Larry Burton (Syndicated Writer)
Somewhere in the late 70s or as late at 1980, the game between Alabama and Auburn became known as the "Iron Bowl."
In many ways, the game was like a bowl game. It was played on a neutral site, both teams traveled to the game and stayed overnight in Birmingham like a bowl game. It certainly got the television coverage and statewide press like a bowl game too.
The term "Iron Bowl" was from the game's neutral field site, Birmingham, Alabama—the iron and steel capitol of the South.
Having the game in Birmingham made sense to the schools initially.
Legion Field held more fans than either team could at their home stadium, and it was a chance for recruits from the talent rich-Birmingham area to see both teams.
But Auburn soon became disenchanted with the Birmingham location. It really wasn't a neutral field in many ways. Alabama played almost all their big home games there to accommodate larger crowds, so in essence, it was a home field for Alabama.
Geographically, it was a much closer drive from Tuscaloosa than Auburn as well.
Things changed in 1987; Auburn built their stadium to surpass the capacity of Legion Field, and for that and the other previously named reasons, Auburn petitioned to have the game moved to Auburn for their home games.
In 1989 Alabama came to Auburn for the first time in the series. The home field advantage paid off for Auburn as they beat the number two rated Tide team.
Alabama continued to hold their home games at Birmingham until Bryant Denny Stadium finally was built up to surpass the capacity at Legion Field and in 2000, the game was finally played in Tuscaloosa.
Both sides have had notable streaks in the series, but Alabama continues to hold an edge in total wins.
But is the game still the Iron Bowl?
Without Birmingham in the equation, does it still make sense?
Yes! This is a game that shows the metal in the man. Records and rankings have seldom made a difference in the outcome of the game.
The team with the "iron will" usually wins this game.
This is a game with ramifications that last for a whole year in a state that lives and dies for this game. This is a game that subjects the players to a fire that either consumes or forges the men that participate in it.
In the game, the licks that are traded feel as if they are delivered by an iron pipe in some cases.
For these reasons and so many more, the Iron Bowl is still alive and well, and this year's version should be one that will be talked about for years to come.
Auburn with a senior-laden team, perhaps the best one they've fielded in the last few years against a very young Alabama team that entered the season with high expectations, but youthful mistakes that hurt them in their two losses.
This was the year Auburn was to have played the spoiler's role, but now it is Alabama cast in that role.
No matter who you pull for, it will be a game that should keep you glued to your seats for the full 60 minutes.
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