Sunday, November 24, 2019

2019 Iron Bowl: It's that time of year again

Ahh, Thanksgiving. Turkey & fixin's on Thursday, a mad grab for material reward on Friday and the most uncivil civil war on Saturday. Then triage and hangover-nursing (for some) on Sunday.

Look at the history of the series. The average margin of victory is about 16 points. In the College Football Playoff era, the margin has been 17 but the BCS era was closer with a margin of 12.5. Alabama owns the only blowout victories in recent history, all in the Nick Saban era. There was a 36-0 shutout to end the Tommy Tuberville regime in 2008. Then 42-14 in 2011; then 49-0 in 2012 to end Gene Chizik's head coaching career and last year's 52-21 beatdown.

Rivalry games are always emotional. In a rivalry this heated, this bitter and this intense, the rivals’ adrenaline lasts a little longer than the first quarter.

A lot the players in this game are from the state of Alabama. They probably played against each other in high school and may have even played against each other in pee wee leagues. Their families know each other. They’ve gone to the same churches, the same schools and played on the same playgrounds. Sooner or later the two teams will settle in and just play football, but this game is always a little more intense than other rivalries.

Almost all of the fans in this state know each other. We work together. We live in the same neighborhoods. We worship together, shop together and share the road with each other. A big percentage of us all are related to one another, too. I have cousins and in-laws who have crossed over to the Dark Side, for some mysterious reason (I do pray for them; you should, too). Civil wars are always like this.

For most of the three months of college football's regular season, we kind of look at each other a little differently. For the other nine months we tolerate each other. For one holiday weekend, we hardly speak to one another and rarely about the Iron Bowl.

For about 3-1/2 hours on that Saturday afternoon, it's war.

The stakes for the 2019 installment are pretty high. Alabama still has a good chance to make its sixth straight appearance in the College Football Playoff. With three losses already, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn is probably coaching for his job. Win this game and he probably comes back. Lose it, and he probably doesn't.

For us fans, there's just the Braggin' Rights thing and the schadenfreude pleasure of wearing the T-shirts, sporting the bumper stickers and sharing the memes on social media. Win or lose life will go on. We'll keep working together, worshipping together and living together because it's... just a football game.


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