Auburn News

Girl in the Gray Dress

Today our blog features guest writer Darcie Vlahos with a poignant account of blindly accompanying her Auburn Alum husband to an Auburn Clubs event. Beyond her faux pas of wearing gray amid the sea of orange and blue, she witnesses shameless passion that extends far beyond football.

The week we returned from our honeymoon my husband, Anthony Vlahos ‘06, forwarded me an email regarding an Auburn Alumni event near our new house.  He was ecstatic about attending this “Mix & Mingle,” as he called it, and wanted me to join.  “It’s business casual,” he added.

I’m a Texas Longhorn, so I really had no business there.  But in my newlywed state of mind, I thought to myself, “How adorable, he wants to hit the town as a married couple and show me off.  Isn’t he great!” So that day after work, I rushed home and changed into my trusty gray business casual dress and nude patent leather pumps.  I felt I would make him proud in this and that I would blend right in.

We’re always late, so when we pulled into the parking lot, it was full.  Every car had either Auburn plates or bumper stickers.  This event took place in Houston, mind you.  It’s rare to meet Auburn fans at all around here, much less to stumble across a site like this. “How cute!” I thought, as I gracefully marched alongside my husband into the dining room.

The dining room was also packed by the time I strutted in.  Immediately I discovered my trusty gray dress was an eyesore.  The room exploded with orange and blue.  Everyone was clad in their game day best, which does not mean your favorite T-shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots, like where I come from.  These fans were dressed to impress in orange and blue dresses, suits and ties.  I should have guessed as much when Anthony picked me up and he was dressed to fit the part as well.

With the same vivacity that the orange and blue filled the room, people began to greet us with, “War Eagle!”

“Oh, War Eagle to you too, but I didn’t go to Auburn,” I responded. “I actually went to the University of Texas— Hook ‘Em Horns! But my husband…” Where had he escaped to?

He had made a beeline for the keynote speaker, a radio personality and former Auburn football player.  I was alone.  In my lousy gray dress.  I sheepishly “War Eagled” my way through the buffet and met back up with Anthony for the presentation.  As I glanced over the program at my seat, I realized I had been mislead.  The “presentation” consisted of a football update followed by the singing of the Auburn Fight Song.  This was not a “cute” Mix & Mingle at which Anthony wanted to show off his new wife.  I knew then that this was going to be an intense evening of football analysis.

Now I like football well enough, but I’m not half as involved as my husband.  He is your true Auburn football fan.  Luckily, the keynote speaker was very engaging.  I thought to myself, “OK, focus, you will be the best wife ever if you can retain some of this and regurgitate it throughout the season. Yes, Cameron Newton is amazing.  Very promising.  And Michael Dyer is phenomenal.  Scrappy.  Got it.”

I focused for an hour with all my might.  The hour ended, and the speaker asked if there were any questions.  “Surely there can be no questions after such a thorough…” My husband’s hand almost smacked the side of my face.  He feverishly raised it up and down like a second grader to make sure the speaker saw him. I re-situated myself back into my seat slowly.  I hoped Anthony hadn’t caught me almost get up and walk out.  To my surprise, there were several questions. Then people shared their insider “friend of a friend” stories about the star players, the coaches, the Chaplain, etc.  The world seemed smaller and smaller as the evening went on with this intimate and involved presentation.  The speaker motioned that he needed to wrap things up.  I began to pack my purse and finish off my wine.  I had made it through, and I had actually enjoyed myself a little bit.  “Good wife,” I cheered in my head.

“Well,” the speaker uttered, “now we better move on to defense.”

“Huh!?” as I whipped around to make sure he was joking.  He was not, and I was the only one in the room surprised by this.  “Ok, pull yourself together, pay attention, this can’t take as long as offense.  This is important to Anthony.”

“Nick Fairley is a force in himself,” I picked up. “Ok, good sound bite to remember.” But soon, my attention began to dwindle.  Out of wine.  BlackBerry buried too deep in my purse so as to nonchalantly check messages.  No  food left on my plate to poke.  Stuck.  Wondering how he could be so clueless about the fact that this was seriously pushing it for me, I looked over at my husband.

His big brown eyes gushed over every word spoken.  A soft smile, carefully calculated to fight back a much bigger smile within, was glued to his face.  And he sat so far at the edge of his seat, he barely qualified as seated.  He was the embodiment of shameless passion.

I have always loved this quality about him.  I believe he has always been a passionate person, but I realized then that his love for Auburn had kept his ability to be outwardly passionate strong.  Passion requires practice.  And this practice requires an outlet through which to express passion.  I had clearly fallen out of practice.  I couldn’t even muster up the courage to reply “War Eagle” to perfectly friendly people, who, as I look back, knew that the girl in the gray dress was not an Auburn Tiger.

In Anthony’s case, the legacy of passion left by his University stretches far beyond sports.  It applies to his Faith, our marriage, his career, and to the excitement with which he looks forward to the birth of our first child, arriving any day now.   Thank you, Auburn, for keeping him sharp in this practice, for making the practice of passion the norm for him.

As we watched the confetti fall in Glendale and saw a crystal ball light up the eyes of thousands, I noticed Anthony had been completely unchanged. He exuded the same joy and excitement in that moment that he had at the football update in Houston months before.  He had not needed that amazing season to whip him into shape. The passion for his school and for championship had been within all along.

War Eagle!