This game, this Iron Bowl, this elemental cultural bedrock of who we are as a people, as Alabamians, turns names into mythology. Who will be our next legend?
The Greeks did this, too, you know. And the Romans. And the Vikings. All the great cultures of earth have their myths and heroes. Alabama’s are just better.
For we have the Iron Bowl, and Iron Bowl week started the moment after Alabama’s game against The Citadel, and the second after Auburn’s victory against Liberty. Those were ritualistic practice games before the real thing — sacrificial offerings to the gods before the volcano’s great eruption.
The Run in the Mud.
Wrong Way Bo.
Punt Bama Punt.
These aren’t just nicknames of great football games between Alabama and Auburn. These events are foundations of cultural thought. This is our folklore. This is what we do better than anyone. It’s what makes us special, and unique, and anthropologically more important than pretty much any other state in the union.
No one is crazy like us, y’all. No one.
People like to tell me that the Tigers and the Crimson Tide are like pro teams in Alabama, and that the Iron Bowl is our Super Bowl. That’s not true. Those are false equivalencies. There is nothing in the NFL that comes close to the societal importance of Alabama and Auburn football to this state.
The passion and importance of international soccer is made of the same stuff, but the World Cup is a quadrennial event. Alabama vs. Auburn is every day of the year in this state, and the Iron Bowl, in the state of Alabama, is like the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving and the birth of your first child and either your wedding or divorce all happening at the same time.
It is beautiful. It is frightening. It is our humanity.
Have you ever been to the grocery story during the Iron Bowl? There are many people in this state, thousands probably, who couldn’t name one person they know who has ever run errands during the game.
Things you never hear in Alabama:
Hey, the Iron Bowl is starting. I’m just going to run to the post office.
The Iron Bowl is tied. I think I’ll go hang the Christmas lights.
The Iron Bowl is in the fourth quarter. Anyone want to go to Home Depot with me?
I’m telling you, aliens could land at the base of Vulcan during the Iron Bowl, and make first contact, and the city of Birmingham would be like, “Oh, no. Not now, y’all. This is going to have to wait.”
Vulcan is the god of the forge, and the Iron Bowl was his gift to Alabama. That’s what the aliens will assume. That’s the report they’ll file away in their star logs and beam back home.
Our legends are better, though. Our myths are windows into who we are.
Bo doesn’t just mean Vincent Edward Jackson to Alabamians. Bo means so much more. Bo means greatness. Bo means “Bo Over the Top.”
Namath doesn’t just mean pantyhose and a famous prediction to Alabamians. Namath means fighting through pain to be a champion. Namath wrecked his knee in 1964, but he still threw that touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of the Iron Bowl.
Famous quarterback. Hurting knee. Iron Bowl. Sound familiar?
This is how our legends are made, and this is how our folklore is written.
Joseph Goodman is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group. He’s on Twitter @JoeGoodmanJr.