The Iron Bowl – Live it, Love it, Keep it special
“The Iron Bowl is 364 days of hatred and one day of hope.” – BamaGrad03
I was born and raised in Alabama. I was raised from birth to love college football. In Alabama you’re born as either an Alabama or Auburn fan. It’s on your birth certificate, right next to gender, before name because it’s more important. In my case, I was born into an Auburn family, so I’ve been a life-long Auburn fan. Being an Auburn (or Alabama) fan dictates that every… single… year… of your life you engage in a ritual called the “Iron Bowl”.
People I know who aren’t native to Alabama just don’t get it. Other sports rivalries generally involve teams and fans which, after playing, retreat to their respective areas and mingle only (or mostly) with like-minded fans. In Alabama, we have the rare pleasure of having two universities in close proximity with substantial enough college football programs to consistently attract the best talent football has to offer. Almost every year, Alabama or Auburn (or both) are good enough to be in National Championship discussions. And here you never, ever escape being surrounded by opposing fans. It’s a 24-7-365 rivalry which displays the best, and worst, of what being a college football fan can be.
But it’s these things that make the Iron Bowl special. The year-long trash talking, being refused service at restaurants and the added pressure of a national spotlight is too much for some fans to handle gracefully. I’ve literally seen families cease communication over this game. I’ll freely admit it wears on you, it’s sometimes hard to stay objective and be proud of both schools and their accomplishments which is what we should all strive to do. My fan motto is “never root against anyone” – and I’ve found that’s the best way to keep from being one of “those” fans. Make a “teams I like” list, and feel free to root for whichever team ranks higher on that list, but never root against any team that ranks lower. On my list, Auburn and Alabama rank #1 and #2, respectively. So I’ll root for Alabama when they’re not playing Auburn. In the end, both of these teams represent our state and ALL of us as college football fans even if they’re not our first choice within the state. So it’s ok to be proud of the other team’s accomplishments. It’s ok to not speak negatively of the other team, regardless of what you were taught as a child.
This year, as Alabama and Auburn fans, we should take a step back and consider this: You are part of the greatest rivalry in the history of sports. Take pride, show class and realize that without the “other” side this rivalry wouldn’t be special. We need each other. All of the negativity that you have to endure at the hands of obnoxious fans is what makes this rivalry different. And for all except one day each year it’s nothing more than trash talking. But THIS day is different. On THIS day the rivalry exists on the field. On THIS day it’s ok for all of us to take a deep breath, exist together and enjoy the highest level of college football anywhere. THIS is the Iron Bowl.