My dad was in the Air Force. He got stationed at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery when I was in the fifth grade in October 1992. Moving from the Carolina coast to Alabama was, needless to say, a culture shock. We were "lucky" enough to move to the heart of the Southeastern Conference the same year that Gene Stallings coached one of the most ferocious defenses in college football history to an undefeated National Championship, capped off by a Crimson Tide 34-13 Sugar Bowl beatdown of Miami. While it was pretty cool to see all the locals (well, HALF the locals) all jazzed up about their school bringing home some hardware, it QUICKLY became evident that no matter how many games they won, how many trophies they captured, or how many scholarships they were stripped of due to NCAA probation, these people were not going to shut up about their football team.
The following summer, the Eric Ramsey case sent the state into mass hysteria, as Auburn got SLAMMED with NCAA sanctions. Nobody was safe, as even Auburn icon Pat Dye was ousted as head coach. For several months in 1993, unless your name was Jordan and you were in the process of winning a third consecutive NBA Title, nobody knocked Ramsey off the headlines of the Montgomery Advertiser sports page. The day after the probation came down, the paper had an entire section dedicated to the fallout. All the key figures involved, the intricacies of the various parts of the case, what it meant for Auburn (and Alabama) for the upcoming seasons.
Of course, Auburn, unable to play on television (I miss the TV probation days), leaving radio legend Jim Fyffe to narrate the Tigers' season, proceeded to go 11-0, upsetting Bama on the final day of the season, and staked a claim to a national title they were doomed to be denied of. In 1994, BOTH teams went undefeated (Auburn's winning streak was snapped by a 20-20 tie with Georgia) until Bama held on for a 21-14 win in Birmingham that propelled them back to the SEC Championship Game. Then the Antonio Langham case broke, and it was Auburn's turn to laugh at the Tide.
The lesson here, if you haven't figured it out yet, is that it doesn't stop. If there's not a national title to talk about, there's an SEC Title to talk about. If there's not an SEC Title to talk about, there's the Iron Bowl to talk about. And if the Iron Bowl - the rowdiest, craziest rivalry in sports - is down, as it has been since Cam Newton left The Plains, Bama fans will find someone else to snipe with.
The most recent target of those attacks? Texas A&M. But the Aggies aren't backing down, coming back at the Tide with some barbs of their own. A&M athletic director Eric Hyman dropped this gem earlier this week:
What do the moon and Texas A&M have in common? They both control the Tide"
Yes, there's already a shirt you can buy, too.
I love this. While Alabama was a difficult place to live at times, those same crazies who made it miserable so often would also provide me the entertainment to get thru those long, hot Alabama summers when it's too muggy to go outside and do much of anything. That SEC mentality is starting to creep into Texas behind the rise of Kevin Sumlin's Aggies. The A&M contingent, after having to deal with all the burnt orange in Texas for all these years, have ditched themselves of old baggage and have started anew in their new SEC home, and they've grasped the culture instantly.
September 14th can't get here soon enough.
Spoiler: You will get more takes from Mikey on the NWA U.S. Title scene from 1986 thru 1990 than you will on PAC-12 or Big Ten football.