Sports in Paradise By Dale Jones
I spent the early part of this decade living in the Hattiesburg, Mississippi area. One day on the golf course, a buddy of mine asked me to explain to him this “whole Alabama and Auburn thing.”
I asked him what he meant?
He told me he had never seen such a heated rivalry than affected so many different aspects of life.
So here is basically what I told him:
It’s like this – in the State of Alabama, you are assigned a team at birth. It matters not what part of the state in which you reside. Sex, race, eye color, hair color, economic class, none of that matters. What matters most is who your parents are for, and how strongly they want to guide you in the “right direction.” By the time you are able to walk or talk or tie your own shoes, you have become a Tide or a Tiger fan. Few of us remember the day that we “decided” to be a fan of one school or the other. The reason being, our decision was made for us long before we even knew what a football was.
There are Alabama fans who will choose to attend Auburn, and Tiger fans who will enroll at Tuscaloosa. Where they go to school changes nothing, because it has been instilled in their mind as to which team they should pull for.
My friend looked at me, with a dumbfounded look on his face and he asked, “Well, what if someone decides to change? You know, decides to pull for the other team?”
Suddenly, the look of wonderment came to my brow.
I don’t think that has truly ever happened before. Not to a real football fan, anyway.
Suddenly, in a tone of voice that sounded eerily like Tom Hanks I shouted, “There’s no changing in Alabama! You can’t change from one team to the other! Once a Tide fan – always a Tide fan. Once a Tiger fan, always a Tiger fan.”
It matters not that your star player sold his textbooks to a non-athlete, or that your coach has yet to win an Iron Bowl. So what if your team is on probation or if your athletics director is warming up the jet to visit another coach tomorrow? Whether your team has a dozen national championships or only went .500 the year before, two Heisman trophies or one, none of it matters.
Ranking? Doesn’t matter. Look at last year’s game.
Schedule? Yeah, right. This is the SEC.
Home field? Again, it obviously doesn’t matter.
I will make my prediction in just a moment, but I tend to agree with Coach Nick Saban who said earlier in the week that, “It says a lot for the football in this state to have two teams of this caliber playing.”
Folks, do you realize that we very well could have last years National Champs and Heisman winner playing against this years National Champs and Heisman winner on Friday?
Whether you bleed red and white, or you consistently use orange and blue toilet tissue, there has probably never been a better time than right now to be EITHER an Alabama fan or an Auburn fan. This is impressive stuff.
So – who is going to win?
I think there will be a single hero in this game. Who that will be remains to be seen because there are so many options. Cam? McElroy? Dyer? Ingram? Julio? McCaleb? I don’t know, but somebody – one individual, is going to step up and become the hero on Friday afternoon.
I honestly think both defenses are going to be vulnerable to two potent offenses. I expect fireworks, and at the end of the day, just like last season, the team with the ball at the end of the game is likely to win.
In one of the best Iron Bowls we have ever witnessed, Auburn 45 – Alabama 41.
—Dale Jones is a reporter / sports columnist for Gulf Coast Newspapers and a Member of the Alabama Sports Writers Association. You can reach Dale at firstname.lastname@example.org