As most of you know, and for those of you who don’t, I am a proud graduate of Auburn University. Notice I said ‘proud,’ not obnoxious. I mean after all, the last “official” national championship title was the year I was born. Please don’t make me say it…okay, fine…1957. There, you happy? Save the debate for later, that’s what the comment box at the bottom of the page is for.
So for the last twelve years, my wife, a University of Georgia graduate, has bugged me with one question, “Which is it, War Eagle or Tigers? Can’t they make up their minds?” If only she knew.
It’s been a long time since my days at Auburn and every time someone finds out I’m an Auburn grad, I’m asked the same question. As a pilot, same question. Nearly 27 years with the FAA as an air traffic controller, same question. You’d think by now I’d have a good answer. I don’t. I chose the confusion method instead. I’ll explain in a minute but, needless to say, it stopped the questions.
To help me attempt to explain War Eagle, I consulted my protagonist from (cheap, shameless plug) my three-time award-winning thriller, The Savannah Project, Jake Pendleton. Who better to ask, right? After all, his fiancée, Beth, as well as her parents were all Auburn grads themselves so, if anyone would know, he would…right? And he was a damn fine Intelligence Officer in the Navy.
I let him dig through my boxful of research notes from that manuscript to see what he could come up with. Unfortunately, that took longer than expected. It seems he found my notes on him and got bogged down with some characteristics I jotted down about his psyche. He got all pissed off and stormed out, but in true Jake Pendleton fashion, he cooled off and soon went back to his assignment. I thought he could do better but here’s what he came up with—an exact quote from About.com:
During the first-ever Georgia-Auburn game back in 1892, there was in the crowd an aging Civil War vet. The old solider brought with him that day his pet eagle—a bird he had found on a battlefield during the war, nursed back to health, and eventually adopted as his own. At some point during the game, though, the eagle leapt from the soldier’s arm and soared high above the field. While the eagle hovered overhead, Auburn took the lead with a dramatic touchdown drive, and students began chanting “War Eagle!” Auburn won the game, but the poor eagle didn’t have quite as good a day: Legend has it that as soon as the game ended, he took a nosedive onto the field and died. Still, he became an instant legend—and gave birth to the “War Eagle” tradition.
Is this the real “War Eagle” story? I don’t know, but most Auburn fans think so…I think.
Jake told me that the first time he drove into Auburn to visit Beth, he was greeted with a sign that read: “Welcome to Auburn, The Loveliest Village on the Plains.”
The plains? Are you kidding me? What plains? As it turned out, Jake was right, I was wrong. It is considered the plains, which explains why the school rag is called The Plainsman. Now that he’s mentioned it, I think I remember that sign.
When I arrived at Auburn I was still struggling with the whole Tigers/War Eagle thing and now then they added another title. Get out.
And that’s where the confusion method works. Shuts them up, every time. I’m willing to bet your confused now too.
My kids gave me a National Championship t-shirt for Father’s Day. So when football season comes around, I’ll wear my shirt and shout my chant—
WAR EAGLE, TIGER, PLAINSMAN—HEY!
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