Just when you thought the Alabama/Auburn football rivalry had reached its peak, with the game’s winner going on to win the BCS Championship from 2010-2013, we all witnessed the 2013 “Kick ‘Bama Kick” game.
The Perfect Storm
So what makes “The Iron Bowl” the greatest rivalry in sports? Why do people from Seattle, New York and Los Angeles cling to their television screens the Saturday after Thanksgiving to watch these two programs battle it out each year? What causes fans of each school to turn their back on friends and family members that choose to wear the opposite colors?
“There’s nothing like it,” said former Auburn receiver Jeris McIntyre. “It has a rich tradition, and waking up knowing you’re going to play in that game…there’s no better feeling.”
In an SEC-centric college football landscape, the entire nation becomes lost in all the great things that this game represents. Two top-level programs, each typically vying for an SEC or BCS Championship, playing out thousands of fans’ dreams and lives on a 100 yard long piece of grass.
“We all say it’s just a game, and it is just a game, but you’ve got family members not talking leading up to the game. Husbands and wives really not on good terms throughout that week. It’s an intense rivarly.” McIntyre recalls.
With no professional sports teams to cheer for in the state of Alabama, Crimson Tide and Tiger fans find solace in cheering for their favorite college team. Alabama holds a 42-35-1 advantage over Auburn currently, but the Tigers, who are referred to as “barners” or “little step brothers” by their Crimson Tide brethren, have reeled off an impressive eight-of-twelve dating back to 2002. Fans count on an “Iron Bowl” victory for bragging rights that will last them the next 364 days. And when something doesn’t go well on the field of play, it is not uncommon for all hell to break lose.
Following a 2010 Auburn victory in Tuscaloosa, Alabama fan Harvey Updyke had finally had enough. After seeing the jersey of Auburn star Cam Newton taped to the statue of Bear Bryant, Updyke allegedly drove to Auburn and decided to poison the famous Toomers Corner trees. These trees are a symbol of Auburn pride and Tiger fans have celebrated big wins by throwing toilet paper into trees for decades. After confessing to the poisonings, Updyke merely stated “there is just too much Bama in me. Roll damn Tide.”
Although demented and beyond the realms of rational belief, stories like these set this rivalry apart from anything else in sports. In an era where professional athletes are paid to be a part of fabricated rivalries and conference re-alignment has taken away many college rivalries such as Missouri/Kansas and Texas/Texas A&M, “The Iron Bowl’s”big wheels have kept on turning despite this current landscape. There is even a wildly entertaining and informative ESPN 30-for-30 documentary about the rivalry aptly entitled “Roll Tide, War Eagle.”
As the the teams get set to take the field for the 78th time this Saturday, the Alabama Crimson Tide are poised to return to the SEC Championship Game with a victory. Not so fast says Jeris McIntyre:
“34-30 Auburn Tigers,” McIntyre stated emphatically. “It would make Auburn’s season if they could knock them off.”
In a series that has given us memorable moments such as “Bo Over the Top,” “Punt ‘Bama Punt,” and recently “Kick ‘Bama Kick,” there is no reason to believe that we won’t witness something magical and unforgettable once again this Saturday.