We talk a lot about family at Auburn; and for good reason. The love we share for the university, for the place and the spirit, creates a bond so strong only one word will do—Family.
The Auburn Family resembles the bloodline family in many ways. For example, your family can drive you crazy. So at larger gatherings we tend to spread out when we eat. Everyone wants a break; to enjoy the meal in peace.
The Auburn Family also spreads out when we eat at our largest gathering—on game day in the Fall. Let’s take a walk across campus, and see who we find.
Nearest to the Stadium are the White Tents—the dining room of Auburn tailgating. Here we find serious grown-ups, with serious food; some with serious drink. You can sense a certain etiquette is in play. I don’t know what their unwritten rules are; I can just tell that they’re there.
Near enough for grown up intervention, if needed, is the children’s table—the amphitheater. I’m not calling the students children; but, they have their own rules. Have you ever seen someone throw a Frisbee at a piece of standing PVC pipe, trying to knock someone else’s beer off of it?
Neither had I, till the last time I visited the amphitheater. There’s some space between the students and the White Tents. That’s probably best.
The Less Young and Equally Restless
Further up the hill are the tailgaters lining Lem Morrison Drive. These are the aunts and uncles. Not the uncle who shows up in a new girlfriend’s old Camaro. Rather, more like a great uncle—the kind best described as self-reliant. He stands on the porch, holding his plate; sweet tea on the window sill. He’s fine. His tent is not white, and he’s always set it up himself.
Off the porch, and closer to the street than the dining room, are the Hayfields of South Donahue. Here we have a different sort; “old enough to know better, too young to care.” You know that guy you work with whose favorite part of golf is driving the cart? If you need him on Saturday, check the Hayfields.
I have parked among these folks, so I know: If you at all think you’re grown up enough for the White Tents, your Hayfields moment has passed.
There are other tailgating areas where I have no experience. What goes on at Samford Park and the library—you’d have to tell me.
If you tailgate in a more isolated location, good for you. Those spots are harder and harder to come by with all the construction over the last 125 years.
While tailgating on campus isn’t actually old as Auburn Football itself, the tradition has made up any lost ground. I hope you don’t lose any ground this season. If you’ve had the same spot for years, or even one Fall, I hope people manage to respect that. You wouldn’t take Uncle Roy’s spot on the porch. That would be disrespectful.
You won’t have to worry about me encroaching. I’m in a traveling-light phase of my game day career. I know where I’m welcome, but mostly I wander.
If I do cut through your tailgate in a hurry to make Tiger Walk—or to find air conditioning after Tiger Walk—please forgive me. And know that I mean it as a compliment. I’m acknowledging your deftness in both selecting and establishing your tailgate location, which I envy from somewhere between the Hayfields and the White Tents. War Eagle.