Grow up in Alabama, and you know the ultimate truth — you have to pick a side.
It might just as well be a law.
You are either Alabama or Auburn. It doesn’t cut both ways across the river. It is just a fact of life that you learn to accept early, not question and move on.
For me, the decision was made at birth. And it was made for me. Both of my parents went to Auburn. My father played baseball there in the late 1950s. My first college game was the Auburn-Alabama freshman game in Legion Field when I was 8.
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I spent many Saturdays in Jordan-Hare Stadium throughout my formative years. We tailgated in the triangle, used to run on the field and get wristbands from the players when the game was over.
The favorite story of my childhood about picking a side involves my old friend Paul Trodd, who moved with his family to Eufaula from England. Paul was a good soccer player, who turned out to be an outstanding high school kicker, good enough to get an invitation to walk-on at Alabama.
Paul picked Alabama in a big way, and even kicked in Bear Bryant's 314th career win. You couldn't even move here from England without taking sides.
All of that said, in my house it was Auburn. There was no choice — and that is a good thing. Because for many of those early years, the Auburn football teams were taking a beating from the Crimson Tide. It would have been easy to be a frontrunner.
But, once you make a decision — or have that decision made for you — you don’t reverse it. I know people who were Alabama fans, but went to Auburn. They remained Alabama fans. I know a number of Auburn graduates who got their law degrees from the University of Alabama. I don’t know any of those people who are Alabama fans.
In Alabama, we don’t let something as silly as education get in the way of who we pull for when it comes to something really important like football.
I spent about 20 years as a sports writer working in state of Alabama and here in Columbus. I always had an easy out when someone would ask me who I was for — and, believe me, we all know what that question means in the state of Alabama. I would just tell them I was a Troy State graduate. What I wouldn’t tell them was while I was watching games in Troy’s Memorial Stadium, I would almost always be listening to the Auburn game.
For the next two weeks, everyone in Alabama can retreat to their respective camps. Because of the “prayer in Jordan-Hare” Saturday against Georgia, the stakes for the Nov. 30 Alabama-Auburn game are enormous.
There is a division championship and potentially conference and national titles at stake when Alabama visits Auburn. And there is always bragging rights.
That is what makes all of this fun. Let’s just hope everyone keeps it in the proper perspective.
It’s a game — a really meaningful game.