A National Championship Through the Eyes of an Auburn Tiger

by Melissa on January 15, 2011

(post by Paul Crane, my loving husband and devoted Auburn University football fan)

I always dreamed that Auburn would make it to the National Championship. Being the realist that I am, I wasn’t sure when or if it would ever happen. But I made a promise to myself that if Auburn ever reached the BCS Championship Game that I would do whatever it took to be there to witness it first hand. I am a die hard Auburn fan that was extremely disappointed for being left out of the 2005 BCS Championship game. I attended all 13 games during that 2004 season and knew that Auburn was the best, but the team never had the chance to prove it. Media bias ruined that opportunity.

Fast forward to 2010 and this was truly a team of destiny. One of my best friends Chris ”knew” Auburn was headed to Glendale, AZ to play in the Super Bowl of college football back in October after defeating LSU. I was skeptical. For me, Mr. “The game isn’t over until it’s over,” didn’t realize that Auburn was in the Championship until T’Sharvan Bell intercepted Stephen Garcia early in the 3rd quarter of the SEC Championship game. The day after the SEC Championship, Andrew, another good friend of mine, told me at The Varsity that this Auburn team was destined to win the National Championship; evidenced when Cam Newton through a hail mary to Darvin Adams to end the first half. Ahhh… destiny.

At the Auburn vs. LSU game in October 2010.

It was then, the night of December 4th, that I went onto eBay and found two lower-level endzone tickets for $1,543. I realize that sounds ridiculous to spend on two tickets, but this was possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Auctions were going for more than that in the upper deck, so I purchased them. Everything seemed almost too good to be true. You know the old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Around Christmas, I noticed tickets were selling for around $2,500 a pair. A few days later, I read on a message board that brokers (ticket agencies) were beginning to back out on their contracts to a few fans. I began to get nervous as I did not yet have our tickets in hand. From that point on, I attempted to contact our broker but never heard back. I would occasionally receive an e-mail now and then, but nothing made me feel well. At the New Year, I saw tickets that I purchased (same section and row) go for $4,450. I began to accept that I would not be attending the big game. No way would a broker fulfill their promise and give me my tickets at $1,500+ when they are about to go for about $5K. I was dreading the e-mail notifying me that the broker was unable to fulfill my order. The e-mail never came though.

The week of our flight to Vegas, I heard more and more horror stories of fans who had purchased tickets at a “cheap” price around the 4th of December that were being told their tickets were not coming. The stories were heart breaking. It was January 6th and Melissa & I were on a flight to Las Vegas. At this point, we are flying without tickets.

For the first time ever, Stubhub, the largest online ticket exchange website, pulled the game because thousands of tickets were falling through, including those who purchased through Stubhub. It officially became the most expensive ticket of all time, more than any other Super Bowl or World Cup. Stubhub was buying tickets for $10K a pair and contacting people who did have tickets, offering what they paid plus $2,500 per ticket. I still had no tickets and was not liking this.

This game was big for Oregon, as they were playing for their first National Championship. It was 10x bigger for the Auburn family because in the southeast, college football is king. In the state of Alabama, it is a religion. You choose Auburn or Alabama and stick with them for life. 1983, Auburn was leapfrogged for the National Championship by Miami. In 1993, the Tigers were on Probation. In 2004, Auburn was left out due to media bias. This game was for not only this team, but the three previous teams that were left out. This game was all that mattered to Auburn. And the family showed up in numbers and represented. At the Grand Canyon, Auburn fans were found all over. In Sedona, you couldn’t bump into someone that wasn’t wearing orange & blue.

The night of January 9th, a mere 20 hours from kickoff, I read an article on SI.com that quoted an example of Events Worldwide, Inc. failing to fulfill a fans order for purchasing tickets the night of December 4th on eBay. That was the broker who I purchased from and on the same night I purchased tickets. When I was on the phone with the broker that evening, they weren’t sure when they would have my tickets for me. While all of my friends, who had tickets in hand, couldn’t sleep from excitement, I had a difficult time falling asleep because I didn’t know if I had tickets.

The morning of January 10th, with the game a mere 10 hours away, our tickets finally arrived. They were hand delivered to our hotel room. At that point, I was finally able to fully enjoy the moment. We were headed to the game!

Pregame atmosphere was nowhere near that of an SEC atmosphere. It was nice, but not as much fun because friends were all over the place. There was very little tailgating. It was as if everyone showed up for the game and that was it. Auburn fans greatly outnumbered the Duck fans of Oregon. It had to be a 10:1 ratio in the parking lot. Perhaps greater. For a stadium that holds 73,000, there were probably 60,000 Auburn fans that flew out, maybe more. Everyone wanted to be a part of the big game.

