Monday, November 21, 2011

ESPN Films: Roll Tide War Eagle

Running on the treadmill, I watched Roll Tide War Eagle. The documentary is airing as part of a series of seven documentaries that ESPN Films is running this fall.

The film looks at the rivalry between between the University of Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn University Tigers. Since 1893, the Crimson Tide and Tigers have played 75 times. Alabama leads the all-time series, with 40 wins to Auburn's 34, with one tie. Eight of the past 10 Iron Bowls have been decided by 10 or fewer points.

With no pro sports, the film claims that the state of Alabama focuses on one game: the annual meeting between the two universities called the “Iron Bowl.” The series is considered one of the best and most hard-fought rivalries in all of sports. As the rivalry was mainly played in Birmingham, Alabama for many years, the name of the Iron Bowl comes from Birmingham's historic role in the steel industry.

The documentary builds to the events on and off the field in the last two years. On the field, each team has celebrated a national title, Heisman Trophy winner and Iron Bowl win.

Trailing 21–20 with 8:27 remaining in 2009, unbeaten Alabama (#2 AP) marched down the field on a 15-play, 79 yard drive capped by a 3 yard touchdown pass from Greg McElroy to Roy Upchurch. Alabama took the lead 26–21 with 1:27 remaining and held on for the win. Alabama would go on to win both the SEC Championship and the BCS National Championship. Additionally, Alabama Running back Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy in 2010.

Led by eventual Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton in 2010, unbeaten Auburn (#2 AP) came back from a 24–0 second quarter deficit to win 28–27 over 9–2 Alabama (#9 AP) in Tuscaloosa. It was both the largest comeback in the history of Auburn football and the largest comeback ever allowed in Alabama football history. It was also the largest crowd to ever witness the rivalry game with 101,821 in attendance. Auburn went on to win both the SEC Championship and the BCS National Championship.

Off the field in early 2011, an Alabama fan poisoned the 130 year old trees at Toomer's Corner where Auburn fans have long celebrated big wins. A deadly tornado then hit Tuscaloosa, home to the University of Alabama, in April 2011.

The film includes interviews with Bo Jackson, Charles Barkley, Cam Newton, Mark Ingram, Nick Saban and others. It is a solid documentary about a subject that I really did not know anything about; college football is not one of my passions. I do wonder whether the film portrays the sentiments of the general population or just a few rabid fans.

In addition to Amazon, Roll Tide War Eagle is also available on iTunes.

There is a write-up on the 2011 Iron Bowl game on the web site.

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