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A clean rivalry, most of the time


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A clean rivalry, most of the time

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Special Sections

Dirty play unheard of when Alabama and Auburn meet

In keeping with the theme of this year's special section on the upcoming 2006 football season, we've been asked to discuss the notion that the Alabama-Auburn rivalry isn't actually as dirty as the average fan might think.

Happy to oblige.

But first, we should offer an abbreviated overview of the impassioned series that splits an entire state along unbending lines of loyalty, not merely for a single Saturday in November but for 365 days a year:

Bigger than big

Several years ago, a graduate of the University of Missouri's school of journalism joined The Times newsroom as a special projects editor. One of his duties was to work closely with the sports department.

When introducing the new man to the sports staff, the newspaper's editor said: "Just so you'll know, this poor guy isn't that familiar with the Alabama-Auburn football rivalry. He actually thinks Missouri-Kansas is a big game.''

It didn't take long for the new man to learn about the Alabama-Auburn rivalry. One season was more than enough.

How big is Alabama-Auburn? Or Auburn-Alabama, if you prefer?

Bigger than most. Bigger than big. As big as it gets.

Long ago, someone said: "If you grow up in Alabama, or even if you just move to Alabama later on, even if you attended another university, you still have to choose. It's either Auburn or Alabama. There's no middle ground.''

It's even more true today than in the late 1940s, when the rivalry was finally patched up after a nasty 41-year divorce. This is a rivalry that often divides marriages, siblings and extended families. This is a rivalry that sometimes touches off mayhem and actual bodily harm. This is a rivalry that frequently threatens long-standing friendships.

Silly and childish? Sure. After all, it's just a game, isn't it? Sure it is.

But try selling that idea to hundreds of thousands of Alabamians who somehow believe the very self-worth of their existence hinges on the outcome of the Alabama-Auburn football game.

In every meaningful poll every taken, Alabama-Auburn ranks alongside Michigan-Ohio State, Notre Dame-USC, Oklahoma-Texas, Army-Navy (and lately, Alabama-Tennessee) on a list of the bitterest rivalries in the country. Most put it at the top.

Historically, Alabama-Auburn has been a streaky series, both in the early days and especially after 1948, when the series resumed at the initiative of the two school presidents. Auburn was ahead seven games to four when the rivalry, which began in 1893, ended with a 6-all tie in 1907. A dispute over finances and travel expenses - not a fight on the field, as many suppose - halted the series after 11 games.

It returned with a bang. Alabama won 55-0 in 1948, but then lost 14-13 the following year in what is still considered the biggest upset in the history of the rivalry.

Alabama won four in a row from 1950-53, but then Auburn, under coach Shug Jordan, won five straight from 1954-58 to take a 13-9-1 advantage. Alabama pulled away dramatically over the next quarter-century when Bear Bryant returned to his alma mater. Bryant lost his first game to Auburn (in 1958) and his last (in 1982), but his overall record against Alabama's cross-state opponent was 19-6. His teams won five in a row from 1964-68 and nine straight from 1973-81.

When Bryant retired after the 1982 season, Alabama was leading 28-18-1.

Since 1983, however, Auburn has closed the gap to 38-31-1 by winning 13 times to Alabama's 10. The Crimson Tide's longest streak since the Bryant era has been three (under Gene Stallings from 1990-92). Auburn, on the other hand, won four in a row under Pat Dye (1986-89), and the Tigers have won the last four (and five of the last six since 2000) under Tommy Tuberville.

So ... how big is Alabama-Auburn?

Put it this way: It's not Missouri-Kansas.

A higher plane

Back to our original premise.

It's true, you know. Despite its larger-than-life reality, the rivalry between Auburn and Alabama really isn't as dirty as many people imagine. Not on the football field, anyway.

In contrast to many in-state rivalries (Ole Miss-Mississippi State, for example), nobody can remember the last time - or even the first time - an ugly brawl broke out in an Alabama-Auburn game. Indeed, it's difficult to recall a single fight between any individual players in the past 50-something years.

The fans, particularly those on the lunatic fringe, are a different story. On the Internet message boards and chat rooms, rumor-mongering and mindless sniping between the two factions worsens with each passing year. It also seems anything goes nowadays on many of the radio talk shows, where shopworn slanders and pretentious prattle abound. Good sportsmanship, sadly, has become as outmoded as the single wing.

But thankfully, the players at the two schools always seem to rise above such manufactured nonsense.

An oft-told story comes to mind. Former Auburn linebacker Gusty Yearout remembers a pregame coin toss when he and the Alabama captain, Ken Stabler, met at midfield one day in the '60s. Yearout says he was trying hard to work up a mad-on for everybody on the opposing sideline ... until Stabler said, "Hey, Gusty. Win or lose, we're having a big party tonight at our hotel. Why don't you come and bring along a bunch of your guys?''

And that's what they did.

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Wow, talk about old memories....I don't think I've heard or thought about the name "Gusty Yearout" in 30-40 years! Of course, I was still in high school (or younger?) when he played.

