During the Siege of Bastogne (in The Battle of the Bulge), with American forces surrounded by German forces, the German commander, Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz, sent a note suggesting surrender to General Anthony McAuliffe, acting commander of the American forces. McAuliffe’s response is below:
To the German Commander,
The American Commander.
While the German high command (as well as McAuliffe’s non-American allies) supposedly had trouble directly translating the word “nuts,” the Germans had no problem discerning immediately that the one word response was not a positive one from the head of the American forces.
So what does this have to do with now?
While following the post-season articles in college football, I’ve been watching the exchanges that have followed between Auburn and Alabama fans. With Alabama having an undefeated season and their toughest game having been Auburn, I’ve seen a mix. Some fans of both sides have exchanged mutual words of support, as if this year’s Iron Bowl represented a new era. I’ve seen comments from Auburn and Alabama fans still expressing the “honor and glory of the SEC” and "well wishes for New Year’s Day," things I never expected to see. And yes, there is the expected “the Longhorns will gore you” and “you belong in the Papajohns bowl” barbs going back and forth, too.
How different it is from 2004, when Auburn had an undefeated season and yet was shut out of playing for the national championship. There were no kind words back then. Only derision. Dislike so bad that when a high school kid in Alabama set up a national championship computer poll that suddenly became national sports news because Auburn was leading it, the student and his family supposedly began receiving death threats from Alabama fans. The embarrassment of not getting to play for it (after having gone undefeated in the toughest conference in the land) was trumpeted. Admittedly, those memories remain in the minds of many Auburn fans.
So it was last week, when I e-mailed a friend of mine, asking a single questions. “Are you rooting for Texas?”
My friend responded with one word: “Absofrickinlutely.”
And one word can sometimes say it all.