Well our tickets weren’t fake and we got in. We were at the National Championship game. We were in our seats witnessing a Championship game that was the biggest game in the history of Auburn football. And knowing that there were thousands of fans who couldn’t get into the game, we knew it was special. It was as if God wanted us to be there (destiny?). Hopefully we would win the game, but even if not, it was awesome just to be a part of this. We may not fork up the money again to attend another one of these. We viewed this as possibly a once in a lifetime experience.

When the bands played prior to the National Anthem, you could just tell that football means more in the south. Auburn fans were on their feet, chanting the university cheers along with the band. When Oregon’s band took the field, you could hear a pin drop. Their fans may be loyal to their school, but it’s not a way of life.

The game itself probably had between 45,000 to 50,000 in orange & blue. The remaining 10,000 who flew out because their tickets were never fulfilled watched from the bars. The atmosphere was electric. During the National Anthem, a bald eagle flew around the stadium. At the conclusion of the Anthem, as if it were any home Auburn game, the 50K fans in unison shouted “Waaaaaaarrrrrrr“… and when the eagle touched down, all screamed “EAGLE! HEY!!” The looks on the Oregon fans were priceless. They just didn’t understand (prior to kickoff at Auburn home games, a golden eagle will fly around the stadium. Fans chant “Waaaaaarrrrr Eagle! HEY!” as the eagle soars around the stadium and lands on the 50 yard line).

One of the great aspects of a neutral site location for a big game, is there are always fans cheering. Someone is always happy. Whether it was Auburn intercepting the first few interceptions or Oregon capitalizing on an Auburn mistake, someone was always happy. Melissa was happy because she was within a few hundred feet of the gorgeous Heisman winner Cam Newton. It felt as if Auburn had control for most of the game, whether winning or not. What was expected to be an offensive shootout, turned out to be an offensive struggle due to defensive domination. At every possession, it just felt as if either team would start to click, though it never really happened. It was a close game, exciting, just not as expected.

At the end of the third quarter, like all 13 previous games, the Auburn players huddled together, jumped around, and ran to the fans. And of course everyone in orange & blue went crazy. The Oregon fans were stunned. Again, they just did not get it. This was bigger than a game for Auburn. This was destiny.

When Oregon tied the game with just under 3 minutes left in the game, Oregon thought overtime was inevitable. Even a good portion of Auburn fans felt nervous. But I knew Auburn had been in this position so many times before. When Michael Dyer had his SportsCenter run when Oregon thought he was down and he kept running, it just added to what we knew: It was destiny. Only destiny could prevent the defense from literally stop pursuing the guy with the ball and let him run an extra 30-40 yards. A few plays later, with 10 seconds left, Dyer appeared to be in the end zone. But as Mr. “the game is not over until its over,” I did not celebrate. It was a good feeling, but the game was not over. Dyer turned out to not be in the end zone, so we lined up to kick the ball as time would expire. Wes Byrum had already kicked a few of these game winning FG’s, but none would be bigger than winning the first National Championship in school history in over 50 years. This kick was for those 3 teams that never won the title. This kick was to put Auburn on the map. This kick was for the Auburn family.

Needless to say, Wes made the kick. I went NUTS! After watching Auburn pull out nail biter after nail biter, it was finally time to celebrate. Screaming like a girl and jumping up and down, it was a moment I will NEVER forget. I was not only able to witness a National Championship game in person, but it included watching my alma mater win the National Championship and the biggest game in school history. The confetti flew, the players ran on the field, the fans went crazy. It truly felt like a dream. I was in a completely different state of mind. Like Christmas when you were a kid, or it was your birthday, or any other analogy you can think of, it was a feeling like no other that could not be matched. (Watch the video below to listen to me scream like a little girl).

For the 2004 season finale, I watched Auburn beat Virginia Tech at the Sugar Bowl with a bunch of friends. But this time, I had the priviledge of enjoying the moment with my wife, Melissa. She is not the biggest college football fan, but she has started to come around a bit. I knew this was important for her as it was on her 30 before 30 list. So we were both able to celebrate together something that was important to us.

In the end, as I have stated in this long story, this was truly destiny. The big man up stairs wanted me at that game. I look back and think of when I bought the tickets on eBay. I was originally going to buy a pair of tickets and when I clicked “Buy it Now,” they had just been sold to someone else. Then a few minutes later two extremely similar tickets came up that I purchased. Perhaps those first two tickets ended up being that story on SI.com? I still can’t fathom that of the hundreds or thousands of fans that Events World Wide and other Brokers screwed over, somehow they stuck to their word for me. And Thank God they did. It was destiny. It was a moment I will never forget. Without a doubt, the best $1,543 I ever spent. It was well worth it! And It’s Great… To Be… an AUBURN TIGER! WAR EAGLE!!

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