Judging from what I learned by watching ESPN's latest documentary, the state of Alabama is essentially a battleground.
On the one side, you have the Alabama Crimson Tide and their army of loyal followers. On the other side, you have the Auburn Tigers and their army of loyal followers. Put them together, and you've got a rivalry unlike any other in sports.
At least, such was the gist of "Roll Tide/War Eagle," which debuted on Tuesday night on ESPN. The point was driven home in spectacular fashion, as former players, coaches and fans joined forces to tell viewers just how serious the Alabama-Auburn rivalry really is.
Why did such a clear message have to be sent, you ask?
I actually think that's a good question, and I think the only reasonable answer is that people outside Alabama just wouldn't know otherwise.
Nonetheless, I still think it's fair to ask another question:
Does anybody outside Alabama even care about the Alabama-Auburn rivalry?
Well, I live in California, and I'll speak for myself when I say that the Alabama-Auburn rivalry doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot to me. In terms of sports rivalries, it's not Yankees-Red Sox, Celtics-Lakers, or Manchester United-Manchester City. It seems to me Alabama-Auburn is more like Raiders-Niners, except turned up to 11.
I'm definitely opening myself up to accusations of idiocy and/or insanity by saying things like this. My guess is that I'm going to get a lot of comments that look a lot like these tweets that I found when I was taking a stroll around Twitter:
Yup, that just about says it. The Alabama-Auburn rivalry is a shining testament to just how huge football is in Alabama, and nobody outside the state is ever going to understand.
It's Alabama's very own version of a "Jersey thing."
Since I've already offered my two cents, I'd like to offer a retort to the idea in the form of a couple more tweets:
Harsh stuff, but no doubt you get the point. It's not so much that people outside Alabama can't appreciate the rivalry. The collective ignorance of the non-Alabama populace has more to do with how people just don't understand the underlying obsession with football.
I'm not a sociologist, but my best guess is that this probably has something to do with the fact that people in most other states have more options when it comes to sports. In addition to college sports, people can choose to soak up the NFL, NHL, MLB and, when it's active, the NBA. These things don't exist in Alabama, so it's not like there are any other options.
As such, it makes sense that the biggest sports rivalry in the state would be hyped beyond belief.
And if you ask me, that's just fine. Outside of random idiots poisoning trees and shouting matches on sports talk radio, it seems like the Alabama-Auburn rivalry is largely harmless. As long as people within Alabama dig the rivalry, who cares what people outside Alabama think (or don't think) about it?
In other words, it doesn't matter whether or not the rivalry matters outside Alabama.