On November 26, 2011, a die hard Auburn fan walked into an Opelika, Alabama Wal-Mart. As he entered, in full game day garb, a similarly dressed Alabama fan was walking out.
Eye contact was made but nothing was said. The Auburn fan looked away with a combination of shame and anger almost immediately. Simultaneously, he was thinking ahead to his Tigers' 2012 roster and wondering how Auburn could repay the Tide for that day's 42-14 defeat.
This kind of thing happens every single day in the state of Alabama.
To say that there is no love lost between Alabama and Auburn would be much more than an understatement. This is all-out, unadulterated hate. We would have it no other way.
They say that Alabama dreams of titles and Auburn just dreams of beating Alabama. In many ways, this is 100 percent true. To Auburn, Alabama is the New York Yankees and yankees of any kind are often frowned upon in the Deep South.
Alabama does win titles. 15 of them are of the national variety, while Auburn has just two. When the two meet each year for the annual Iron Bowl, each and every title is discussed, argued and debated to no end.
It is known as The Iron Bowl.
This rivalry does not have the extended history of many other in-state battles largely because the two teams did not play for over 40 years (from 1907-1948) primarily over a dispute over the selection of officials.
Only in 1948 did the Alabama House of Representatives encourage the schools to settle their differences and meet annually at Birmingham's Legion Field by threatening to withhold government funding from both institutions.
In the 76 meetings between the two schools, Alabama holds a 41-34-1 edge in the series. With each of those games, the mutual hatred between the two has boiled like a county fair peanut throughout the state.
This game goes beyond football. Alabama students have looked down on Auburn students for generations. More importantly, they don't even try to hide it.
Auburn is the stepchild of Alabama football. It is the little brother that needs to be reminded of his place in the food chain of life every so often.
Having said that, Auburn is the little brother that packs a pretty decent punch from time to time. The Tigers have won 17 of the last 33 meetings, after all.
Every time Auburn flexes a little muscle, Alabama takes great offense to it. Every time Alabama reasserts itself as the alpha dog in the relationship, envy and jealousy get the best of even the most distinguished of Auburn folk.
The state of Alabama does not have a professional franchise in any major sport. Football, to say the very least, is everything in Alabama. And we like it that way.
The vast majority of the Alabama population was born there. Very few have any interest in leaving, and family roots in Alabama go back for generations on end. Loyalty to one of the two schools goes back that far as well.
The Crimson Tide, by every measurable statistic and means, has dominated football in the state since the beginning of time. Sure, Auburn has had its day in the sun occasionally, but Alabama always manages to tighten its grip as the king of football just when Auburn starts to feel relevant.
Cries of "War Eagle" and "Roll Tide" echo throughout the state in every imaginable place. From offices to schools, from churches to playgrounds, loyalties are asserted.
Opposing political and religious affiliations can be forgiven with ease, but if you find yourself in the short end of an Iron Bowl party, you best have an emergency escape route in place.
It is said that upon moving to Alabama one must immediately "declare". Failure to choose sides is just plain uncouth.
College football is full of epic and revered rivalries. Border wars and civil wars are a great part of what makes college football what it is. None of them, however, live up to the 24 hour, 365 day a year fight that is the Iron Bowl.
Losing to Auburn leaves the Alabama nation with a scar that may fester for up to a decade before eventually healing. A loss to Alabama lives on the Auburn fan like a scarlet letter of humiliation long after the four seasons run their course.
Both "Bammers" and "Barners" agree on one thing. The Iron Bowl is everything. Win it and all other losses are forgiven. Lose it and the season is a bust, regardless of other outcomes.
One example of that is former Alabama head coach Bill Curry. Curry went 26-10 in three seasons at Alabama. Yet after losing to Auburn for a third consecutive time, Curry had bricks thrown through his windows and was relieved of his duties.
This Saturday, the rivalry will be renewed once again. With the two schools combining to win the last three BCS championships, the intensity has hit the fan in recent years.
And by winning two of those three titles and currently in position to play for yet another, Alabama has once again managed to knock Auburn off of the football porch in the Heart of Dixie.
As it has always been. As it should be.
Legendary Alabama coach "Bear" Bryant may have summed it up best. "Sure, I'd like to beat Notre Dame, don't get me wrong. But nothing matters more than beating that cow college on the other side of the state."
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