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On the Proper Spirit of Rivalry Between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers, Those Stalwarts in Orange and Blue

Although extenuating circumstances unrelated to the Georgia Bulldogsloss in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party caused the cancellation of Kit Kitchens’s weekly podcast, we will be back on the air this week in preparation for Saturday’s outing against the Auburn Tigers. We recorded the show on Monday evening, and, when asked why I hate Auburn, I offered an explanation, but I added a caveat that I have come into contact with more agreeable Auburn fans in the last five years than I did in the 35 or so years prior to that.

Although I seldom miss an opportunity to emphasize how seriously I take the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, our feud is an institutional one rather than a personal one, and I am appreciative of sentiments such as this one from War Eagle Atlanta:

Go by and check out our sister SB Nation blog Dawg Sports, with whom we still have diplomatic ties. Mind your manners, as Georgia week is like a family reunion, and although four years of frustration have built up, maintaining a respectful rivalry with our Dawg cousins is important, or at least for a Georgia immigrant like me. Besides, head Dawg Sports writer T. Kyle King always has interesting and realistic commentary and we just may enlist his full support for our BCS run after this weekend is all over.

I appreciate War Eagle Atlanta’s healthy attitude, which is why I decided initially to let it slide when I discovered Dawg Sports had been linked to in the following passage:

Waiting on this guy’s yearly screed on how much he hates Auburn (because some of our fans took clippings from their fancy bushes at Sanford Stadium after an Auburn win or something … I forget) and the back-and-forth on Track’em. My thoughts on Georgia? Meh. I like playing them and there is no hate here. I like the history of the rivalry and the common roots of the opposing players. We’re due, BTW. Dude should take a deep breath and just except the inevitable this year. With pain comes release.

I agree that Auburn is due, and I accept the inevitable this year (although I accepted it last year, too, and I turned out to be wrong, for whatever that’s worth), but I don’t think I engage in annual screeds, unless recounting historical facts accurately counts as a screed. In any case, the interaction between the two camps generally has been positive lately, so I am disinclined to do anything to upset the apple cart unduly.

That said, I received an e-mail from Jeremy Henderson, who called my attention to a posting of his in which he reproduced a 1959 letter from James Foy, the recently deceased dean of student affairs at Auburn, to David Cleghorn, the editor of The Red and Black. Cleghorn had written a column in the University of Georgia student newspaper in which he expressed strong disagreement with the decision of the Better Relations Committee (a body made up of Auburn, Georgia, and Georgia Tech students) to discourage the use of "Turkey Buzzards" as an epithet applicable to matriculants at an institution symbolized by an eagle at which "War Eagle!" was (and remains) a battle cry.

While technically inaccurate, it isn’t as though "Turkey Buzzards" was a baseless jab.

Dean Foy, taking issue with Cleghorn’s position that Auburn students were "bitter because they can’t make some kind of name out of Bulldog," responded by doing what I recently criticized Todd Grantham for doing; namely, responding in kind as a grown man engaged in a trash-talking battle with a college student. Here is the epistle penned by the Auburn director of student affairs to the editor of the Georgia student newspaper:

What have we learned, boys and girls? I submit that we have learned the following:

  • The Auburn dean of students did not know the difference between "you" and "your."
  • The Auburn dean of students did not know the difference between "petal" and "pedal."
  • The Auburn dean of students did not know how to spell "abhorrent," "enhance," or "students."
  • The Auburn dean of students had no qualms about writing personal correspondence to students on rival campuses in which he referred to those collegians as "sons of bitches," only to deny immediately thereafter that he would ever do what he had just done.

In Dean Foy’s defense, however, he did know how to spell "Auburn," which is not a claim all members of the Tiger faithful are able to make.

That’s what I love about the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, folks. Whenever our memory of the intensity of this rivalry starts to fade, we are reminded of the origins underlying our stereotypes of one another, and the reasons for their continued durability.

Naturally, I appreciate Jeremy’s e-mail, and the spirit of good-natured yet heartfelt rivalry in which it was intended; likewise, I credit Dean Foy for the sly sentiment underlying his letter, and I mean no disrespect to the memory of this recently-departed Auburn icon, who meant as much in the Loveliest Village as his Georgia counterpart, William Tate, meant in the Classic City. (Regarding the apparent deficiencies in Dean Foy’s education, I am certain the Tiger faithful would be quick to point out that the longtime Auburn administrator was an Alabama alumnus.)

Dean Foy’s salty language, however, reminds me of a scene in the movie "Patton" in which George Patton (not the Georgia defensive tackle) refused to share a victory toast with America’s Russian allies. Through a translator, the U.S. general informed his Soviet colleague that he wasn’t interested in drinking with any "Russian son of a bitch." Offended, the Soviet general replied that he thought General Patton was a son of a bitch, too. General Patton laughed and said, "I'll drink to that. One son of a bitch to another."

That is the spirit in which I look forward to this weekend’s renewal of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, which has remained uninterrupted for more than a century except by worldwide warfare and the death of a player from injuries sustained in a game. Rather than offer a screed explaining why I hate Auburn, I prefer to meet Jeremy Henderson, War Eagle Atlanta, and the good people on the opposite side of this ancient divide in the spirit of respectful mutual institutional disdain without personal animosity, as a rivalry this storied between two programs with such a long history of cross-pollination demands.

Here’s hoping we have a good game, guys. Let’s drink to that, Auburn fan and Georgia fan alike, one son of a bitch to another.

Go ‘Dawgs! Auburna delenda est!