Last I left you I was moving to Mobile, Alabama. We pick up the tale with me discovering what "War Eagle" meant. At my new bachelor pad I needed electricity. How hard could it be? Call the power company, they flip a switch, and bingo there is light! After several futile attempts to get this accomplished, I tried a different approach. I called Alabama Power, and with my thickest, syrupy drawl asked,"Hey, are y'all fixin to turn my power on because I am trying to listen to my catalogue of Bear Bryant halftime speeches. Roll tide." The operator, either bemused by my attempts at an accent, or bored replied, "Sir, we have a technician that will be there between 2 and 9 pm. Your precious 'Bama memories will have to wait."
I guess that it is here I have to introduce the other side to this Hatfield-McCoy conflict. Auburn had won a national championship. Auburn had a strong, vocal fanbase. Alabama was Boardwalk. Auburn was Park Place. It was caste system in modern day America. As an Alabama fan, you had a few common characteristics. You probably never went to the school. You feel you are owed a national championship or two. You have an air about you that reeks of entightlement. You always feel that you are one bad call or one key recruit from bringing the hardware home (where it belongs). Auburn fans are similar to Virgina Tech fans. Most went to the school, and if not are smarter than to join the cult of 'Bama football. Auburn fans accept reality. It kills Alabama fans when the program is down. When Auburn is down, its "We'll get them next year." It borders on obsession. When Alabama wins (and they usually do), the discussion is not celebratory. The discussion is why they didn't win by more. When Auburn wins they enjoy it. My misplaced "Roll Tide" with the nice Alabama Power associate taught me a valuable lesson.
One does not simply toss "War Eagle" or "Roll Tide" like a friendly salutation. It has to be considered. You judge the recipient. You ask yourself, " Is this guy Alabama or Auburn?" One huge faux pas is inadvertantly pissing off the wrong person with, "Thanks so much for your time, War Eagle." The response goes like this. "What did you say to me?"
"I said thanks so much for your time."
"No after that part."
Me nervously, "Um. War Eagle?"
Boom. 20 minutes of your life is gone. I will spare you the history of the state, the history of the Bear. I will spare you the diatribe that the previously sane person unleashed upon me. Just beware. Be very, very careful when offering either sentiment. There are two types of the statement. There is your everyday "Roll Tide, War Eagle," and then sometimes they mean business. When your usual greetings and conversational pivot points get real, they start cursing. When you really start making an Auburn fan upset, or proud they pull out, "War Damn Eagle!" Or WDE. I'm not really sure who they are damning. The war, or the eagle. For Tide fans it's much more colorful. It's RMFT. How can I put this on a family friendly page? They want to roll, that much is for certain. Then apparently the "tide" has had relations with the maternal figure of a family as well. Keep in mind these are only brought out on special occasions like a big win, or a facebook post. Point is, I had to learn the difference, the seriousness, and the applicability of the degrees of the sentiment.
Back in Blacksburg we had our cool sayings. We had "Let's Go......Hokies". We had "Stick It In, Stick It In, Stick It in." I am sad to say we never had THE catch phrase. The unifying statement that will bind us all. I am enclosing a poll to elect that statement. Please email me with suggestions if the ones provided aren't cutting the mustard. I want to shout this statement at every airport, every business meeting, and every vacation encounter. It has to be two words, and define what we are as Hokies. I guess I am a little jealous of the nods I see, the mouthing of a "roll tide" in the car wash. We need an identity now more than ever.
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