Duke vs. North Carolina.
Ali vs. Frazier.
We all know how intense sports rivalries can be—but until you visit the state of Alabama, you can't comprehend the excitement that burns for the annual Iron Bowl.
The matchup between The University of Alabama and Auburn University is about as fierce as any rivalry can possibly get.
To any naysayers who may question the passions involved in the Iron Bowl—believe me, it's insane...and that's coming from an outsider.
My family moved to Alabama when I was nine. Lucky for me, we moved just in time to enjoy the winter holidays—Halloween, Iron Bowl Week, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
On my first day at my new school, my teacher invited me to tell the class a little about myself. The introduction quickly turned into a heated Q&A session.
Firstly, none of the other kids liked the fact that I admitted to being a Tennessee fan. Secondly, they demanded that I choose a new favorite team: either Auburn or Alabama.
Trying to make as many new friends as possible, I did what any nine-year-old would have done:
I chose both teams.
Apparently that was the wrong thing to say, seeing that I sparked a verbal war—not directed at me, but rather between all of my classmates.
These fourth graders were screaming at the top of their lungs, debating who was better between Bo Jackson or Joe Namath. I was the buyer and my classmates were individual auctioneers trying to get me to "buy" their teams.
I kind of felt like this kid.
To this day, it's not unusual to be asked that dreaded three-worded question, "Auburn or Alabama?"
You can usually tell who the questioner roots for based on which team he mentions first—if he isn't already wearing orange and blue or crimson and white, that is.
Think Harry Potter and the "unmentionable" name of Voldemort—it's kinda like that.
The Iron Bowl got its name because of a dispute over where the rivalry game should be played. The programs finally settled on neutral Birmingham—an iron and steel city.
Thus the "Iron Bowl" was born.
The two schools have since agreed to make the game a more traditional home-and-home rivalry, alternating between Tuscaloosa and Auburn each year.
Outside of location, though, the schools still argue over everything imaginable.
Wait...they argue over cheerleaders?
You'd better believe they argue over cheerleaders.
A few years ago, Auburn male cheerleader Christopher Bailey transferred to Alabama to cheer alongside his girlfriend.
When word got out, the entire state was in an uproar.
Auburn fans were upset that a loyal supporter had left the program. Alabama fans didn't want an Auburn cheerleader anywhere near their campus, much less cheering on Bama's sidelines.
To make matters worse, the Crimson-clad Bailey dared to let out a "War Eagle!" (Auburn's battle cry) during a sideline interview.
After the entire state picked its jaw up from the ground, the University of Alabama reportedly relieved Bailey from his cheering duties.
In other words, he was fired from the cheerleading squad.
For all that hullabaloo, though, the best thing about Iron Bowl week is the creative trash-talking that goes on in the memorabilia market.
Bama fans also have pretty cool hats that pay tribute to legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant's houndstooth headware.
Before last year's game, Auburn's "Fear the Thumb" shirts were a hot item. The Tigers were looking for their fifth straight Iron Bowl victory.
I know Alabama fans are sick of watching Auburn fans count victories on their fingers. I've even overheard a few Tide fans promoting possible shirt ideas should Bama win—à la Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn.
Some other historic facts about the Iron Bowl, in case you feel like quizzing your fellow tailgaters...
-In 1893, Auburn won the inaugural game 32-22.
-After a 1907 Iron Bowl tie, the two schools argued over a questionable formation, referees, and hotel allowances. Each side was stubborn enough to go 40 years without playing the game.
-This Saturday will be the 72nd matchup in Iron Bowl history.
-Alabama leads the all-time series 38-32-1.
-During the 1972 Iron Bowl, Auburn blocked two fourth-quarter punts and returned both for touchdowns, giving the Tigers a 17-16 win in a game that's now known simply as "Punt Bama Punt."
-The longest win streak in Iron Bowl history belongs to Alabama, who won nine games from 1973-1981.
-Alabama is winless in Tuscaloosa (both at the UA Quad and Bryant-Denny Stadium) in six tries against Auburn.
-This year's Iron Bowl is only the ninth in history in which both teams come in off a loss.
The Iron Bowl rivalry has been named the best in all of sports by some publications. In others, it ranks securely in the Top 10.
But I'm not here to debate where the Iron Bowl lands on rivalry lists—I'll let you decide that on your own.
The 2007 Iron Bowl can be seen this Saturday on ESPN at 8:00 PM EST, broadcast from Auburn University's Jordan-Hare Stadium.
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