Now that the turkey has been put away the majority of Alabamians will focus on the annual football game known nationally as the “Iron Bowl” to be played this Saturday between Auburn University’s football team and the one from the University of Alabama.
So for a change of pace on this blog, I will revisit some of my memories of Iron Bowls past. And understand that as an Auburn grad my preference for orange and blue will no doubt show.
I honestly don’t remember the first Iron Bowl I ever saw in person. But I know it was more than 50 years ago and was in Birmingham. I was a freshman at Auburn in the fall of 1961, so it may have been that year, or a year later. And it was for sure in Birmingham because all of these games were played there from 1948 to 1988.
That was when Bama coach Bear Bryant was rapidly working his way toward sainthood. Unfortunately for us Auburn folk, we were seldom but a bump in the road for Bama back then. In fact, in Bryant’s 25 year reign in Tuscaloosa, Auburn only won seven times. (Thankfully, life has been better for us since Bryant retired at the end of the 1982 season. Since then, Auburn has won 17 of the 32 games played and has a winning record in games played at both Auburn and Tuscaloosa.)
I do remember 1964 when Jimmy Sidle and Tucker Fredrickson played for Auburn. We beat Alabama 10-8 that year, with 2nd string QB Mailon Kent filling in for an injured Sidle. And I was at Legion Field in 1969 when punter Connie Frederick decided to run instead of kick and ended up 80+ yards later in the end zone and Auburn won 49-26.
I also recall a Legion Field game when a guy behind me leaned over and asked if I had any chewing tobacco on me. When I told him I did not he remarked, “You mean there are 70,000 people here and no one has a chew?”
And I was also at Legion Field in 1985 when place kicker Van Tiffen hit a last-second field goal of 52 yards to give Bama a 25-23 win. Probably the best memory of Legion Field of all time for Auburn fans was 1972 when our team blocked two punts and won an improbable victory of 17-16. I was there.
I was at Auburn in 1989 when Bama played in Jordan-Hare stadium for the first time and my team prevailed. I was also in Tuscaloosa in 2000 when Auburn played in Tuscaloosa for the first time since 1901. It was a beastly day, temperature just above freezing and the sky spitting sleet. Damon Duval kicked three field goals and the blue and orange folks left frozen, but happy.
And the amazing game of 2013 when Bama tried a field goal with one second left on the clock and Chris Davis ran it 109 yards for an Auburn win was another I saw in person. One of my Bama friends still calls that one “the disaster in the pasture.” I just call it sweet.
I have no idea how many Iron Bowls I have witnessed in person. Some were not much fun. Some were moments of tremendous satisfaction.
And through all of these years I have certainly learned that regardless the game’s outcome, the sun still rises the next day.