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SEC's Iron Bowl: Southern sports culture defined

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Don’t tell the Alabama Crimson Tide or Auburn Tiger fan(s) that their rivalry known as The Iron Bowl, is just another game, or you will be told quickly that you don’t know which side of your bread is buttered.

The Iron Bowl. A meeting of the two most-storied, powerful college football programs in the state of Alabama. Talk about southern culture. This one game has to be near the top of southern culture as pertaining to college football.

Started in 1893, the Alabama-Auburn rivalry has never been less than synonymous with the atmosphere of when a national celebrity comes to town. It’s that. And much more. Of college football rivalries in the south, only one other rivalry is more fierce, the Auburn-Georgia contest.

The Iron Bowl is played at the end of November in the regular season for the University of Alabama and Auburn University. The game, which can be correctly-dubbed, a ‘backyard brawl,” was formerly played at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama, or lovingly-named, “the old gray lady.” Now, the Iron Bowl is played on a rotation basis at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, the home of the University of Alabama and Jordan-Haire Stadium, home of Auburn University. But no matter where the Iron Bowl is played, you can count on fierce action on the gridiron and fierce loyalties from the two school’s legions of fans. That’s a gimme.

In the late 50’s throughout the 1960’s until today in 2012, the Iron Bowl has always been a sell-out to the throngs of fans who buy tickets a season early every year for this year-end event. Alabama Crimson Tide coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant and Shug Jordan, legendary coach of the Auburn Tigers are to be thanked for making this segment of southern (sports) culture possible. Many of their storied games have went to the wire to provide a winner. And bragging rights for the following year.

Books have been written about The Iron Bowl by authors of both Alabama and Auburn backgrounds. Girls have accepted marriage proposals during this epic college football event. The Alabama-Auburn rivalry is so intense that newlyweds have named their first-born after “Bear” Bryant or Shug Jordan. Fans take this one game that seriously. And sadly, “some” fans take this game too seriously as the authorities are sometimes called-in to break-up family fist-fights. Or even some gunplay when alcohol and anger mix when these two schools are at battle.

The Iron Bowl is not just another game. Alabama versus Ole Miss. That is just another game such as Auburn versus Vanderbilt. Regular season games must be played. And won by both Alabama and Auburn, for both schools are shooting for the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta--as is all the SEC. Of course, Alabama, Auburn and the SEC always want “a shot at the title,” the BCS National Title. That’s a foregone conclusion.

Win or lose. With or without bloodshed, The Iron Bowl has helped to build a southern college football culture that only grows stronger with time.

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