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Tiger Ties Still Bind
Charles Barkley
January 14, 2005
THESE DAYS, THE FORMER AUBURN HOOPS STAR IS A FOOTBALL FANATIC
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January 14, 2005

Tiger Ties Still Bind

THESE DAYS, THE FORMER AUBURN HOOPS STAR IS A FOOTBALL FANATIC

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War Eagle! I've heard my Alma mater's battle cry in Germany, Italy, Spain and France. I've heard it in the inner cities in the U.S. I've heard it practically everywhere I've ever been. Everybody knows I went to Auburn, and this season I can't tell you how many people have come up to me to talk about the football program. Does it bother me that we didn't get to play in the BCS championship game? Yeah, but Utah, Texas and Cal probably felt slighted, too. These players may not be the official BCS champions, but you know what? They can walk around feeling very proud about being undefeated. I've been a fan of the football program ever since I played basketball at Auburn, and I've followed this year's team closely and attended four games. One of the things I had always wanted to do was see Auburn play in a hostile environment, and I finally did that this year when I went to Knoxville in October. That's a ton of people they got in Tennessee, but I was treated great, even wearing a big number 34 jersey on the sideline. This year was also the first time I saw Alabama play Auburn in person, and there's nothing better than beating your archrival in the Iron Bowl. I was also at the SEC championship game in Atlanta, and, of course, I had a great time in New Orleans watching the co-national champs in the Sugar Bowl. I was on the sideline for each of those games, and let me tell you, it was pretty damn cool. I don't like going to games and sitting in a luxury box; you might as well be watching on TV. On the sideline the players would give me a little wave. I appreciated that.

When I was a student at Auburn, I probably went to four or five football games a season. When I was there, we were really good, going 11-1 and winning the SEC title in '83. We had Bo Jackson, and he was rolling the whole time he was there. Is Bo the best athlete in school history? [Long pause.] I think he is. A lot of those football players were cocky, arrogant and obnoxious, but not Bo. He was great, a really nice guy, and we were friends.

One of the things I've always loved about Auburn football is the buildup before the game. You start out by going to practice on Wednesday, and there are maybe three motor homes there. Then you come out of practice and the number is up to 12. The next morning there are like 25 motor homes. After practice that night the number increases to something like 50. Then you wake up Friday morning and there's like 75. By Friday afternoon it's in the hundreds. And by the time the game comes around, it's crazy--people drive from all over the South to be part of this scene.

Take it from a basketball player, if you're a football player at Auburn, you're treated like a god. When I was in school, the basketball team occasionally practiced late, and we'd be served food afterward. The dining staff would give us hamburgers, french fries and hot dogs. Then they'd tell us to get out because the football team was coming in, and you'd see the cooks with steaks and lobsters. It was hamburgers and hot dogs for us. Steak and lobster for them. So when people ask me what it was like to be a basketball player at a football school, I tell them I didn't feel like a second-class citizen--I felt like a third-class citizen! But football will always be king at Auburn.

War Eagle!

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