One thing for sure, if anyone knew how to party it would have been Kenny Stabler! :big:

It is surprizing, and a complement to both sets of fans, that despite so much bitterness during the rest of the year, there is relatively little violence toward each other on gameday itself. [Last year's fight/stabbing in Auburn being an exception more than the rule.]

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That is actually refreshing to see someone not take a biased approach to the Iron Bowl rivalry. He presented both sides of each schools story well. I can only hope Bama makes history this season in their newly renovated stadium, and take back the rivalry. It sucks being owned.

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That story kind of goes with what I talked about in another thread (the bammer girlfriend thread). Most UAT fans that go to the games are actually pretty decent and not as rednecked as the ones we see most of the time on message boards and on the streets. They will actually be friendly to you and only give you the typical good natured ribbing that goes along with the rivalry. Like I have said before, I have been to T-Town alot and actually lived in Northport for a few months with my best friend who went to school at UAT and I was helping him and another UAT alumni start a church there. I never had any bad incidents when I walk on the campus or go walk down the strip to the Crimson Cafe (that is actually where I had my first taste of flavored coffee...they make awesome mochas and other coffee flavors) wearing my AU gear. You are going to have your few bad apples, but hey, we have ours too. When the Iron Bowl comes around, I think overall the quality of the fans that attend know how to respect each other and not act like idiots.

As far as on the field, the players have alwasy kept the game really clean. You don't see any fights break out like you do at some of those rivaliries you find in the states of Florida and South Carolina. :lol:

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One thing is for sure...neither one of our fanbases care for LSU or their fan base, as a whole. I have never encountered a corndog face to face, but I have heard some horror stories. Besides, my grandmother is an Auburn fan. She and her boyfriend for the last 20 some odd years, a Bama fan, have a thing they do after the Iron Bowl ends. If Alabama wins, an elephant statue is displayed out in the open of the living room. If Auburn wins, an eagle is placed out in the open. The losing mascot statue (about 2 and half feet each) sits in the corner.

I believe grandma is going to have to rearrange this Nov. 18. :poke:

But on a serious note, the rivalry is fierce among the fan base, but it ranks as argueably the greatest because of the seriousness each side takes. Very little fighting, if any, among the players makes both teams class teams on gameday.

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If you ask UGA fans on our boards which team has the worst fans...UF, UT, USC ext...will usually take the cake as usually it is whatever team that UGA fan hates the most.

But, ask the UGA fans what their worst single experience was....not a shocker...UGA/LSU in 2003. I can't tell you how many times that game comes up with 'Worst treated' threads.

Funny thing about that game is I went with 8-9 of my LSU friends....and drank before the game with a specific LSU frat that 2 of my friends were in...sadly, if it wasnt for me being around my friends....I am not sure I would be alive today and sadly am not exaggerating.

And before someone chimes in, UGA fans are terrible too a lot of the time. Don't get me wrong, I have seen some bad **** in Athens as well. But, I have NOT seen the amount of crap I have seen in Baton Rouge as I did go to games for years and years before I went to UGA.

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I like the article but IMHO, the :uga: vs :au: rivalry is the best in college football. It is intense, clean, and ultimately user friendly.

As far :lsu: folks, with the crop we have here now on the board and some of the articles I have found on CLM, I find myself rooting more and more for the the good ones. I still dont think I will ever take the Ladies to a game at :lsu: though.

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I like the article but IMHO, the :uga: vs :au: rivalry is the best in college football. It is intense, clean, and ultimately user friendly.

As far :lsu: folks, with the crop we have here now on the board and some of the articles I have found on CLM, I find myself rooting more and more for the the good ones. I still dont think I will ever take the Ladies to a game at :lsu: though.

When it comes to the UA/AU rivalry, hate is still a word I use frequently. Don't get me wrong. I don't hate fans, or coaches and players. I just hate AU in the way someone would say, "I hate bologna!" I hate UcheaT in the way that some would say, "I hate Satan! Evil Satan! I hate you!" I guess.

I love my grandmother, even though she is an AU fan.

As far as UGA/AU goes, I don't watch it that often. I don't know that much about the fanbases and what they think about UGA and AU. I watch AU/LSU and UGA/UF, but rarely do I see UGA/AU because it is the same week of UA/LSU.

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I like the article but IMHO, the :uga: vs :au: rivalry is the best in college football. It is intense, clean, and ultimately user friendly.

"Intense, clean, user friendly", I agree but not the best for me because I don't get the great degree of satisfaction in beating GA as I do when we whip UA ... nor do I get the great feeling of loss when we lose to GA as when we lose to UA. For to me GA is like playing family ... AU and GA have had so many connections within the athletics department over the years: (Joel Eaves, Shug, Vince D, Pat D, etc). I actually pull for Georgia in all games except when playing us. On the other hand there isn't a team that I hope loses to UA. It hasn't always been this way for me. During my college days I did attend and enjoy UA games and had many friends that went there, but over the years their arrogance, oft used hyperbole, obnoxious fan base, delusions of grandeur, claims to mythical championships has changed all of that. Sure I have friends that are UA graduates and the highest compliment I can pay them is if they souldn't tell people otherwise many would believe them to be AU people.

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