ed. - We meant to have this up earlier today, but it was one of those "real life interrupted" kind of days.
Todd & I were afforded the opportunity to attend the premiere of Roll Tide/War Eagle at the beautiful Alabama Theatre last week (there's no way on earth that phrase was actually going into a headline on this site, hence the stars.) We elected not to post anything about it last week considering the game of the century was nigh.
Filmmaker Martin Khodabakhshian addressed the crowd before the screening and admitted he didn't know a lot about the rivalry when he began making the film, but that he couldn't pass up the opportunity given the "truth is stranger than fiction" nature of the last few years of the rivalry. Back to back national championships, back to back Heisman winners, the tree poisoning at Toomer's Corner, the Cam Newton controversy and the devastating April 27th tornadoes were something that simply couldn't be scripted he said.
Here's the official blurb about the film:
There are many great rivalries in sports: Yankees-Red Sox, Michigan-Ohio State, North Carolina-Duke. But they don't compare to the venomous and consuming in-state college football rivalry that is Alabama-Auburn. With no pro sports, the state of Alabama centers around one game in the year: The annual meeting between the two universities called the "Iron Bowl." And you could not script what has transpired in the state in the past two years.
The film, at just around an hour, sprints through the overwhelming majority of the rivalry. We're treated to interview snippets from the likes of Charles Barkley, Shaun Alexander, Cam Newton, Mark Ingram, Greg McElroy, Nick Saban, Gene Chizik, Bo Jackson, Pat Dye, Bill Curry and several other players and coaches on both sides as well as from fans including couples in "mixed marriages." There are quite a few humorous quotes from players and even old footage of little kids socking each other for wearing the wrong colors. Of particular delight for Alabama fans should be the comments of New York Times journalist Gay Talese. He throws out some hilarious one-liners.
Khodabakhshian typically does a good job crafting the story and showing how much the two schools really do hate each other and then the last half of the film focuses primarily on the Cam Newton controversy, Harvey Updyke & the trees and the April 27th tornadoes. Alabama fans will no doubt feel dismayed by having to relive the 2010 Iron Bowl again so soon and you'll no doubt be as disgusted by the clearing of Cam Newton in the documentary (even though you know it's coming) as you were by his being cleared the day it happened. At least we got to see Cody 5 again and the sweet Dareus spin move from Pasadena.
It certainly has been a crazy two years in the rivalry, but the part of the film I didn't like was that the whole documentary is kind of viewed through the lens of the Paul Finebaum show. His show, of course, is certainly a big player in fanning the flames of the rivalry and is no doubt a major part of the sports landscape in Alabama, but I found framing the documentary through that lens to be kind of "meh." I guess it will probably be interesting to those not familiar with his show to hear the Finebaum regulars squawking on air, but for those familiar with the show, it will probably elicit nothing but eye rolls...but hey, this isn't a documentary made for Alabama and Auburn fans, it's a documentary about the rivalry and the Finebaum show has certainly become a major part of that...especially given the tree poisoning. I know it was unavoidable to not include it, but it seems to focus on the show a bit too much in my opinion. I also wasn't crazy about one of the ways they chose to transition between segments. They have a guy playing "Sweet Home Alabama" on piano on a stage and the piano has big Alabama and Auburn logos on it. Seems kind of goofy.
All in all, it's certainly worth watching, but it is by no means a definitive history of the Iron Bowl. The filmmaker never makes that claim, but I just wanted it to be clear to those viewing that it is a brief history of the rivalry with a heavy, heavy focus on the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Aside from the goofy piano interludes, Khodabakhshian has crafted a pretty interesting hour of television, one that will certainly make the rest of the country say, "Damn, those people in Alabama are crazy." And you know what, they're right.
The film airs tonight on ESPN at 7:00 p.m. CST. and will be aired at least five more times throughout the month on ESPN2 (you can see a complete schedule here.) For those of you living in Birmingham, they're showing the film at Work/Play tonight at 7:00 p.m. While it will certainly be fun to watch at home, I would recommend getting down there to watch it if you can, because it was certainly a good time watching it a room full of Bama and Auburn fans as people throughout the crowd took turns yelling at the screen in support of their team (and just as often insulting the other team.) Roll Tide.