One play, three calls, three stories.
Auburn and the University of Alabama, two bitter rivals, faced off this year in The Iron Bowl. The rivalry is so intense that in 2010, after Auburn won the national championship, an Alabama fan poisoned Auburn’s iconic oak trees which were almost a century old. Adding to the drama, the winner of this year’s Iron Bowl was also the winner of the SEC West, going on to face Missouri in the SEC championship game in Atlanta on Saturday.
The game was a doozy. With the game tied at 28, there was one second left on the clock in the fourth quarter. Alabama attempted a 57 yard field goal to win. It was a risky move, but had it worked, it would have made college football history.
The kick ended up making college football history, but not in the way Alabama anticipated.
The ball neither scored nor went out of bounds, the two most likely scenarios. Instead, it was caught by Auburn’s Chris Davis who proceeded to bob and weave his way through the entire Alabama squad for a game winning touchdown. At this point, even national television cut to the local Auburn sportcaster, whose call, for lack of a better word, was electric.
It should be noted, at this point, that Alabama had not lost a game in over a year.
Meanwhile, the local Alabama commentary (by Eli Gold) conveys a different story. “There’s nobody there for Alabama,” Gold exclaims, as Davis nears the end zone. Listen to that call below.
One play, three stories. I was reminded immediately about how public polling about the Kennedy-Nixon debate was drastically skewed based on whether the debate was heard on radio or television. Auburn listeners were caught up in Rod Bramblett’s frenzied feeling of joy and excitement as Auburn scored for the win. Alabama listeners felt, with sportscaster Eli Gold, shock and disappointment. And while Verne Lundquist’s commentary is top-notch, it was lacking the pure emotion of the Auburn call.
And that’s the magic of sports radio. Even national stories and national games deserve a local flare. The stories for Auburn fans and Alabama fans are miles apart. But Bramblett’s electric commentary can absorb any national listener in the moment, where every impartial fan is rooting for Auburn for those few seconds of an incredible play.