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CHRIS ERSKINE / FAN OF THE HOUSE

The South comes west for day of college football bliss at BCS finale

When Auburn and Florida State fans converge in Southern California, there's plenty of 'War Eagle' shouts, and plenty of Southern hospitality too.

January 06, 2014|Chris Erskine
  • Auburn fans (from left) Amy Camp, Apryl Camp, Taylor Norris and Paige Davis attend a tailgate party before the BCS championship game between Florida State and Auburn on Monday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Auburn fans (from left) Amy Camp, Apryl Camp, Taylor Norris and Paige Davis… (Christina House / For The…)

A mere three hours separate Auburn from Florida State. But where the Auburn folks come in with their iPhones and expensive sweaters, the Florida State fans show up all chicken-fried — big hair, big personalities. You know you're a Florida State fan, the saying goes, if your wife ever got her hairdo caught in a ceiling fan.

No school should be summed up by its football fans. USC, by all estimates, is a pretty sophisticated place, though you'd never conclude that from walking through campus on game day.

Jim Morrison and Faye Dunaway attended Florida State, for instance, so there's a disconnect right there.

That said, if a Cessna landed on an FSU fan's head 20 minutes before game time, would he even know it, or just start making buzzy airplane noises with his lips?

Look, God bless 'em all. When you spend $1,000 over face value for your ticket, you can do whatever you damn well please. Besides, we can be a little buzzy out here ourselves.

Monday, the South rose again, as it continuously does in college football. The golf course bordering the Rose Bowl was the initial battlefield. One tailgating army on one side, the opposing troops on the other.

A drainage canal — and maybe a lifestyle — separated them but they were all united by their true passion, college football at the highest level.

First-class fans too. Not much jawing. World domination is a wonderful thing, but both sets of fans claimed to be truly happy just to make it here. Said a few nice things about L.A. too.

Our strip clubs, of course, could be better (I apologized and promised to look into it). But the locals are friendly, the fans insisted. And the climate? Not so bad.

"It's 30 degrees in Auburn right now," one fan blurted.

"Not nobody wants to be anywhere else right now," another Tigers fan assured him.

By the way, are you as confused by these War Eagle chants as I am? Auburn is the Tigers, right? Yet up and down Colorado Boulevard for two days, the Auburn faithful have been yelling "WAR EAGLE!" over and over.

Patsy Lagen explains it, in a Rose Bowl parking lot, while her husband, Bob, basks in the sunshine nearby.

According to Patsy, in 1892 a Civil War vet unleashed his pet war eagle at an Auburn-Georgia game, and it proceeded to fly 'round and 'round the stadium during an Auburn rally.

Ever since, they've been doing this whirligig motion and yelling "WAR EAGLE!"

Even if it's not true, you want it to be.

Sunblock, beer, random acts of blindness, that was the Rose Bowl tailgate scene before Monday's BCS finale. No sign of a polar vortex here. Lambeau what?

As usual, the corporate tents were the worst places to be, all that free liquor and false friendship.

Better to be in the parking lots, with Bob and Patsy, or Emerson Lee and his buddy Brandon Montalto, who flew in from Destin, Fla., to root on their beloved Seminoles.

"Save the vodka!" Montalto says as they stash their cooler before entering the stadium.

Montalto spent $200 at the Denver airport bar on the way here, then forgot his cellphone. But other than the strip club disappointment — on Sunset Boulevard, no less — their stay has been pretty much perfect.

"You should look us up," Lee says as they head off toward the Seminoles side of the battlefield.

Sure, I'll be right there.

Everything about this last BCS game was epic, the party scene, the weather, the bathroom lines looping around the Rose Bowl 100-deep. My kingdom for a urinal. I know the Rose Bowl is sacred and all that, but a few more Port-O-Lets wouldn't really mar the fan experience.

By the way, don't you love that the Seminoles' coach is named Jimbo? Only better handle for an FSU coach would be Bodean or Grits.

Till then, Jimbo is the best coach name since Woody or Bear. Go 'Noles! I like my tomahawk chops medium rare, thank you very much. And my war eagle extra crispy.

Why is football so big in the South? The legendary voice of college football, Keith Jackson, once told me it was because pro sports were so late to arrive there, and college football was all they had.

Makes sense. But these days, college football runs deep everywhere — from the Cascades to the Everglades — and gets richer every season.

What a college season it's been — upsets, Hail Marys, minimal scandals — ending beautifully Monday evening at the Rose Bowl.

In a tent near Lot H, Bobby Bowden, Florida State's founding father, serenaded fans from both sides with his old Sunday preacher shtick:

"The good news is we have the best two football teams in the nation here," Bowden told cheering fans.

And not a soul disagreed.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

Twitter: erskinetimes

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