Well, now that that's over...
A few weeks ago, Alabama lost its chance at the national title by losing a close game against LSU in overtime. After Arkansas built up a two-touchdown lead on the top team in the nation yet saw their championship hopes gobbled up by the Honey Badger, we at last understand why the Great Leader thought missing field goals was a better option than punting.
Stranger still, after last week's slew of upsets, Alabama's national championship hopes rested mostly on LSU winning today's game, or by losing today's game in a blowout. Really.
The Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, according to the tinfoil hat crowd, predicts untold chaos and upheaval in 2012. College football calls that piker's work. Its apocalypse arrives every Saturday.
Thus, we arrive at the Iron Bowl, where all that stands between Alabama and a chance to play for the national title is a three-touchdown home underdog.
Yet, because it is the Iron Bowl, Crimson Tide fans are as nervous as a moonshiner at the Baptist picnic.
Because it is the Iron Bowl, even though pictures of last year's second half collapse have been posted in the players' lockers all season, they were in want for no reminding.
Because it is the Iron Bowl, fans of both teams, families of the players, the coaches, even the press keep the topic close at hand.
Because it is the Iron Bowl, ESPN doesn't just cover the game, they make a documentary film about it.
Because it is the Iron Bowl, schoolchildren have been re-enacting or re-inventing Mark Ingram's infamous sideline fumble for a year.
Because it is the Iron Bowl, people in the state of Alabama will delay weddings or induce childbirth.
Because it is the Iron Bowl, even the Southside Birmingham hipsters who say don't watch football will watch football.
With so much of college football mired in scandal, corruption, graft, and compromise, it is comforting to find the bedrock upon which one can build a pure fandom, free from any computer rankings or poll-watch politicking or cable television broadcast markets. One can still find the line drawn between allegiance and opposition.
Between wining and losing.
Between love and hate.
Between hope and dispair.
Between us and them.
Because it is the Iron Bowl.