It’s Iron Bowl day, baby!

This is more than a football game in my home state of Alabama — it’s time to face off for 365 days of braggin’ rights!

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the year the Crimson Tide finally came to play in Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. I was just days away from graduating, so I remember it vividly.

Game Day Collision at Jordan-Hare

I lived in a crappy little one-room efficiency apartment at the time. I made the long walk across the ROTC field (which is no longer a field today) to the stadium, with a bourbon and coke in a red solo cup in hand. The excitement was in the air. The guest parking lots were packed full of trucks and RVs with the dreaded red and white signage of the long-anticipated invaders.

For as long as I could remember, we had played this annual game at Birmingham’s Legion Field, which was called a neutral field despite Tuscaloosa being just a short drive. Essentially, Bama had always held a home-field advantage by virtue of proximity. They had won 34 games, we prevailed in 19.

The Tide seemed scared to play an actual away game on our home turf. But it was finally happening, and we all couldn’t wait to send them home licking their wounds.

I made my way down South Donohue Drive, just one body in a horde of people all headed in the same direction.

As I crossed the street, along with everyone else, at what’s now called the Thach Concourse, the final block away from the stadium, a motorcycle came out of nowhere and struck me.

My body literally went flying.

The Auburn apparel-clad fan abandoned his bike right in the street and hopped off to check on me, apologizing profusely. He wasn’t going all that fast, but after suddenly accelerating, he had to unexpectedly swerve to avoid hitting someone else. I failed to see him change course, leading to our unpleasant meeting.

It hurt badly, I won’t lie. I shook it off and got to my feet, telling him it was okay and I was okay. He apologized again.

A pack of Tuscaloosa frat boys happened by at that moment, one of them drunkenly shouting, “If it was me, I’D KICK HIS ASS!”

Thankfully, I wasn’t him.

The most upsetting part for me was that my drink spilled, half on my jersey, half in the gutter. I had at least 50 more steps before I would have had to discard it at the stadium gate. That’s two or three more sips! Such a tragedy.

I looked down to find myself hobbling a bit. I momentarily questioned whether I should maybe go to the hospital…

WHAT?! THAT’S INSANE! The friggin’ first Iron Bowl with Bama coming to Auburn was about to happen!”

Once inside, I struggled to find my friends. I looked for them in the usual place. I don’t really remember the details. I was kind of still shaken up by getting run over in the street. I don’t even remember much about the game.

The next thing I recall, 30 years after the fact, was hooking up with my friends at Bubbles and Brews out on Wire Road, I think. Or was it Momma Goldberg’s? It’s hard to retrace my steps since Auburn has grown so dramatically and they’ve changed the names of roads.

Anyway, I was hurting pretty badly by then since I was completely sober. I was angry at my friends for not being where they usually sat (we didn’t have cell phones on us back then). But I was riding high on beating Alabama, and a few beers made me feel less injured. The next day I woke up sore AND hungover. But still giddy about the win.

When I walked across the stage to get my diploma, I had the score of that football game, 30-20, cut out in paper and taped to my mortarboard.

Celebrating with Aubie on the sidelines after beating Alabama in the Iron Bowl

Three decades of great college football

In the years since, I went to a lot of Auburn football games, using those media passes I fought for as a newspaper staffer to go do photos along the sidelines. I’ve watched Alabama defeat Auburn in our stadium, which of course hurts. They kind of earn your hate when they start taunting you with that obnoxious Rammer Jammer cheer: “Hey Auburn, We-Just-Beat-the-HELL-Out-ta-You…” 

Charming.

It just makes it all the sweeter when you beat them in Tuscaloosa and get to taunt them right back with a taste of their own medicine as they filter out of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama moved their home games in the series to Bryant–Denny Stadium in 2000, when Auburn came to Tuscaloosa for the first time since 1901 and beat them 9–0. In fact, they didn’t beat us in their own stadium until 2008. We beat them SIX YEARS IN A ROW, 2002 to 2008. Good times…

They won three in a row until 2017, when we deprived the #1 ranked Tide of a chance to play for the SEC Title. The loss did not ultimately prevent Alabama from winning the national title, marking the first time that either school went on to win a national championship after losing the Iron Bowl.

It’s less fun when the rivalry is one-sided.

From 1973 to 1981, Alabama clobbered Auburn. My sister was sitting with my uncle Travis (also an Auburn alum) in the Legion Field stands on November 27, 1982 when Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson went over the top on a fourth-down play from the one-yard line to win it 23-22. Travis reportedly learned over and told her, “The universe has been restored to its rightful order.”

Bama Hate Week 2019

Today, Alabama enters Jordan-Hare Stadium as a fearsome threat, but they’ve still never beaten a ranked Auburn team when playing inside Auburn, Alabama.

Alabama has been so scary-good in recent years that most of the country roots for Auburn out of sheer hatred for the Crimson Tide. They’re easy to hate for their lack of humility, long experienced by Auburn fans who’ve lived our whole lives with snobs looking down their noses at us, calling us a cow college and other insults. It goes way beyond football to culture and issues of social class.

Auburn folks aren’t all farmers, but we’re more or less everyday regular people; there are always exceptions and people I’m ashamed to share an alma mater with. There are jerks of all stripes. Our state’s politicians go through a machine in Tuscaloosa. At Alabama, the greek system rules. Generally, Bama grads have always been the rich kids at your high school who grow up to become the divorce attorneys in your town, walking around in bow ties, pretentious jerk frat boy types who like to brag that they would’ve kicked that guy on the motorcycle’s ass! Of course, you would’ve, Chad.

I’m kidding, of course. Don’t get offended. You hate us too.

