By June Mathews
The 2012 football season was a crushing one for us Auburn football fans. It started out badly and spiraled downward into total disaster.
Just a few weeks in, the Auburn faithful were walking around shell-shocked, wondering how a national championship less than two years before could turn into a humiliating 3-9 season, the worst in 60 years for the Tigers. For those of us who weren’t around in 1952, things had never seemed so awful.
Showing up at church to face our Alabama fan friends each Sunday following a Saturday loss was a humbling experience at the first of the season for us Auburn fans, but we eventually became numb to the horror of it all. Even our most obnoxious Bama buddies stopped ribbing us about the losses and started feeling sorry for us. We were feeling pretty sorry for us, too.
By all indications, the whole debacle apparently wasn’t much fun for Alabama fans, either. To be a worthy opponent requires a worthy opponent, and as much as I hate to say it out loud, last year’s Auburn team would have had a tough time giving a high school team, much less the powerful Saban machine, a run for its money.
Let’s face it: The Iron Bowl is what counts around here. And whether a team has won or lost during the season isn’t necessarily a predictor of whose going to win or lose the Alabama-Auburn game. It’s a game unto itself, a mini-season of sorts, that can make or break a season and give the winner statewide bragging rights for the coming year.
But it was perfectly obvious Auburn had a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning last year. We Tiger fans simply gritted our teeth and prayed for the day to pass. Something had gone terribly awry within our program, and we knew it. And it was horribly, horribly sad, not just for the Auburn family but for the entire state as well. Our nationwide reputation as a double football powerhouse was suffering.
But oh, what a difference a year has made.
As I write this, we Auburn fans are basking in the afterglow of a spectacular win over Texas A&M, and we finally dare think our winning record so far this season isn’t a fluke. The Gus Bus is rolling, and we have reason to cheer again, not to mention show up at church on a Sunday morning with heads held high and wide grins on our faces.
What’s even more gratifying is to watch the Facebook reaction of fans on both sides of the fence. Many an Alabama fan was cheering for Auburn to win Saturday, and not only for the sake of once again showing Johnny Manziel that maybe he’s not all he’s cracked up to be. We were united in our desire to see our state chalk up two wins against the Aggies in one season.
Don’t mess with Texas? Don’t mess with Alabama is more like it.
I also enjoyed seeing the congratulatory notes from Alabama fans. Our own publisher, Scott Buttram, native Tuscaloosan and a University of Alabama man to the core, posted: “Fun to see my Auburn friends excited again. Congrats!”
Thanks, Scott. We appreciate it.
So for now at least, the rivalry is rather cordial, even though I don’t expect it to last. With Auburn getting back up to speed again, we’ll soon be back to our rabid old ways. That old orange-and-blue vs. crimson-and-white competitiveness is rooted deep in our souls.
But we should all be happy at the prospect of watching a real game again come Thanksgiving weekend. I don’t think any of us care to revisit that horridly lopsided 2012 Iron Bowl. I know my Alabama friends were glad for the win, but the excitement factor in a game like that is mighty low.
And maybe, just maybe, Auburn can beat Alabama this year. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, anyway.
So War Eagle, folks! And until Nov. 30, Roll Tide, too!