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Unfortunately it will take a while to get that loss out of my head. Something tells me that I will always remember that one. Punt Bama Punt happened the year before I was born so there is no recollection of it. Maybe Cam’s Comeback Bowl 2010 is the new Punt Bama Punt.

My personal maxim of football is that the game is won on the line-of-scrimmage. Coming into the game, I felt like Auburn had done a better job all season of controlling both lines and thus the advantage was theirs. I hoped Alabama could put together its first complete game of the year and win, but I thought it would take the kind of effort that hadn’t been seen all season.

Here are a  few random thoughts about the game from the perspective of a fan on the 25 yard line of the West Upper Deck:

  • Auburn won because they were a better football team this year. Despite all the time we give to records and programs and comparisons, the game is won by the better team the vast majority of the time. I didn’t say more talented squad or better coached, or more focused, I said better team. I can still love the University of Alabama and its football team but I can readily admit that Auburn had the better overall team. This year.
  • Auburn is a better team this year mainly due to its experience. A quick review of their depth chart shows that one offensive lineman, the H-back, and running back are the only guaranteed returning starters next season ( I am assuming that Adams and Newton will go pro). On defense, one lineman, one linebacker, and two defensive backs will be back (I am assuming Fairley goes pro as well). That is a lot of experience and it is hard to trump that on talent alone and in all fairness, there are some pretty talented kids in that group. They never gave up, which is tenacity that is learned through experience. Talent in no way makes up for that.
  • Auburn also has an incredible quarterback. Forget about allegations for a minute. Cam Newton is a once in a generation athlete. You just don’t find talent like that everyday – Julio Jones is the same way at receiver, unfortunately receiver does not impact the game the way quarterback does. I’m just glad we only have to hear about him for one year. You think Tebow love made you sick, imagine four years of Newton.
  • Auburn rarely makes mistakes. There were no offensive penalties that I recall. The flag against Fairley was ticky-tack at best and was probably earned in the last game (Thanks, Bulldogs). They just didn’t do many things to beat themselves. That is the mark of a good team (see ’09 Alabama).
  • Forget about the “out-coached” comments. Alabama’s game plan was great. The team was motivated. The offense did a great job early on and the the Tiger defense on its heels. The defense was phenomenal. I never imagined Alabama would be that effective against Newton (despite the loss, Alabama still out gained Auburn and held Newton to season lows) but if the plan was to stop the run and make them beat us in the air, as it usually is, Newton and company made the plays that Alabama didn’t.  Four trips in the Red Zone in the first half that netted two field goals and two turnovers. That’s not coaching. That’s execution.  Look at it like this, if Alabama scores a touchdown on any of those four possessions, we aren’t talking about this today. A back dropping a sure touchdown pass or the most sure handed back that I can remember fumbling a ball through the end zone are not coaching problems.
  • I’m not sure what happened to the resiliency Alabama used to show in the fourth quarter. This could be a coaching call, but I’m going to defer to experience and leadership.
  • Empty seats in the student section are inexcusable. Come on, kids!
  • We need to have a few less Scott Cochran cheers during the game. I don’t think they are working.

Finally, as disappointed as I was (and am), I really don’t believe that this signals a shift of power in the state (other than the one obvious year). As mentioned above, Auburn is senior laden and both Cam and Malzhan should be gone next year (I’d kind of like to see Cam behind a line with four new starters and for both Newton and Malzhan, their stock will never be any higher than it is right now). With the majority of their defense gone as well, Auburn should struggle against a brutal road schedule.

Alabama is not unique in that it has struggled (by comparison) in a season after a national title with a roster that lost a lot of starters. The Tide had a much better season than Texas or Florida. Recruiting is going well and despite what happened Friday, I wouldn’t even consider trading Saban for Malzhan or anyone else for that matter.

Alabama’s loss to Auburn on Friday hurt. It hurt bad. I’m just to the point where I can stand to think about it three days later. I was a little worried Friday night that I was too upset about it. I mean, I’m a grown man with responsibilities far greater than being a college football fan. I have a family. I have a business. When you shake out all the important stuff, the outcome of one football game isn’t really that big of a deal.

On the other hand, I am rational enough to know that there more important things than football and that realization, in and of itself, allows me to be passionate about football and not feel the least bit guilty about it.

I am a passionate person. That’s just who I am. I emotionally invest myself in the University of Alabama football team and their success and failure. The wins mean something to me, especially the big ones, like the SEC and National championships won last season and the last two year’s Iron Bowls. And if I revel in the highs, by nature, I must suffer through the lows. The losses hurt on an emotional level. It’s a vicious cycle that I am in, but the highs are worth the lows, because of one thing:

As a person, I am not defined by the actions of a football team. The football team that I have adopted as my own especially, but also any teams that interact with them.

My team losing does not make me a loser. My team winning does not make me a winner. My value as a person, both to myself and to others has nothing whatsoever to do with a scoreboard. Never has. Never will.

I think we all need to be reminded of that from time to time. Ego wants us to compare ourselves with others – even to the extent of winners and losers on the football field. That comparison makes us feel better or worse than others – better if our team wins, worse if out team looses – but never equal to others. As much fun as it is to build up the rivalry between Alabama and Auburn, the truth is that there is virtually no differences between the fan bases of either school. Maybe the comedy comes from pointing out despicable attributes of ourselves and labeling our rival with them. Either way, the jokes that we make about one school and its fans can be used in the opposite, just as easily.

The problem comes when we take the identity of our chosen team as our own.

As disappointed as I was at the loss, I was still proud to be a fan and an alumnus.  After the recent success of Alabama, it was hard to believe that they were going to lose again. When it happened, especially to our rival, it is hard to stomach.

One final thought while I’m full of brevity today: Hate is an active emotion. I’m not sure the psychological jargon involved, but I am certain that to hate someone or something requires active participation from the person doing the hating. I understand that it is considered part of the rivalry and that is what makes this particular rivalry so heated, but the hate doesn’t really do us any good other than the comedic aspect of all of this.

I’m not going to wast energy hating something. That’s energy I could use for other, more important things. Especially if that hate only serves to protect or feed my Ego.

Of course there are 39 weeks until the 2011 season kicks off.

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