Sports in Paradise By Dale Jones
You have heard the old joke that says, “My favorite two college football teams are Alabama and whoever is playing Auburn.” This joke, like pretty much any other Alabama / Auburn joke can be easily turned around.
It is not difficult to find fans in these parts that love their team and their team only, and when it comes to the other school, there is simply no love lost.
Will things be different on January 10, 2011? Will those die-hard Bama fans who scream roll tide even after the national anthem is played at their child’s piano recital, who have houndstooth hats, shirts, gloves, boxers, and shower curtains, who’s car horn plays “Yea, Alabama,” and who would cross the street in front of on-coming traffic to avoid speaking to a little old lady in an Auburn t-shirt – will these fans somehow find it in their heart to pull for the Tigers in the national championship game?
Let’s think about it for a minute.
I know both Alabama and Auburn fans that would never pull for Tennessee if they were to find their way into the national title game. Others would pull for the Vols simply because of their ties to the SEC.
But that is Tennessee. We are talking about Alabama and Auburn, without a doubt the most intense rivalry in all of college football.
The circumstances, however, and the results, should Auburn come away victorious, will likely never happen again in our lifetime.
Last year, Alabama ran the table. They went undefeated in the SEC, undefeated in the regular season, beat the Gators in the SEC championship, and finished off their national championship season with a 37-21 win over Texas.
On top of that, Mark Ingram won the school’s first Heisman Trophy. The millions that Alabama invested in Coach Nick Saban paid off in only his third season.
Fast forward one year later, and now the Auburn Tigers are in the same situation.
An undefeated season, undefeated in the SEC, SEC champs, another Heisman Trophy winner, and the opportunity to win the national championship with a victory over the Ducks.
Back-to-back national championships and back-to-back Heisman winners? Seriously?
Not only does this speak volumes for the continued dominance of the SEC, but what does it say about our state?
On a typical Friday night in the Fall, you do not have to drive very far to find a high school stadium with a future Tide or Tiger player finishing up his high school career, getting ready to move on to bigger and better things.
We have quality programs in this state and it is exemplified by what we are now seeing in Tuscaloosa and on the Plains.
I know it will be difficult for true Alabama fans to pull for the Tigers, but do we really want the SEC reign to end? Do we not want to see back-to-back championships to come to our state where we now have back-to-back Heisman winners?
More importantly, do we really want the trophy to go to Oregon?
Pull up a chair at any sports bar in the state, come January 10, and no doubt, this question will be answered.
Hit ‘em straight
—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