team), could have easily been beaten in both of the first two games this year.
Yet they won.
Refusing to lose, actually.
They won in remarkable fashion, fighting for victory. Against Utah State a win came via an onside kick. The Mississippi State win was clinched with a goal line stand by the very defense that had struggled throughout the whole game.
Maybe that was why the sickened oak trees stood so tall Sunday morning. Maybe they knew they weren't the only ones fighting for Auburn.
Maybe in what could be some of their last days, they were happy to have people celebrating around them again. After all, Auburn has won 17 straight football games.
No one expects the trees to live forever or the football team to win the rest of their games. However, it's hard to explain, but there is the real feeling that each will truly give all they have along the way.
Before I walked away this past Sunday, I picked up a stand of the paper and threw it over a limb of the oak tree nearest me. You never get too old to roll a Toomer's oak.
"Keep fighting" I said out loud.
And somehow, without a doubt, I knew they would.
The undefeated football team and the famous oaks.
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