The Iron Bowl Rivalry: Who Do You Claim?


As an 19 year old Air Force ranked Airman Basic, or “slick sleeve” arriving at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, AL, I knew nothing of the rivalry that was Auburn versus, Alabama.  I had a great idea.  After all, I lived in Macon, GA for most of my life.  I grew up liking both.  My parents lived in Birmingham for many years, and had once lived in the same apartment complex as former Auburn quarterback, and Heisman winner, Pat Sullivan, in Vestavia Hills.  My dad recalls after meeting Sullivan a few times that “He was a really nice guy!”.  After that, my dad always paid attention to Auburn.  Living in the world of Dawgs, and for a time, Hawkeyes and Cyclones, Auburn was always a topic in our house.  Now, ultimately my dad is a Georgia fan, but he respects my connection and love for Auburn University.  I remember my mother wearing Alabama Crimson Tide sweatshirts, and talking about and respecting Bear Bryant.  She didn’t really care, or have a passion for the sport of it all, but she found the rivalry fun to watch and never took it further than that.  To this day, she asks how the teams are doing, but couldn’t tell you if Cam Newton played for either team on a given day.

After only a few days at Maxwell, the Physical Therapist I was working for at the time was an Auburn graduate and even made it clear that I was going to have to choose between the two eventually.  She jokingly referred to it as “an order”.  I did what any Airman Basic would do.  I followed that order.  I chose Auburn.  I chose Auburn because I’d been to each university.  I’d been to a football game at each one.  I enjoyed them both immensely.  So, why did I go Auburn?  It felt better.  I’d say it was because of classes, or because I was a graduate, but I wasn’t in a position at that time, or at a point where I was going to be a student.  It felt better, yes maybe, because I was in Montgomery, much closer to Auburn. Maybe it was because my friends were mostly Auburn fans.  It could be a lot of factors, but for me, I felt more at home, and more like family as an Auburn fan.  That feeling has never left.

I like the fact that sometimes being an Auburn fan in the State of Alabama is not always easy.  Sure, the memories and the fun of beating Alabama more than we lose to them for decades is fantastic, but in a short memory and false sense of strength society that is the Alabama media, you’re never left unchallenged.  I’ve always respected The University of Alabama, but for a large number of their fans, I’ve always felt they took the easy way into the rivalry.  Their diddy prolly put a hat like Bear’s on their head the moment they took their first breath.  Mom and Dad didn’t know any other sports stories that didn’t involve Crimson Tide overtures.  They just didn’t, don’t know any better, or never had a choice anyway.  For that matter, I know there are Auburn fans created the same way.  Probably never destined to be able to attend either university, but will defend their respective choice to a bloody knuckle end if necessary.

I’m proud to be an Auburn fan, because I go to the games (as many as I can anyway), and get to see all the outstanding young men and women dressed to the hilt, and having a blast.  I enjoy walking through campus with my wife and seeing all the places that have molded my memories of seasons past, and keeping some stories to myself…eh hem.  In the end, I never get tired of seeing Toomer’s Corner dressed in white after a big win or event.  Seeing knee high tricycle motors (kids) running like mad for the chance to toss just one scrap of paper into the trees that must look like massive giants at that age.   I can’t shake the memories of the roars of the crowds as Cadillac took it to the house against Bama on the first play from scrimmage.  I can’t shake the feeling I had watching Team 105 (Takeo Spikes, Ricky Neal) at MY first Auburn game in person in ’97.  I can’t shake the excitement that swells up when I see a band, four wide and hundreds deep, slowly make their way out of the tunnel in Jordan-Hare stadium and march around the stadium, letting everyone know something’s about to go down shortly.  The feeling of pride when our eagle’s take flight and bring the crowd to a collective War Eagle pre-game.  For that matter, it’s the pride of knowing we’re giving the opposing fans a great show and providing them with memories.  You don’t see eagle flights at all games, and it’s one of the first things people bring up to me when telling me about their experiences coming to Auburn football games as opposing fans.

Fact is, I can go on and on.  Another fact is, that most fans of other schools can too.  That’s a fair point.  The rivalry is created from one team believing their team, or game experience is better than the other one.  Unfortunately too many bring the rivalry into personal fights that mean one person is better than the other person because of the school they choose to root for.  I have Z E R O sympathy for those folks.  They ruin the rivalry.  They don’t stoke it, provide for it, or prove anything one way or the other for it.  It’s just one jerk versus another jerk at some point.

Auburn University is a special place for me, and one that I hope I can share with my child arriving later this year.  I only hope that I can provide the basis for them to choose on their own why, or who they want to support.  Doing so will ensure they are able to chose wisely and one day give a solid reason for feeling the way they do.

Thank God, I was able to choose.  I chose wisely for me.  War Eagle forever.