By Brit Blalock
When you grow up in Alabama, the phrase “Iron Bowl” simultaneously strikes fear in your heart and stirs up the butterflies in your stomach. Over the years, both sides of the ball have realized one truth about the rivalry: anything can happen. It doesn’t matter if your team lost the majority of its games during a season; winning the Iron Bowl brings near complete redemption. It provides bragging rights for 364 days, and it lets you walk a little taller in the great state of Alabama.
As a kid raised in the Heart of Dixie, I’m pretty sure I learned to say “Roll Tide” before “I love you.” (And really, the former can be used in place of the latter in certain circumstances.) I like to tell people that “Roll Tide” is like “Aloha” because you can use it for any number of greetings. If you’ve seen the Roll Tide commercial on ESPN, it will probably both thrill and shock you to learn that it is 100% accurate. I own somewhere around 25+ articles of Alabama clothing, and I even have plans to get a ridiculously tacky and redneck Alabama “A” tattoo with a close friend of mine. (The details of this decision involve an excessive amount of whiskey and the supreme ecstasy that comes along with winning back to back national championships.)
Somehow, though, I ended up becoming best friends with an Auburn fan. We’re both die-hards. We watch football games not with our eyes, but with our entire beings. (When I lived in NYC, my girlfriend used to host parties called “Come watch Brit watch football.”) My bff and I foam at the mouth over big games and new recruits. And miraculously, we’ve created a relationship of mutual respect for the rivalry. Perhaps, it’s easy for us to disagree on this one topic because we hardly ever disagree on anything else. If we rooted for the same team, our friendship might be TOO perfect. Every year after Thanksgiving, though, we both retreat to our separate sides of the aisle and hunker down with “our own kind.”
Without having ever discussed it, we’ve created some rules about interacting both before and after this momentous game:
1) Don’t heckle the other person before the game. This isn’t too difficult as there’s just bad mojo behind heckling the other team before a big game. We’ve both seen enough disappointing losses to know it’s not a good idea.
2) Refrain from any major social media posting both during and after the game. Nothing sets people off more than a triumphant Facebook post. While this isn’t the policy of most Alabama/Auburn fans, my best friend and I seem to have a little more social media control during the most emotional moments. A simple “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle” (or something similar) upon victory is acceptable, though.
3) We don’t discuss the game. We don’t talk about the bad calls or the injuries or really any of it. We acknowledge that the game happened, and that’s about as far as the conversation goes.
These may seem like crazy guidelines that take out all of the fun in cheering for a team, but you have to understand: this is Alabama vs. Auburn. This is the kind of rivalry that ruins romantic relationships and friendships, puts you at odds with your weird cousin who decided to attend the opposing university, and generally makes people act batshit crazy.
In order to survive the rivalry, you have to respect it first.