published Monday, November 29th, 2010

Wiedmer: For every Iron Bowl winner there's also a loser

The text sent out by War Eagle Robert early Saturday morning went something like this: "One day some Tigers and some Elephants decided to play a football game. The Elephants kept complaining that the Tigers were too fast. So the Tigers said, 'What if we spot you 24 points?'"

Said the author some 36 hours later of that text, "I'm not usually that kind of fan. I don't go wild when Auburn wins or throw a fit when they lose. I'm usually the same guy whether we're 5-7 or 12-0. But Friday was indescribable, unbelievable. I couldn't resist."

This is the story of two Roberts, one a lifelong Alabama fan, the other a diehard Auburn supporter. Rarely have two adult males, both husbands and fathers, shared such similar emotions at such different times as they did when Auburn went on the road to pull off the greatest comeback in Iron Bowl history by stunning Alabama 28-27.

For instance, when Bama roared to that 24-0 lead early in the second quarter, Crimson Robert kept thinking to himself, "Is this real? Can this last? Yes, I think it can."

Hours later, Auburn having rallied to remain undefeated going into this week's Southeastern Conference championship game against South Carolina, War Eagle Robert kept asking himself, "Did this really happen? Is this real?"

It did, of course. With 100,000 disbelieving Tide backers watching in shock within Bryant-Denny Stadium on Friday, with the largest CBS television audience of the year tuned in across the country, Auburn stunned the college football world.

And because it did, the Tigers -- who sit just behind Oregon at No. 2 in the latest Associated Press poll -- can secure a spot in the BCS title game if they can knock off the Gamecocks for a second time this season.

But win or lose against South Carolina, it's inconceivable that any Tiger fan can again be lifted so high after being laid so low by the Tide.

"Greatest win ever? Absolutely," said War Eagle Robert, who estimates he's been a passionate Auburn fan for at least 30 of his 47 years on Earth. "I know about Punt, Bama, Punt, but I think this is bigger because we've got a chance to win a national championship."

Given that every action creates an equal and opposite reaction, Crimson-Faced Robert still believes that 1972 loss -- in which Auburn blocked two late Bama punts to turn a 16-3 deficit into a 17-16 win and ruin the Tide's unbeaten season -- is worse.

Of course, he also said, "This hurts. It hurts BAD! I mean, I was giddy, deliriously giddy in the first half. Then they hit that bomb to cut it to 24-14 at the start of the second, and I got that sick feeling in my stomach. Other than Punt, Bama, Punt, this is clearly the worst loss ever to Auburn."

For so long it looked like it was going to be the greatest Tide win in this bitter series, precisely because the Tigers were chasing a national championship.

In fact, it was so easy for so long that when Tide running back dropped a near-certain touchdown that would have put Bama in front 28-0, Crimson-Faced Robert admitted, "That's OK. There will be more."

But that didn't mean he wasn't growing concerned about all those points the Tide was leaving behind. Especially when Bama running back Mark Ingram saw a football he was carrying punched out from behind by Auburn's Antoine Carter. The ball traveled nearly 30 yards on a straight line down the right sideline, eventually recovered by Auburn in the end zone for a touchback.

"I don't believe a graduate of Auburn's astrophysics department could make a football do that," said Crimson-Faced Robert. "I've never seen that happen before."

But War Eagle Robert had been watching those kinds of bounces and breaks benefit the Tigers all season.

"I knew we'd come back," he said. "I didn't know if we'd win, because I wasn't sure we could keep Bama from scoring. But I knew we'd come back because this Auburn team is just different."

They are so different that they've come from at least 10 points down in four different games this year, thanks mostly to the singular brilliance of quarterback Cam Newton, who surely locked up the Heisman Trophy with Friday's three passing TDs and one rushing score.

"I just hope we're ready at the start against South Carolina," said War Eagle Robert. "We've come from behind all season, but at some point I'm afraid we won't be able to."

Should that happen, Auburn supporters shouldn't expect much sympathy from Bama backers.

"It's just so hard to accept," said Crimson-Faced Robert. "I had the husband of a big Bama fan come up to me in church and said his wife woke up at 3 a.m. on Saturday saying, 'I can't believe that happened.' I had to go out to eat with some people Friday night and I had no appetite. I felt like my Mom and favorite dog had just been run over by a Mack truck."

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com and 423-757-6273.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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