The Greatest Football Rivalry in the U.S.
Historic Marker in Birmingham Marks the Location of the First Auburn-Alabama Game
The Greatest Intra-State Football Rivalry in the U.S.
This football rivalry is not the oldest. That would be the Auburn - Georgia rivalry, having begun in 1892 (Auburn prevailed 10 - 0); but it is the greatest. The first Auburn - Alabama football game that ever took place was played on February 22, 1893, on a site in Birmingham known, at the time, as "the Base Ball Park". Records show that the University of Alabama's "Tuskaloosa squad" played the "Orange & Blue" of the Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Auburn University). Approximately 5,000 fans turned out for the big game -- a huge crowd at the time. Auburn carried the day with a score of 32 to 22. Thus began the Auburn - Alabama football rivalry, the greatest rivalry in all of college football. At the time, that game was reported to be the greatest football game ever played in Birmingham. If they'd only known what they were starting ....
The SEC's Favorite Time of Year Is Autumn, Of Course!
There's nothing like SEC football. Long before there is a slight chill in the air, the crows are roaring, cheering their favorite school's team. Even before we have what we affectionately refer to as football weather. When football season is well under way.
For some this all means a house divided for a few months, and there will be some football widows, but mostly everyone will be excited. Motorhomes will readied. Tailgating menus will be planned. Airline tickets and hotel reservations will be made. Football will be foremost in the minds of some of my own friends.
A House Divided -- All Too Common in the SEC
Little Known Historical Marker
The State of Alabama's Historical Commission has placed a historical marker on the site of that first game located on what is now Clairmont Avenue. The marker states that "the victory cup" was presented to the school by "a Birmingham belle". The site is now a lovely park.
Almost a hundred years later, when asked what all the fuss was about, and told "it's only a game", the much loved late Southern columnist, comedian, and sometimes actor, Lewis Grizzard replied, "Au contraire, it's not just a game. It's our way of life against their's." If you remember episodes of "Designing Women", Lewis played the brother of Julia and Suzanne Sugarbaker. He wrote several books of his wonderfully witty essays on life in the South. Southerners adore him.
Yep, Even School-related Birth Announcements
It's Decided at Birth -- No, Really -- It Is
Which team/school you will support with your cheers is usually decided by your parents at the time of your birth. This photo shows some birth announcements that I recently saw at a local gift shop. I'm afraid I would have to choose something more elegant, or more baby-like, that is, if I were going to announce a birth -- which I am not.
I know it may sound crazy to some, but some of our most devout fans take tiny Auburn or Alabama tee-shirts to the hospital for new babies. If not that soon, some of the early baby photos are made with the innocent little bundle clothed in Alabama or Auburn garb. There are some really cute ones and, of course, some not-so-cute ones, too. Collegiate baby clothes, that is.
Baby Booties for the Little Fans
More evidence of our determination to decide for our children which school they will favor. Keep in mind the most important thing is education, not sports. Yeah, yeah, I know...
Would You Believe Tide & Tigers Working Together for a Common Goal?
This a photo of my copy of The Birmingham News
These two colleges, their students, their graduates, their teams, and their fans have become united over two events in recent history. First, the poisoning of the 100+ year-old live oaks in Auburn, AL, after Auburn won the 2010 National Championship, was announced during a live talk radio by the culprit on February 16, 2011. Second, the devastating tornado that hit Tuscaloosa, AL, on April 27, 2011. These two events brought people together like nothing ever has in the history of the state.
While not threatening life and limb of humans or animals, the poisoning of the trees at Toomer's Corner, named by students for Toomer's Drugstore directly across from the entrance to the Auburn University campus, was heartbreaking. Primarily because the huge trees were beautiful, had survived for over 100 years, and had become part of an important tradition for AU students. They even withstood hurricane- and tornado-force winds a few times. Also, because of the curious but beloved tradition of "rolling" them with toilet paper each time Auburn won a game. A Bama student, who will be forever loved by Auburnites, felt so badly about the destruction of the trees that he started a Facebook page, "Tide for Toomers" and, by March 25 of that year, presented a check for $50,000 to help with the attempts to save the beloved trees. That Facebook page soon had over 61,000 followers.
Fast Forward a Couple of Months:
The EF-5 tornado that hit Tuscaloosa, and many other Alabama towns, in April of 2011, took 247 lives in Alabama alone, over 50 of them in Tuscaloosa, destroyed homes and business, and scarred communities, not only physically, but emotionally. Remembering the sincere embarrassment of the Alabama fans over the heinous act of one angry and misguided fan, and the generosity of Alabama students, grads, and fans that followed, Auburn students and athletes went to Tuscaloosa, to help with the clean up. These simple acts of caring and generosity on the part of both college communities went gone far in mending the damage of over-zealous fans on both sides that existed for years, but had been building over the last few seasons.
Some Auburn students created their own Facebook page "Toomer's for Tuscaloosa" to generate help with the clean up in Tuscaloosa. It soon had over 88,00 followers. Auburn students and athletes, wearing their Auburn shirts and jerseys, showed up in Tuscaloosa to work. The people of Tuscaloosa were, of course, grateful and showed their appreciation.
The photo above, however, is of alumni athletes, gathered for the inaugural charity flag football game, "Rivals United for Recovery" to benefit tornado victims. The Bama alumni won this game. No worries, Tigers, there's always next year.
Take This Poll About Our Fan Base
Do you believe the good will between these 2 fan bases will continue into football season?
"As players, we're only rivals for the week of the game, but you guys in the media and [the] fans build it to a fever pitch.... Everyone has to learn to be like us, and go all out, and then let it go."
Bo Jackson, as quoted
in The Birmingham News
We Had Been Away Too Long
We'd Forgotten Just How Passionate It Can Be
My husband and I lived out of state for almost 20 years, and moved back in 2010. We stayed only 3 years -- it just wasn't home anymore. We were away so long, we'd forgotten just how exciting that time of year can be; and how ugly it can get. For 15 years, we lived in North Carolina, where basketball is king, and football is just something to do until "roundball" season rolls 'round again. The first year we were there, when autumn arrived, we laughed over a TV commercial advertising Wake Forest football tickets for sale. "That will never happen in Alabama," we said. Tickets for both AU and UA games are hard to come by. Then we lived in Colorado, which is football country, but not with the fervor of the Deep South. Football fans were passionate supporters of their teams, but tickets were easier to get.
These Tide and Tiger fans are true fanatics (the origin of the word "fan"). Some of the most passionate have no connection at all with either school, but will get into arguments and/or even fist fights defending "their" team. In fact, my experience has been that the most easily angered fans have no connection with any college or university at all. After being away for so long, the anger and hatred that pops up occasionally is now even more noticeable than ever, and while I will probably take some flack over this, I have to say it is seems terribly childish. I think that's the thing that bothers me most about all of this. But, mostly, it's all in good, healthy fun. Given all this, it was a wonderful sight to see these grads, fans, and students come together over common goals.
College Football vs. Pro Football
Those are our kids on that field.
While in Michigan about 20 years ago, a man asked me if the reason we Alabamians were such strong supporters of college football was because we couldn't seem to keep a pro team.
I explained that quite the opposite was true: we can't keep a pro football team because we are such strong supporters of college football. Hey! Those are our kids out there. Those are our alma maters. Why would we prefer to cheer for, and watch a bunch of millionaires (many of whom have criminal records) "play" when we can watch and cheer for our own kids?
Take This Poll About Football
Which do you prefer, college football or pro football?
Thank you for reading my article on this great football tradition. Please let me know you stopped by for a visit.
© 2011 MariaMontgomery