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The Smoking Barn - IRON BOWL

I turn 27 in three weeks, and I feel like a tired old grumpy man. Let's get this show on the road.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

(By the end of this, you're going to be very confused, probably angry. I'm going to lose all credibility, and I'm fine with that. You know, maybe just don't even read this. It's not even that important in the grand scheme of things, and let's face it—I feel like half the writer I was last season.)

It's been a long season, but for some of us on both sides, it's been a long decade. And while some of us have decided as of late that it's more fun to worry about political correctness, I've been over here taking inventory of the times as it pertains to Auburn football.

Unfortunately, I've discovered that it's just as exhausting, probably more offensive (unless you're talking about 2012, AMIRITE??? NO OFFENSE THERE, PAWWWLLL.), and definitely just as lonely at times. Sometimes, I stand over here in the corner with a shaker in hand and call out an apprehensive "War Eagle?" just to see if anyone still remembers what that feels like.

2005 to 2015. Or maybe 2004 to 2014. Shoot, even 2003-2013 if you really want to cherry pick. Doesn't matter. The range doesn't change much in the equation.

I've watched and endured many football seasons in that period of time. I've experienced my share of excitement, heartbreak, angst, nausea, euphoria, tears of joy—most of those things in the same game within five minutes of each other every Saturday (and a few Thursday nights)—from August to January, every year, for the last decade.

This Barner got two degrees in six (non-consecutive) years at Auburn—my cow college—which is less time than it takes some folks in this state to tie their shoes or Google the Bill of Rights or sit on a spitfire headline for the city's news outlet about the state of my alma mater's athletic program until the time is just right to hit the "Tweet" button.

In that time, my football team has been led by three different head coaches.

I saw Tuberville in the South College Walmart in December of 2008. I had an industrial-sized pack of toilet paper and a dinky old flip phone, but you bet your ass I got a picture with him behind the check-out line. I said, "Hope to see you next season, Coach." He left the next day. Some of you would've laughed at that in 2008, but funny how six wins in an expectation-filled season like this one makes some of those folks reminisce about what it was like to beat Alabama for six years straight under that same floppy-eared rascal and wonder why we ever let him go.

As a student, I watched that video of Gene Chizik asking the student body to go "All In," and I hated it. Not because it was fodder for the Gumps, but because it was unnecessary and silly. Harmless, but so, so silly. I didn't even know that much about Clemson at the time, but I immediately associated that with something they would do. Didn't matter. A championship/Heisman year in 2010 was still my crying shoulder when Clemson beat us in Atlanta in 2012 to signal the beginning of the end. Still love ya, Eugene.

When I met Gus Malzahn for the first time, I forgot what I was going to say, and all that came out was, "I love you," to which he replied, "...uh, haha, okay, War Eagle, man," or something like that. I can't's still very burry...but I was a walking stereotype.

Those first two didn't quite work out in the long term, and the last one is still around. He's having a rough time this season, but he's still our coach. I'm okay with that.

Sometimes you can't control things, and it leads to the weeping and gnashing of teeth, or in the case of the other fanbase, wishing you had a few more teeth to smile with as you try to figure out how to create a "U Mad?" meme over a GIF of Courtney Upshaw or a picture of Nick Saban. The Internet isn't for everyone.

Me? Oh, I've learned to shrug all of it off and look on the bright side, like the fact that I didn't meet Hunter Johnson until a tailgate before the 2013 Iron Bowl. I shook his hand while there was still daylight outside Jordan-Hare and mentioned—truthfully, mind you—that I loved his work. About four hours later, I was hugging and kissing everyone in a 5-mile radius while he was probably tweeting about how excited he was for basketball to start. Bammers love their basketball. #buckleup

You go to a school like Auburn, and you learn—even years after you've left—that these things come in waves. Six in a row meets 5-7. "The Rain Game" and Cam Newton meet 3-9. Miracles on the Plains meets, well, I don't think we've gotten there yet...hopefully, anyway.

