As the old cheer goes, our side is up and your’s is behind. This game means something, really means something.
As important as all this, Alabama’s annual Iron Bowl is not a closed affair. This is not a private party. The rest of the nation is watching.
We expect even dedicated college football fans from other parts of the country to marvel at the intensity of the players, the coaches and, yes, the fans … especially the fans.
These novices must wonder about the carefully observed rituals. Why invest so much in a football game, they might wonder? In financial terms, those grand structures in Tuscaloosa and Auburn where the game is contested did not come cheap.
Then, there’s the emotional investment. That, too, is apparent when visiting the football stadiums. Legendary coaches and players of previous years are honored, their countenances forever frozen in artwork. This is how we wish to remember our heroes, youthful and victorious.
The fans in the stands and the millions more watching on television have a role, as well. In fact, their role is the connective tissue that whole the whole rivalry together. Team loyalties are passed down like an inheritance. Stories of Iron Bowl glories are told and retold.
I was there in 1985, the elder tells the younger generation gathered at his feet, when we kicked one from 52 yards to give Bama the win.
Somewhere in another part of Alabama, a granddad leans in close to his grandkids and says, We call it “Punt, Bama, Punt” because Auburn won that game in ’72 off two blocked punts in the final minutes of the game.
And on and on it goes. Both sides remembering the good times. Both sides trying to move past the pain of the painful losses.
How do we explain this to the outside world?
When Alabama is considered, it is often with something that might be called derision, pity or neglect. Our public schools are subpar. We are having a hard time shaking loose of bad habits. Our system of government is often backward.
Except for football, we are usually ranked poorly when compared to the rest of the United States.
None of these demerits are any less true on Iron Bowl day. Yet, it would be nice for the rest of the world to see the good side of Alabamians on this day. We are loyal. We are proud. We prize sportsmanship. We aren’t afraid to let our emotions loose. We care. Those things should count for something.