The Whole Auburn vs. Alabama thing

It’s that time again. In a few short weeks, college football will kick off and the pent up anticipation will be unleashed full fury in Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, in Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, and in front of television sets all over the state. If you don’t live in the state of Alabama you can’t possibly imagine just how much hoopla, hype, and hubris go along with the playing of a college football game.

 I’m a native of North Carolina and lived there the first 40 years of my life. The only thing that compares to the Auburn vs. Alabama rivalry that I know of is the UNC vs. Duke rivalry in college basketball. It comes close, but even it falls short of the unbridled passion felt for college football in the Heart of Dixie.

 If you move here, as I did, you are expected to choose a side. It is just a part of life here and if you choose to try to ignore it, you’ll end up being miserable and be branded a party pooper. (If you move here and were already a fan of another SEC major team such as Georgia, Tennessee, or Florida that does seem to be tolerated.)

 When I moved here ten years ago, Alabama was struggling with Mike DuBose as a coach and fell far short of the mighty expectations placed upon them by the Crimson Nation. DuBose was fired, and Dennis Franchione hired. He stayed there for two years before bolting to Texas A & M. Next they hired Mike Price, but an unsavory inclination for questionable behavior saw him sent packing before he ever coached a game. Mike Shula was up next and proved to be in over his head. Finally they righted the ship by canning Shula and hiring the controversial Nick Saban, a proven winner.

During much of this time, Auburn under the leadership of Tommy Tuberville, owned their in-state rivals, winning six straight Iron Bowls much to the horror of the Crimson Tide nation and to the delight of the Auburn nation. Understand if you don’t already know this, Alabama is the more storied of the two programs. Auburn has traditionally been a good program, but largely existed in the shadow of their chief instate rival.

 Alabama claims to have won 13 national championships, the latest being this past football season. Auburn people scoff at this. At least five of the national championships are the creation of a former Alabama sports information department. Auburn claims one championship from 1957, and several perfect seasons, the last time in 2004 when they were denied the chance to play for the National Championship due to having played a division 1AA opponent in that year.

 Much of Alabama’s historical success comes from having been coached for decades for legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. On the other hand Auburn generally points to their two Heisman Trophy winners, Pat Sullivan and Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson.

 The rivalry is a lot of fun among reasonable people. I will have to say that the majority of the fans are reasonable. But just as in anything else there are some idiots on both sides that want to take it to the extreme and ruin it for everyone.

 Right now much of the bluster and over the top trash talking comes from the Alabama (or bammer) side of the fence. This is my comment for you:

 Quit believing your team is invincible and will never lose another game for all of eternity. Remember the Bryant years were good to you, but you didn’t win every game then and you will lose some in this era too.

 Quit placing Nick Saban on the same level as God. He’s just a man. I’ll admit that he is a good football coach, maybe one of the two or three best in the business today, but he is nothing more than a man doing a job. Even I admit to a lot of closet admiration for him, but let’s keep things in perspective.

 Get over the Bear Bryant worship. Yes Coach Bryant is a legend, but he passed away nearly 30 years ago and you guys have been in the wilderness most of that time except for a great season under Coach Stallings and of course the last two years.

 Lose the smug superiority thing. You act like it is your birthright to be a winner. That is not the case. When your team wins, I can assure you that wins comes from a lot of sweat and hard work during the week and summer two a days. It is not a case of manifest destiny or divine right. And quit believing things like Auburn needs to know their place. I nearly hit someone once who got on that subject.

 Don’t scream that rammer jammer cheer at my kids. As adults it is cool, but have enough respect for yourself that you don’t yell it at my kids or someone else’s kids. For that matter while I am on the subject my family got yelled at in Gatlinburg of all places by a couple of drunken bammers hollering “we just beat the hell out of you.” Yes you won that game, but you didn’t exactly beat the hell out of us. I guess you guys thought you were some big something scaring two small children and teaching them how not to be good sports.

Quit acting like it will kill you to say anything nice about the Auburn Tigers. When you refuse steadfastly it makes you look arrogant. No one likes arrogance.

And lastly, if your team wins, have enough sense not to wear a team shirt to church the next morning. Sunday night or Wednesday night is different because the services are far less formal, but when you wear a team shirt to Sunday morning worship it just makes you look like an idiot. And if you must do some trash talking, keep it to a bare minimum. Remember church is to worship the risen Savior, not Nick Saban.

 If I am offering criticism of the Bammers, it is only fair to offer some to the Aubs.

 Be realistic. We are not going to go undefeated this year. Remember we are in the second year of a rebuilding. We all liked what we saw last year, but we will lose some games and we will likely lose our third straight Iron Bowl. If we finish 9-4 this year that would realistically be a good year for us. 

Have some intelligence about Gene Chizik. Remember a good number of you rolled your eyes when he was hired. Because we stated off the year 5-0 and unexpectedly went 8-5 last year you are ready to anoint him as the next Pat Dye. I’m hoping that he is just the ticket for the Auburn program, but he doesn’t have a long enough tenure as head coach to properly evaluate. 

Realize that success on the football field is predicated on more than just beating Alabama. If we beat them but lose every other game, we are just a pathetic 1-10 team that played one good game. Our goal should be to win the National Championship. Of course we have to beat Alabama to do it, but we also have to beat Arkansas, Mississippi State, LSU, Ole Miss, and Georgia every year. 

Give Saban some credit. It just sounds like sour grapes when you mouth off about all of his supposed character flaws. He runs a great program and you know it. Acknowledge that and quit whining. It is unbecoming to act jealous and that is exactly what some of you do. 

This can be a fun season. Everyone is undefeated right now and full of hope. Let’s show maturity and sportsmanship toward each other. When we win it’s okay to feel good, but if we lose let’s do the sporting thing and congratulate the other side. Let’s keep this from getting ugly.

Finally, I’m guilty of some of these criticisms. I’m going to try and take my own advice this year.



3 Responses to “The Whole Auburn vs. Alabama thing”

  1. Hey, you forgot….WAR EAGLE!

  2. bamadawg1980 Says:

    I hope wearing red shirts and black pants is still allowed on Sunday mornings. 🙂

  3. I totally agree about your criticisms on both side of the fence. I try to be a good Auburn fan – I cheer vehemently for my team and will trash-talk with my friends but when the game is over, it’s over, and I move on with my life. It’s not that serious, people. Also, I would like to add one more “guideline” for both sides of the fence: if my spouse trash talks with you about a game, please don’t drag me into it. Yes, we are one-flesh, but I don’t control him or his beliefs about football. And you continuing the battle through me just 1) irritates me (if it’s in good sport) or 2) hurts my feelings (if you are being ugly about it). Thank you.

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