The Iron Bowl is special to me, not just because I'm supposed to hate Alabama, but because it was this very event that originally piqued my interest into Auburn football. I figured I'd stay up the night of the 2007 Iron Bowl just to see what all the fuss was about -- my distant family's advice finally worked. I was about to experience college football 4,500 miles away for the first time. I wanted to know why this 'thumb' was so feared.
The '07 game itself wasn't the most exciting; in fact, it was a defensive battle all the way. Auburn's Tommy Tuberville outlasted Alabama's Nick Saban, and the Tigers' series winning streak extended to six. Staying up until 4 a.m. to watch a sporting event seemed weird at the time, but even after only a few hours sleep, I woke up the next day and I didn't mind it one bit.
Suddenly, my fandom of Auburn sports grew. Slowly, I began to watch more games, one of which each year was the Iron Bowl, which I've watched every year since '07. For some reason, that game was a must-watch every single year, and I understood why.
From there on out, the Iron Bowl continued to be an afternoon matchup, although because of time difference, it ended up being an early evening game for me, which of course wasn't all bad. I prefer night atmospheres (even whilst watching on the television) but at least I could catch up on sleep.
I've spent some time in Alabama, and I've been able to take a much closer look at this rivalry. The lack of professional sports in the state shows, as probably every other person I've seen on my visits has been wearing some sort of Alabama/Auburn gear.
The results of the Iron Bowls following 2007 were, of course, mixed. But in terms of memories, nothing can really beat 2010. It was a strange day for me; Auburn was 11-0, guaranteed a spot in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, but I knew deep down -- that late in the season -- that they had to stay undefeated to have a chance of making the national title game.
When news broke of Cam Newton coming out to the songs "Take The Money And Run" and "Son Of A Preacher Man" in Bryant-Denny Stadium, it felt -- dare I say it -- almost typical. In a rivalry like this, in a season like that, animosity was to be expected out of the enemy. That's why the Iron Bowl is appealing. The goofiness of the move didn't shine through straight off the bat, but I felt as though it was shaping up to be a classic. There's a large amount of hypo-criticism in this rivalry, stemming from both sides. In English Football rivalries, it's just pure hate and little leeway between fans. Fans would rather beat the living hell out of each other -- if you've seen the movie Green Street Hooligans, you'll get where I'm coming from. Where in this case, fans love to one up each other and have those special bragging rights.
Perhaps these are similarities after all? Anyway, I digress.
The sickness that was felt after Auburn went 24-0 down was indescribable. The sheer ugliness of what I was witnessing felt almost surreal. To watch a team come back so many times in one season suddenly felt impossible. That Tide team was high on confidence and on the scoreboard, and it just felt like a big boot in the gut. A comeback seemed just about impossible.
After Auburn scored its first touchdown of the day, halftime struck. I suddenly felt much better about this game. Suddenly, a 24-0 deficit was reduced to 24-7, and it didn't seem such a hard task. Even though I was distraught at the scoreline, considering the way the second half eventually turned out, my good feeling wasn't unwarranted.
It's what makes this rivalry so unique. Even though some of the off-field actions by some (I'm looking at you, Al/Harvey) have been over the top, the unpredictability of this matchup is what keeps fans on their toes. Despite Auburn's severe underdog role in this years Iron Bowl, and the result only heading one way, the rivalry will still stick out to me as one of the best in sports. Slowly but surely, I've come to understand it.
The only thing left is to enjoy an Iron Bowl, live with my fellow College And Mag brethren and sistren. Then, I'll have seen it all.