Hate tempered by respect

I can hate Alabama football, but still respect what they’ve accomplished. I am in awe of their trophy case.

I just wish our state could achieve the same excellence in things that actually matter, like improving health care, education, the economy, lowering crime, and offering more opportunities to our citizens.

I make fun of Bama fans because trash-talk is a big part of tradition.

The most deserving of ridicule are the Bama fans who’ve never stepped a foot in Tuscaloosa but share the name of a state with the school’s name so they act all obnoxious because what the hell else do they have to brag about in their miserable lives? I exaggerate, but in some cases, it’s true. They use that money they saved by not paying tuition anywhere to amass quite a collection of Alabama-themed tattoos.

I’m not saying that you can’t cheer on a school if you never attended it; just don’t act obnoxious if you’ve never belonged as an alum. You’re just a spectator, Mary.

A few years ago, my sister (also an Auburn alum) and I were friends with this guy despite him being one of the most obnoxious Bama fans ever. He was friends of our brother at Jacksonville State. Yet the guy had a giant Alabama A logo on the side of his house. Funny guy, but he would literally get so mad if the Tide struggled in a televised game that he would take his television outside and toss it from his porch into his yard! One season, I think he went through four TV sets. Moron…

I don’t mind actual Bama graduates as much as the guilt-by-association crowd that just want to ride Nick Saban’s coat-tails. A lot of those folks suddenly switched to being Auburn fans after we won another National Championship in 2010, then turned again. Everybody wants to be a winner. The actual Bama grads, we tease each other about the rivalry, but it’s those other folks who end up stabbing you at the pub on Iron Bowl Saturday. Or poisoning your trees.

Yeah, I’m talking bout you, Harvey Updyke fans!

Every time I hear about some rivalry-related incident in the news, I say to myself, “Please don’t let the Auburn guy be the one who did something stupid…” Bama fan teabagging a passed out LSU fan at Krystal’s in the French Quarter? Yes, please, more of this making them all look like douchebags.

I actually think the campus in Tuscaloosa is gorgeous, and I’ve had some good times there in “T-Town.” I count Alabama graduates among some of my good friends, the Iron Bowl amounting to little more than an annual game that we celebrate one day out of the whole year.

My cousin-in-law, Linda, who works with me at the newspaper and was a scholarship volleyball player at Bama, she and I were trying to think of a good fun bet we could make on the outcome of today’s game. We couldn’t think of anything that we’d be able to tolerate if our team lost. She wasn’t too into my suggestion that the loser has to get the other’s logo cut into their haircut.

Rivals making each other better

For the first time since 2011, the winner of this football game will not be playing in the SEC Championship Game due to LSU recently beating Alabama to remain undefeated. For the first time since Nick Saban’s first season in Tuscaloosa, this game is exclusively about bragging rights. 

As much as I prefer the Crimson Tide that changed coaches every three or four years (Mike DuBose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, Mike Shula, Joe Kines), the reality is that strong programs in Tuscaloosa and Auburn have helped both teams and both schools. Strong antagonists always make for better stories and give us the motivation to rise to the challenge.

Here’s how the Wikipedia page for the Iron Bowl describes it…

Together, they account for 33 SEC titles, 25 with Alabama and eight with Auburn. Both are among the winningest programs in major college football history; Alabama has won 17 national championships and is fifth all-time total wins among Division I FBS schools while Auburn is 13th with two national championships. The two schools have been fixtures on national television for the better part of the last four decades, and the season-ending clash has been nationally televised for all but one year since the late 1970s.

Between them, one of the two teams played in the final five BCS National Championship Games, with Alabama winning in 2009, 2011, and 2012 and Auburn winning in 2010 and losing in 2013. Alabama has also made the four-team field of the successor to the BCS, the College Football Playoff, in each of its first five editions, losing in a semifinal in 2014, winning the title game in 2015 and 2017, and losing the title game in 2016 and 2018.

In other words, we’ve had some very elite college football teams in our state over the past decade. Alabama has been so good, in fact, that one wonders how much longer the good times can last for them.

Usually, there’s NCAA probation by now to even things out. I guess as long as the boosters keep dolling out the wheel barrels full of cash for Nick Saban to stick around as a hired gun. He’s so good that they haven’t had to cheat in order to dominate. They simply restock every year with kids who could be playing in the NFL. It’s almost unfair to put them on the same field as some kid from Western Kentucky.

30 years later – here we go again

So, 30 years after the big game, I still hate Alabama. Hate is a strong word I reserve for truly hate-worthy things.

Not a hatred with the same intensity that I used to feel, and I don’t really dislike anyone who simply graduated in Tuscaloosa who has the good sense to not get all douchey about how good the school’s football team is.

Rather, I dislike the Bama fans who get so obnoxious and hateful that they really badly need to lose some games so they’ll get taken down a few notches. The same ones who couldn’t let Auburn fans enjoy winning a national title in 2010 without accusing us of cheating just because they were losers. You know the ones I am talking about — you see them on the TV when they lose a game, pouts on their faces, tears in their eyes. The ones who walk around for a week mourning like their granny just died.

The Iron Bowl is just a game. And way WAY more!

May the best team win and all of those young men and the fans attending the game leave the stadium healthy. 

Update: Auburn won the game! Alabama’s kicker missed a field goal attempt, giving the Tigers the ball back while ahead 3 points at the end. It was a high-scoring affair with some spectacular plays made. A classic! 

Summary
Event
1989 Iron Bowl
Location
Auburn, Alabama, 251 S Donahue Drive,Auburn,Alabama-36849
Starting on
December 2, 1989
Ending on
December 2, 1989
Description
Alabama travels to Auburn for the first time ever.
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