Part 3 – Thoughts on Rivalries
First of all, Tommy Tuberville did not have a stroke. And if you think he did, you’re wrong. OK? OK. Good to get that out of the way.
Growing up, my primary occupation was always with Alabama and Auburn. This was primarily because of my family — my mom and most of her family are Auburn folks, and my dad the opposite. We rarely gave much thought to Tennessee, with the exception of my dad — who attended Auburn — fondly remembering the time he and the rest of the Auburn student section celebrated a Tennessee visit by throwing oranges at the poor Vols every time they ran on and off the field.
Sometime in high school, and on through college, I began to develop a deep, abiding hatred for the Big Orange. Maybe it was seeing Peyton Manning direct the Tennessee band in 1996 following a win his team didn’t deserve (Alabama’s D bottled up the Vols, and the O simply couldn’t capitalize — we should’ve won that game, dammit). Or maybe it was that first nauseating trip to Neyland in 2000, when Mike Dubose signed his death warrant in Tuscaloosa with that awful loss to someone named Casey Clausen. Or maybe it was 2003, when I anguished in my South Georgia apartment all by myself through every second of that five-OT debacle.
What I learned in college was that many ‘Bama fans — particularly those who grow up in the Tennessee Valley or places like Chattanooga and Nashville — had grown up hating Tennessee, just as much (or more) than Auburn. You grow up around that orange, and eventually it seeps into your brain and you just can’t help but hate it.
I’ve learned a great deal more about rivalry since then. Georgia fans, for example, have a whopping five games during their season that they consider “huge” rivalries — South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech. On the other hand, LSU fans grow up so rivalry-starved they’ve actually invented rivalries with Alabama (horribly one-sided over the years) and Auburn (Auburn fans don’t like losing to LSU, but I don’t think it’s a make-or-break game for them).
Auburn — the game formerly known as “The Iron Bowl” — remains the most important game of the season for me. But that game’s more about family for me than anything else — I like beating Auburn, but don’t take any particular joy in seeing them fail. I like seeing Tennesee fail. I take pleasure in every loss, and enjoy seeing Phil Fulmer continue employing incapable staff personnel. Frankly, I can’t wait to watch my team go to Knoxville and drive the final nail in this thing once and for all, and send Fulmer out to the side of the Interstate to beg for quarters where he belongs. (Is it going to happen? Of course not. But I can dream, can’t I?)