While the most celebrated holiday of the year is probably Christmas in most places, I would argue that in Alabama it is the Iron Bowl. The late fall day when the football teams at Auburn University and the University of Alabama play each other.
For all intent and purposes, the state grinds to a halt. Shopping centers are not crowded, traffic is light on roadways and weddings are not scheduled.
The game is hyped as the most intense interstate football rivalry in the entire world and I am not one to argue differently. The two teams have played 84 times, going back to Feb. 22, 1893. In fact, they played twice that year, in Birmingham in February and Montgomery in November. (They took a 39-year break after the 1907 game and didn’t play again until 1948.)
I’ve seen more than half of these games either in person or on TV.
Traditionally it is the last game of the regular season. It will not be this year.
But then, nothing seems traditional this year. Covid-19 has seen to that. There were questions in the summer if there would even be a college football season. Then the Southeastern Conference eliminated all non-conference games and cut the schedule to 10 games. Coaches were forced to pay as much attention to health protocols as to linebackers and quarterbacks. Some games were suddenly postponed.
Which brings us to this Saturday, Nov. 28. Auburn and Alabama will kick off at 2:30 p.m. CBS will broadcast the event across the land. Players on both teams will give it their all. But it won’t be natural. There will only be a handful of fans in the stands. No one will be tailgating. “Crowd noise” will be played on stadium audio equipment. Cheerleaders will jump and bounce and exhort empty seats to scream and yell.
In a sense it will be like one of those contests where people impersonate Elvis. While it may be close, it won’t be the real deal.
Auburn fans measure this series in relationship to Bear Bryant’s 25-year career at Bama. The teams have played 37 games since Bryant coached his last one in 1982 Auburn has won 19 of them, Alabama 18.
Alabama is ranked as the No. One team in the country. They are expected to win by three touchdowns or more. I will pull for Auburn, but my expectations are not high.
Let’s pray that more normal days are ahead. Days when we will know the Iron Bowl when we see it.
In the meantime, I may go on YouTube and find Elvis.