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Joy of legendary rivalry has faded but still remains

Joy of legendary rivalry has faded but still remains

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I’m not sure if the rivalry is getting old; or if it’s me that showing the sure signs of aging, but this year’s Alabama-Auburn game didn’t produce the usual intensity in this Crimson Tide household.

Make no mistake, no one here is complaining about the results as top -ranked Alabama sent War Eagle fans home with a more than noticeable frown on their faces in a contest that was never close.

The Tide recorded a 42-13 victory that wasn’t as close as the score indicated as Alabama fans like to say.

For seven decades of my life, the game has become an integral part of my memories, and I suppose it’s become less of a rivalry or hatred of cross-state rivals and more a tradition or exercise in jovial competitive foolishness.

But, for people who have more direct interest in the annual showdown, the rivalry remains strong and the weekend after Thanksgiving is reserved for the serious business of football. It’s a weekend where no weddings are planned, and funerals often wait until Monday. It’s the only event of the year that brings traffic on I-75 to a virtual halt, and causes arguments among people who normally live harmonious and peaceful lives.

As I’ve become older, I find it less important to display an allegiance to a school or professional football team by wearing colorful jerseys or planing decals on my windows. The outcome of the Alabama-Auburn game no longer has the power to destroy a good mood, or produce a bad one; and if there was ever a true hatred for Auburn alumni, it long ago disappeared.

I long ago learned that stereotypes I associated with Auburn students were misplaced, and, in most cases, just not true. The familiar insults were not based in fact, and the way I viewed the rivalry evolved over the years.

Don’t get me wrong. I still wake up on the day of the game with a sense of excitement, and I can’t even remember the number of assignments, errands or other responsibilities I’ve begged off in order to keep 3:30 to 7 p.m. open on the designated date. And, on the rare occasions that Auburn records a victory, the defeat still has the power to ruin my day, or week.

This year was decidedly different. Perhaps it was the pandemic or the lopsided nature of the contest, but I noted a lack of the usual hoopla that usually surrounds the game. The challenges of life in 2020 somehow dulled the edge of the two fan bases, and the buildup to the game was uncomfortably civil on most platforms.

Now, I’m not naive enough to believe that COVID-19 has stilled the turbulent waters between Plains and Tuscaloosa, and there’s no guarantee the two loyal groups will ever enjoy best friends status, but troubled times sometimes produce the most unusual or unexpected relationships.

I’d like to think that I have matured enough to not gloat or celebrate the victory for more than a normal period of time, but experience tells me I’ll inadvertently remind a loyal Tiger fan of the lopsided win whenever given the opportunity.

On second thought, I’m thinking the intensity is just taking a break.

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