If you read this blog regularly, you know my best friend Kris Dunn, and he’s an Auburn University fan. I’m a Michigan State fan. And like best friends do, we support each other in our fandom and sometimes in our misery of fandom.
Thanksgiving weekend each year is a big rivalry week in college football. You’ve got a lot of big games: UofM vs. Ohio State, Washington vs. Washington State, Florida vs. Florida State, etc. Arguably, the biggest one is Auburn vs. Alabama, which they’ve titled the Iron Bowl!
So, when Kris offered me to come down for a game, I, of course, had to go see the Iron Bowl! You know what they say? Throw out the records. This is a backyard brawl, brother vs. brother. These teams know each other like family, and it’s about bragging rights for the rest of the year.
I grew up in Big Ten country and have lived through every single UofM vs. MSU game since I was old enough to remember. For years, “we” (MSU) got destroyed by UofM. For most of my life, that was the case. Then we hired the right coach, and we went on a pretty good decade run. Kris and I like to believe that MSU and Auburn are similar. We have these big rivals with national brands, Michigan and Alabama, so you’re almost always going to be the underdog. But being the underdog has some amazing celebrations when you finally win one.
I won’t bore you with details of a game that has already happened. Long story short, like every classic memorable football game, Alabama won on a miracle play when it looked like all was lost, and Auburn got their hearts broken. I was there to see the entire devastatingly amazing thing.
Thoughts from a Big Ten Guy in SEC country for the biggest rivalry in college football:
- Folks in the SEC take football more seriously than up north. That’s a fact. I will not argue. I’ve seen it firsthand. They get to the games earlier. They are way more engaged throughout. They don’t leave early.
- The SEC pre-game stuff made me feel like I was in a cult. They have dudes with microphones leading cheers 20 minutes before kickoff, and it’s unlike anything you see in the Big Ten or Pac12. The entire stadium is doing these old-time 1940s type Raw-Raw-We-Kick’em-In-The-Knee type cheers. It’s funny and amazing all at the same time.
- The Auburn Eagle flying out at pre-game is something every single college football fan has to see. It’s America at its finest, and if terrorists saw this in person, they would understand why America can never be defeated. You pair this with three F-15 fighter jets flying overhead, and you just want to wrap yourself in the flag and stand a post!
- Alabama’s band had 30 women twirling guns. GUNS! AMERICA! You can’t make this up. Thirty women wearing bathing suits, in stripper boots, and twirling guns! It made me want to go vote!
- If I’m running a football stadium in the Big Ten, ACC, Pac12, etc. I am sending my stadium entertainment team to watch SEC games in person. They do it differently. They do it better. I’ve never been to a better stadium environment than the Iron Bowl at Auburn.
- I love college sports because I think you have more of a chance to see amazing things happen, I.E., Upsets. The joy and pain you see in upsets can’t be replicated. I got to witness that, in a way, fans of those teams will talk about for a decade until the next amazing thing happens. Ten years ago, for the record, the Kick 6 happened, which snatched the win out of Alabama’s fans’ hands with one second, and Auburn got the big win. For a decade, Auburn has been able to warm themselves on cold nights thinking about that one memory. Now, it’s Alabama’s turn. The hard part for Auburn fans to swallow is that it seems like Alabama has an embarrassment of riches, and they don’t deserve this moment. I kind of agree! The underdog deserves this moment!
- These are 18-22-year-old kids playing a game they love with hopes of going on to professional football. Less than 1% will. So, at the end of the night, when the lights go off, and crowds go home, these are still just young men playing a game and trying everything in their might to win. For themselves, their coaches, their school, and their fans. I have to remember this sometimes. For how badly I want my team to win, those kids playing the game want it a million more times than I do. They are the ones putting in the work. So, my heart breaks for the Auburn players.
- Alabama coach Nick Saban said it best after the game. Basically, if you play the game long enough, you’re going to experience some amazing things and some heartbreaking things. That’s part of playing the game. That night, he got to be on the positive side of that experience, but he’s also been on the other side. The bad times make the good times all that better.
Thank you for allowing me to indulge you with something non-recruiting or HR-related. Although, there’s a lot of learning from the greatest things we experience in our lives that I’ll definitely take with me!