Tonight’s the night. At 7 p.m., Alabama and Auburn will face off. I’ve heard it over and over again today, “This game is about bragging rights.” That is absolutely right. Every kid in Alabama is known for who he/she is “for.” As in, “Are you for Bama or Auburn?”
Allow me to take you back to my childhood…
I remember every Saturday in the fall the streets were quiet. All citizens were in their living rooms watching their favorite teams. Usually, us kids would play together outside. Any green space became our football field. And all of our games were between “Alabama” and “Auburn.” We were all amiable and just a bunch of kids having fun on a Saturday afternoon. That is until it came time for the Iron Bowl. I had a few friends who were Auburn fans, but on game day we were enemies. Bitter enemies. I’m talking about knock-down, cry-baby, silent treatment enemies. I recall a few Saturdays when my brother and I would be forced to tears if Alabama lost. The Monday following the game we were back to school to bask in the glory of being a Bama fan or to be taunted by ignorant Auburn fans. And then, for a solid year, far too much of our social lives was determined by which team we were for.
As adults, the taunting looks a little different. I haven’t seen grown ups cry about the game, but I have been witness to many a practical joke or sly comment during Sunday School after the Iron Bowl.
Non-stop news coverage of the tailgating started about 9 this morning. Every single weather report is about the conditions at Jordan-Hare.
I have no idea why football is like this in Alabama, but this is our reality.
Like all good Bama fans, Karl and I have passed this passion on to our children. I remember one summer we were on our way back home from vacation at the beach when we stopped to have a snack and bathroom break. On the way to the restrooms, we passed an Auburn cap on the ground. We just left it there. Well, on the way out of the bathrooms, a man holding the cap approached Benjamin and asked, “Is this yours?”
“No, sir,” said Benjamin, “We’re for Alabama.”
The gentleman laughed and said, “Well I am, too. I just thought I’d ask.”
He set the cap on the table, and instead of saying, “Bye,” or “Y’all have a nice day,” to one another, we said, “Roll Tide.”
Ahhh, it brings a tear to my eyes just thinking about it.
Just a couple of weeks ago, we were at a shop in Birmingham, and I was wearing a new Alabama t-shirt. As I was walking down an aisle, someone walked past me, nodded and said, “Roll Tide.”
Instant connection. Like family.
All that said, I am dreading the game tonight. I’m sure that I’m not the only one.
Bama just has not played well the last few weeks. Last week was utter embarrassment! Then, this week we had to live with the talking heads bashing our coach over his press conference statements. Saban is hoping that his players will respond to last week’s loss with passion and fervor to win big.
There just isn’t anything to make me hopeful that we will win tonight.
Auburn has beaten us five years in a row. FIVE YEARS. Last year, I heard it a thousand times, “Fear the thumb!” Well, we got the thumb. Now Auburn is threatening to hold up a second hand.
I’m 30 years old. I won’t taunt anyone this year if we pull out a win. I won’t cry or feel shamed for being a Bama fan if we lose. My affection for my school has matured, I guess. I think my passion is more rational than it used to be. After all, I’m a graduate of the school. I’m no longer one of those crazy fans who was just raised a Bammer. I have a real reason for my Bama craziness. Erm…right.
So, that’s what’s on my mind today as I ponder this game and the last 30 years of my life as a Bama fan.
Coach Wingnut’s streak can go until he’s barefooted and counting his toes. Auburn stinks.