I know, I know, this seems like a crazy thought: how could a bunch of southern, bourbon-and-Coke-drinking Auburn fans be similar to the northern, Sam Adam’s- swigging Red Sox Nation? Good question. Sounds like a good subject for my first blog.

The Boston Red Sox started in 1901, and Auburn began playing football a few years prior to that. At the beginning, both teams were pretty dissimilar except for one thing, rivalry. The Sox have always had the Yankees and the Tigers have always had the Tide. More on that later, though.

Both teams were dominant more than a half-century ago. Both teams have gone on huge droughts without championships. The Sox last won the big one (not counting the ’04 series) in 1918. Auburn won its first, and only, AP National Championship in 1957. So what? Why does that make them similar?

(When will I stop asking myself questions?)

When a team loses for so many years, oftentimes that team doesn’t continue to rise in popularity nor is it thought of as a contender for a title, nor does it have legions of rabid fans. That is where the Sox and the Auburn Tigers are the most identical. Both clubs have throngs upon throngs of fans that stand by their team to the end. Why would college football fans embrace a team that hasn’t produced a title in a half century? There cannot be that many alumni out there. Look at Vanderbilt. Vandy has never won a National Championship and no one goes to their games. Why don’t Auburn fans treat the Tigers the same way? Why do they keep coming back like 343 Guilty Spark in Halo 2 ?

One word: hope.

The Sox and the Tigers have found new ways to build their fans’ hopes up.  Almost every year, Auburn starts out in the top 25. Auburn has had two Heisman Trophy winners. Bo Jackson went to Auburn. Bo Jackson! If you have ever played Tecmo Super Bowl that name resonates with unmistakable reverence for you. Auburn has won more games in the SEC in the last five years than any team. The Red Sox are always either the best or second best team in their division. Superstar after superstar has played for the the Sox. Ted Williams, the greatest hitter ever, played for the Sox. Both teams give fans the hope that this is the year. Year after year, heartache after heartache, letdown after letdown.

The angst of Red Sox Nation has been well documented over the years. However, Auburn fans have been suffering for almost as long and have been keeping it to themselves, having had their fair share of heartache. Take the 2004 season as an example. Quite possibly the greatest team in Auburn history, and one of the greatest collections of talent in recent college football history. That was the year, more than any other, that Auburn fans had a real hope for glory.  In 2003, Auburn was ranked #1 in the nation before the season started in some polls and the Tigers dashed away all hope of a title by promptly failing to score a touchdown against USC and Georgia Tech. However, Auburn had an even better team in 2004 and proved it by winning every single game in which it played. The Tigers even covered the spread in all of those games. Did that translate into a title, or even a shot at a title? Nope.

Fans of both the Tigers and the Sox expect nothing less than greatness from their teams. Funny, considering they really have no evidence that they should expect anything less than a brutal failure. This is why fans of both teams will boo a star player mercilessly, as if he played for the other team. The undefeated 2004 season of Auburn and the 2004 World Series win by the Sox did nothing, but make fans’ appetite for championships more insatiable.

Maybe there is something else involved in both cases: an inferiority complex.

Auburn has the Tide, the Sox have the Yanks. Both the Crimson Tide and the Yankees boast more titles than any other team in their particular sport. Both teams have fans that refuse to quit reminding rival fans of that fact day after day. Neither the Yanks nor the Tide have won a title this century, but they don’t let “facts” like that bother them. Auburn fans want nothing more than to get a championship to rub in the faces of all of those Alabama fans at work, at thanksgiving dinner, at church or at the local NRA meeting. Red Sox fans want the same from their team. No matter how many times Auburn beats Alabama, Tide fans will always walk around with the smug attitude that makes Tiger fans act like Inspector Clouseau’s boss at the end of the old Pink Panther movies. Yankees fans will always act like they own the world, even though half of them have never been inside Yankee Stadium. You can’t be a Yankee fan if you live in Aimes, Iowa. I’m sorry, it’s just wrong. Auburn fans hate Alabama fans for the same reason: more than half of them didn’t go to school there, don’t know anyone who did, and probably didn’t even go to college.

So, Sox fans, you can rest assured that there is somebody out there who knows the way it feels to be you. Maybe they don’t dress the same way you do. Maybe they drive a pick-up truck and maybe they voted for Bush, but they know the way it feels to have your heart ripped out year after year. Auburn fans, maybe there are some people in the north that are worth trusting. Hopefully this post has been insightful, or at least I hope that I answered my own questions.

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