TALLAHASSEE (AP) — You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your football team.
As the Florida State Seminoles and the Auburn Tigers prepare to clash at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on January 6th, families will be gathering to enjoy the big game — but they won’t always be gathered in the same cheering section.
Jeremy Fowler graduated from FSU just a few weeks ago; his grandfather is as big an Auburn fan as you could possibly be. And his parents went to Auburn but his aunt and uncle both went to FSU.
Fowler said his grandfather, who lives in Orlando, bought a house so he could be closer to Auburn’s home games and has been to nearly every one — and most away games — for 20 years.
On Saturdays, his mother’s home is adorned with everything orange and blue, but the divide has always been there.
“If Auburn is on, nothing else is going to happen,” Fowler said jokingly. “My mom puts orange and blue everywhere.
“There’s always been a house divided,” he said. “I consider myself an FSU fan, but I still feel like an Auburn fan because of my family traditions.”
Fowler said the rivalry has always been a fun one — sometimes one side of the family is not allowed to have glasses with FSU emblems on them — but the family has thought through the two teams meeting in the national championship.
“It never gets ugly in any way,” he said, “but everyone is sure to hold their allegiance verbally. We’ve joked about this game. If this game happens, what kind of Christmas would we have?”
To add to the tensions, the same week as the national championship, Fowler is marrying his fiance, who comes from a family of all FSU fans. And the rivalry grows.
Pam Roberts is a fourth generation Auburn fan. Her uncle was the dean of the school’s agriculture department. Her father went there during the 1950s, and a multitude of her family members have attended the school. Her mother worked in the history department and she herself graduated in 1975.
When she and her husband, Pat, moved to Tallahassee more than 20 years ago, he adopted the ‘Noles. Ever since then, their Saturdays have been a mixture of orange and blue and garnet and gold that has spread to their two sons.
“When our boys were small, we went to the Auburn and the FSU games,” Roberts said, but as the boys grew up, the division started to show.
“Our oldest son has always been FSU,” she said. The rivalry has been conflict-free mainly because of the Auburn heritage that is consistent throughout her family.
“It’s been pretty civil because they know how much Auburn means to me and my family. There’s no trash talk.”
The Roberts have a box at Doak Campbell Stadium. While the ‘Noles are on the field, the Tigers are on the TVs.
Now that the two teams are meeting in the national championship, the whole family is making the trek to Pasadena. Roberts and her husband are driving the 2,252 miles in an RV. Their two sons and a daughter-in-law are flying out New Year’s Day for the big game.
Both Fowler and Roberts are excited about the national championship game, even if distinct and immutable loyalties split their families.
They both take comfort in the idea that if their own favorite team doesn’t win, at least some family members will be happy when their favorite college team takes home the crystal football.
“I think we’re all excited,” Fowler said. “Either my team can win, or if they lose, basically the next best team I would want to win would. It’s a win-win situation no matter what.”
Roberts has adopted an optimistic championship-cup-is-half-full philosophy:
“My youngest son and I are wearing Auburn colors,” Roberts said. “And my oldest son and husband will have on their FSU colors. We’re going to win either way. War Nole!”
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