And that's the beauty of it. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome, then this season might be a blessing in disguise. It's not that our fanbase needs to be knocked down a few pegs because we've become "entitled," and it's not that we need to circle the wagons and tell each other "War Eagle, anyway" after we lose a game. It's not that 2010 and 2013 were flukes or miracles or luck and we're faced with reality. No, it's not any of that.

You can call it whatever you want, but the bottom line is that we're not firing our head coach, we're not cleaning house, we're not dismissing a bunch of players, none of that. We're going to endure. That's it. Win or lose tomorrow, we're going to endure, and it's going to be the best thing. We need this. Let it settle.

Shake off the ping-pong pattern of the highest highs and the lowest lows. Reset. Gather our composure. Level this puppy out. Find some equilibrium.

The wave, for our part, is going to continue to ebb and flow—not crash.

Look, it'd be great if we won tomorrow, and I honestly believe that it's not impossible. I've seen stranger things happen. But based on the circumstances and the opinions and projections of the experts, I guess it's not likely. That doesn't mean, though, that I'm not going to pull for my Tigers until the final whistle blows, and in fact, I sealed my fate by predicting we'd win by 3 points yesterday. The difference for me now is that I think I'm beginning to see the big picture for once.

Don't get me wrong. If we win, I'm going to gloat. If we lose, it's going to suck. I'm not going to sit here and pretend that losing to Alabama is fun, or that I can just shake it off when it's over if I believe hard enough or say "War Eagle" enough to make it go away for the next 365 days. My love for my school will always trump everything else in this arena, but don't for one second think that losing to Alabama doesn't sting. Believe it or not, I have a little more respect for Alabama as an opponent to pretend I don't care about winning and losing in the Iron Bowl. It doesn't work that way.

But what I finally see is this (and it took this season for me to finally put it together): Alabama's wave is crashing.

Yep, go ahead. I can feel you shaking your head, scoffing, chuckling, all that. And I bet some of you are cracking your knuckles for some serious Barn hatin' in the comment section below. Go ahead. I don't care. I'm tired of this season, I'm tired of football, I'm tired of trying to pretend I know anything about football, because I don't, and I'm tired of trying to make you laugh. I'm tired of all of it. Period. Do your worst.

Do you remember what Six in a Row felt like? I mean, really felt like? During my four years of high school, I didn't once have to endure a loss to Alabama. It even carried over into my freshman year at Auburn. That's how glorious that streak was. Do you think a single Bama fan finds anything good about those six seasons? It doesn't matter how good those teams stacked up at the end of those years—they didn't beat Auburn. Don't even pretend like that didn't sting for the Crimson Tide faithful.

Six in a Row was incredible. Even 2009 wasn't that bad, and of course, 2010 was glorious. 2013 had a heartbreak ending, but I wouldn't trade the build-up for anything. And in that time, let's just be honest, Alabama has hung around. In fact, they've more than hung around. They've won championships.

Nick Saban is a machine of success. Period. Bama fans won't talk about the Shula years because they were a complete joke in comparison, and not even a funny joke. Do you remember the transition from Mike Shula to Nick Saban? Do you remember a guy named Mike Price? Nobody talks about these things because they're hilariously awful. Losing six games in a row to little brother and having to dismiss a head coach before he even leads the team out of the tunnel? Is it a mystery that those years have been magically erased from Bama history like a statue of Andrew Jackson on a college campus?

But Bama made it work. It took them six years of us being their daddy and a couple of seasons without a title for Nick Saban to finally hit pay dirt, but now he's putting together 10-win seasons with slightly-above average quarterbacks that run like a circus flamingo in the Vietnam jungle and magically gain 20 yards a carry. This isn't even one of his best teams all around since he got to Tuscaloosa, but thanks to his defense, it doesn't have to be.

Where is Blake Sims these days? Exactly...but he still beat Auburn.

And so it goes. But let's get one thing straight, here. It's not going to last forever. Sure, they might win another title, or two or three, or maybe nobody but Alabama wins the CFB Playoff for the next five years. It will end. It has to. It's the same reason we didn't have seven in a row—waves, man. Waves. And before you call me a sunshine pumper, because I know you, famb, and that's exactly how you've seen me all season, just zip your damn lip for a hot second.

