As an Auburn fan, I feel like the highest compliment I can pay to Alabama Coach Nate Oats is that his recent bevy of success has made me hate his freakin’ guts.
That’s how it’s supposed to be, right? How could I not loathe the man who led the bad guys to their best season of the modern era? That’s just how this rivalry is. It gets in your blood, and it completely recolors your perceptions of everything about that school on the other side of the state. Oats could retire tomorrow and devote the rest of his life to charity, and there would still be some part of me that couldn’t forgive him for those crimson colors.
Thankfully, all of this is (mostly) in good fun. While there are examples of ugly, reprehensible and even violent expressions of this little rivalry, most of the discourse expresses itself as harmless—if not friendly—trash talk on social media.
Enter Cameron Luke Ratliff, better known to the world as @Fluffopotamus88 on Twitter, a Bama fan who transcends the bad blood of the rivalry. If you’re not familiar, there are three things you need to know about him. First, while he was technically the president of Alabama’s student section for men’s basketball, the term “president” doesn’t really do him justice. When I helped lead The Jungle, the vast majority of my job was bringing out a big banner and yelling a lot. By contrast, Cameron WAS Crimson Chaos. It didn’t matter if Alabama was losing in the NIT or winning the SEC Tournament, Cameron was there, every game, home and away, screaming his ass off and making you want to join him.
Second, this man was better than you at Twitter. He was also better than me at Twitter. Y’all, this man had a GIFT.
Third, Cameron had a generous and caring soul that was legendary far beyond the bounds of Alabama Basketball. I never had the chance to meet him in person, but even over a platform that can be as cold and dehumanizing as Twitter, his warm and friendly personality shone through.
Then there were the random acts of kindness.
Cameron passed away this past Friday evening due to complications from COVID-19. According to the AL.com article, he was set to graduate with a degree in public relations in August, a field in which he surely would have prospered. If you only use social media in an orange and navy bubble, however, there’s a good chance you missed the news of his passing, or you didn’t quite understand his significance to the state writ large.
I’m not the best person to eulogize Cameron, but Peyton Gasink, himself a former student section leader at Auburn, knew him well. You can read his thread here, but I think it’s worth reading in its entirety, so I’ve copied it here.
“Devastated by the passing of @fluffopotamus88 last night. As presidents of rival student sections, you might think we’d be enemies, but you’d have it all wrong. In my tenure I kept the Jungle going strong, but Cameron Luke Ratliff BUILT Crimson Chaos.
He’s responsible for changing the culture of Alabama Basketball as much as anyone that ever stepped on that court. But he was never arrogant about what he’d done. It was never about him. When you talked to him, it just felt like he was another guy.
I watched his meteoric rise as a sophomore, and am even fortunate enough to call him friend. And what a friend he was. We bonded over our teams’ triumphs and struggles, messed around on Twitter, and met up any time the game brought us close.
He congratulated me when my time with the Jungle came to an end. I’m glad all of Alabama got to do the same for him, as one family. He was more than just a fan. His life was impactful to so many others, and it’s an impact that will be felt for years to come.
Let this be a reminder: take care of yourself and those around you, because you never know how long you have. Rest In Peace, Cameron Luke Ratliff. See you again someday.”
Rivalry be damned. Fluffopotamus made me proud to be an Alabamian, regardless of the colors we wore and the schools we attended. So rest in Peace, Cameron. Can’t wait to shake your hand in heaven.
(PS: if you’re interested, there’s a gofundme to help Cameron’s family with funeral costs here)