THE In-State Rivalry

I will probably attract the ire of my fellow columnists and any loyal Gator readers for this, but no game on the college football schedule is as intense year to year than the the Iron Bowl.  Alabama-Auburn is all this state has and all it has ever wanted.  Sure, national interest dips in and out based on how the teams are doing, but the Iron Bowl is almost bigger than Jesus in this state.  I’d wager that most fans of both programs will claim that Jesus sides with them (we all know that Jesus gave Tebow to Florida, so this is obviously a delusion for Alabama and Auburn fans).  How do I know this and have the eggs to proclaim such on a Gator blog site?  Well, I owe much of my rabid fandom of football, in particular SEC and Gator football, to my coming up in Bama (yes, that’s how we say it when growing up in the South).

I will never forget my first day of sixth grade.  Terrel was the first new classmate to greet me when I moved to Birmingham from Orlando.  In a true show of southern hospitality, he approached me, the new kid, shook my hand and said his name.  Before a tenth of a second passed after shyly getting my name out, he had already asked the most important question: Are you an Alabama or Auburn fan?  The answer to this question does not classify you as friend or foe, but it merely frames who you are.  I believe it may have also been a question on the enrollment form for Alabama public schools.  A non-answer, like ‘neither’ or some other team outside of the state would have sent my social life into a tailspin on day 1.  Thankfully, I had an answer ready.  This was not due to a debriefing before my first day, but all due to being the son of an Alabama native.  Half of my wardrobe and seemingly every photograph bore the color Crimson or big ‘A.’  I knew who I was before the question was asked.  I had been unknowingly preparing for it all my life.

25 years later, while the game is different for me as my affections are monogamously for the Gators, the game is no different for the state of Alabama.  Usually, your ‘side’ is picked for you by birth, but if you are not born into Roll Tide or War Eagle, you better figure it out if you want to reside in the state.

Today’s game will have great national attention.  In Alabama, they don’t care if the nation is watching this year or any other year.  This is their nation.  The winner is #1 for the next 364 days.  The loser will be subject to being reminded of who is #2 when the winner wants to decide an argument, hurt your feelings, or just wipe that smug smile off your face.

I can’t wait for my big rivalry game against the hated Noles tomorrow, but today belongs to the Iron Bowl.  I have the 22-page preview in the newspaper and the radio pregame show that started at 7:30 AM as proof.

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