Have you ever wondered why Alabama fans started perpetuating the hilarious theory that Auburn is only their second-biggest rival this season? Have you ever wondered why they spend more and more time each year talking about Auburn and caring about Auburn and worrying about our gimmicky high school offense? Did you find it odd that last night, we discovered that fun little fact about Alabama's allotted Iron Bowl tickets?

I know I sound like a 9/11 truther or Alex Jones or something, and I'm not saying that Bama fans can see the end coming or even acknowledge it, because frankly, it's probably not even that close, but even they know that the Saban dynasty is on the downhill slope. Sure, they can win a title this year, but it's not going to be anything like the three they've won in the last several years. They've gone two years without a National Championship. They've lost to Ole Miss twice in a row—the latest loss at Bryant-Denny to an Ole Miss team that might finish the season with four regular-season losses. They can't find an answer at the kicker position. Their primary offensive weapon, Derrick Henry, is probably going to go pro next season. Who replaces him? Kirby Smart is getting closer and closer to a head coaching position. Shoot, y'all. We hung 44 on them at Bryant-Denny last season in a loss. 44.

Is it the beginning of the end? You know, maybe, maybe not. Shoot, it's probably not. Doesn't matter when it starts. I guess the semi-point I'm trying to get at here in this sleep-deprived, turkey-induced, stream of consciousness/coma rant is this. We might win tomorrow, and it'll be awesome, and in fact, I'll probably gloat every single day about it just because of the whole second-biggest rival thing we've had to put up with all season. We might lose tomorrow, and in that case, it'll suck big time, and I'll be sour about it, but I'll come back and read this and remember what it's like to ride a wave.

Above all else, I'm just tired of it. I'm tired of keeping up with who did what and who said what and what the other fan base thinks and losing years off my life every Saturday. Maybe a season like this does that to a person. I'm willing to concede that. But I'm not sure it'd be much different if we were undefeated or only had 2 losses on our record. I'm. Just. Tired.

And believe me. Saban will tire, too. The success will not last forever. Just store up the smack talk and the insanity from Tuscaloosa from the last several years and whatever years are left on Saban's horizon, because while it royally sucks to live in a time when it seems like Bama won't ever lose another game, it is oh so glorious to watch them free fall from their pedestal. It's happened before, and it'll happen again. Maybe not tomorrow, this season, or next season, but eventually. It's their own doing, and it's glorious.

Don't you ever, ever forget it, either. Alabama fans deserve every single bit of what comes to them when we beat them or they don't win a title. Don't you ever let a Bammer tell you how you're supposed to conduct yourself after a win or loss. Don't you ever let yourself get trapped in the "class" argument. This is SEC football, y'all. It's the Iron Bowl. It's not a damn tea party. Football is violent, ugly, mean. Get tough or get the hell out.

Oh, it's pathetic and just like little brother to tweet "War Eagle anyways always" and talk about how great it is to be an Auburn Tiger after a loss? K, sure. I'll remember that the next time I walk anywhere in Birmingham wearing an Auburn shirt or use my Auburn Regions check card and have someone shout "Roll Tide" at me completely unprovoked. Sure. Just like in 2010 when my friend Lucas and I walked out of BDS after Camback to the same shouts. It was music to my ears—better than Jingle Bells before Christmas.

"Second-biggest rival?" That's crap. As if I had the time and effort to argue about semantics, but suddenly it seems they're offering more online classes in rhetoric at the Capstone these days, so I'll just sit back and let y'all try to convince me. It's cute, really.


Look, through it all, regardless of whether I write here or tweet or podcast, no matter how much I rant and rave and despair and thrive and pump my fist and shake my head, I'll always pull for Auburn no matter what. My support is not predicated on the success or failure of our athletic program, and while it's fun to win and awful to lose, nobody rides a wave of success forever—not even the Crimson Tide.

Beat Bama. War Damn Eagle.

Winner: Auburn...and me.

Opposing Team/Coach/Fanbase Hate Index: 10/10

Score Prediction: Auburn 34 Alabama 31

Because where there's smoke, there's fire, and I'll fire it up hot until the waves crash and the cows come home, baby.