Two sportswriters cover the exciting buildup to the 2000 Iron Bowl, a college football grudge match between the Univ. of Alabama and Auburn Univ.
Maisel (Sports Illustrated) spent game week in Tuscaloosa with Alabama’s Crimson Tide while Whiteside (USA Today) stayed in Auburn with the Tigers. Since the 1800s, Alabama, a state school, has condescended to Auburn, with its “land grant” status and agricultural tradition; their rivalry for the Iron Bowl, a state tradition since1893, is judged the most intense in the country by many sports announcers. The Tigers accept their anachronistic underdog status and use it to prepare. Maisel finds a gloomy atmosphere in Tuscaloosa. With a 3-7 record, Coach Dubose and his staff have been given notice, and a recruiting scandal threatens the program’s future. Coaches speak bluntly about the poor leadership of the seniors and the failures of highly touted recruits. Fans, who had expected a national championship, vehemently express their disappointment. Across the state, Tommy Tuberville savors his first winning season at Auburn; with an 8-2 record and a big win over Georgia, he and his staff receive raises during game week. Success has come with running back Rudi Johnson, a junior-college transfer, whose durability and selflessness inspire his teammates and whose gift of a prized game ball to a souvenir-hunting teenager has made him beloved in the community. (An interesting subplot concerning Rudi, his academic advisor, and a paper due on Friday disappointingly vanishes without resolution.) For all the thousands of hours the coaches and players spend watching videotape, Alabama's strategy comes down to stopping Rudi on defense and passing the ball on offense. Local television stations promise viewers that any news from the Florida presidential vote-count will not interrupt the game telecast. On Saturday in Tuscaloosa, no ticketholder stays home because of a massive sleet storm.
A savvy look at the intense preparations for a football game that affects the entire state of Alabama. (16 pp. b&w photos, not seen)