I haven't counted them, but I would say I've received more than 100 emails from Auburn people angry because Paul Gattis voted Auburn No. 3 in the Associated Press poll. Some of them say they'll never read anything else I write because I haven't "called him out." Some say they won't ever read The Huntsville Times again.
Those things are, of course, anyone's prerogative. I certainly won't try to talk anyone into reading anything I write or to buying the newspaper.
Paul Gattis is a friend of mine. Ironically, he became a friend of mine when he covered Auburn for The Decatur Daily. He is a good man and a man of integrity. But I'm not writing this to defend Paul.
I'm defending myself, which is kind of amazing since I have done nothing in this instance that needs defending.
I have been covering Auburn football since I got into this business in 1969. For most of that time, I covered both Auburn and Alabama. Since 1994, I have covered Auburn almost exclusively. Since 2001, I have lived in the Auburn area. I am at the Auburn athletic department almost every day of my life. For more than three years, I have written columns for this web site.
If I have crossed any professional line – and I don't think I have – it is that I have been too consistently positive about Auburn athletics. As the father of three children in the same general age group as Auburn athletes, I admit to having a soft spot for the young men and women who go through so much to play their games. You have to be around it to have a real understanding of just what price they pay.
That's why I feel so badly for Auburn football players who deserve better than they got out of a 12-0 season. They should be playing in the Orange Bowl for the national championship. I believe that. I have written that over and over again. Had I been a voter, which I have been six times, I would have voted Auburn No. 1. I wouldn't have voted Auburn No. 1 because I cover Auburn, but because I believe a rational view of the seasons of all three teams leads to the conclusion that Auburn has been the nation's best team through 12 games.
I disagree with Paul's stance, like I disagree with a lot of voters who won't move teams down from the preseason poll unless they lose. The preseason poll is based on nothing. I tend to agree with Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville that there ought not to even be a preseason poll.
I have spent the better part of three years of my life writing a book about Auburn athletics. I have mentioned that here before. I have tried every day to portray a true picture of Auburn athletics in my newspaper.
The most enjoyable times of my job are times like last week when I sat in Chette Williams' office talking to him about the inner strength of this football team, how the song "Hard Fighting Soldiers" became part of gameday. He gave me a medallion that each team member has. It has the likeness of a Roman soldier on one side and scripture on the other. I cherish that and cherish Chette's friendship.
I have no better friend than linebackers coach Joe Whitt. We have, in a way, grown up together. I was in my first year as sports editor of The Montgomery Advertiser when Joe left Montgomery's Robert E. Lee High School to join Pat Dye's staff at Auburn. I love him and love his family.
I sat at a youth football game with Tommy Tuberville, the most accessible and down-to-earth head football coach I've ever known, a couple of months ago, talking about family and the pressures that go with coaching college football at this level.
I spent time in Taylorsville, Miss., trying to learn the story of who Jason Campbell is. I did the same thing in Cartersville, Ga., for Ronnie Brown, in Gadsden for Carnell Williams, in Hartwell, Ga., for Ben Leard, in Perry, Ga., for Dontarrious Thomas.
I could spend the next hour listing Auburn coaches, administrators and players, past and present, who are my friends. I've known Bret Eddins since he was a baby. Liston Eddins and his family are like my family. Hal Baird and I have spent countless hours talking, not just about athletics, but about life.
There are certainly people who write better than I, but there is no one who tries harder than I do to cover Auburn University athletics.
Maybe I'm overreacting, but for my own integrity to be questioned because of someone else's vote in the Associated Press poll is astonishing.
No, I'm not going to "call Paul Gattis out." His vote is his alone. It is not mine. It is not my newspaper's. I wouldn't have voted the way he voted, but that's why it's called a poll.
I'll stand on who I am and what I've done. If that's good enough, great. If it's not, there's nothing I can do about it.