I won’t go into the reasons behind my long-distance fanaticism other than it was a combination of my mother being an alum and my unconditional love of Coach Bear Bryant that made me a University of Alabama football fan from an early age, and that explains why if there’s one game each football season you can bet I will not miss it is Auburn v. Alabama — known as the Iron Bowl — one of the biggest and most heated rivalries in all of sports.

My connection to ‘Bama football dates back to the 1972 heartbreaker when the Tigers beat my Crimson Tide 17-16 and I watched tha game at a downstairs neighbor’s apartment with my nose practically pressed against the TV screen. I was so into it I even went so far as to vehemently yell at my mom and my neighbor to shut up when they burst into unrelated laughter from off in the kitchen just as Auburn blocked the second Alabama punt and ran it in for what would be the game-winning score. And I cried when time ran out.

This match-up is so significant for both schools that even if either or both team is winless going into it, whoever emerges victorious can literally salvage their season. And for the fifth year in a row, that won’t be Alabama, who just lost 22-15. Of special pain is the newest statistic being that Coach Mike Shula (legendary Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula’s son; and former Alabama quarterback) now in his fourth season at the helm is the first in the team’s history to ever have lost four straight to their cross-stated nemesis. Part of the reason for that is because you just don’t live long as Bama’s head coach if you lose to Auburn. Once is tolerable. Twice you might get away with. But three times and your gone.

I suppose there’s some consolation in that it was a close game and that Shula and his boys certainly had multiple opportunities to win against No. 15-ranked Auburn. But they failed to convert on two two-point conversions and also turned the ball over four times (the first two both resulting in Auburn touchdowns).

I like Shula. He took over a team in disarray in 2002 after cut-n-run Dennis Franchione notoriously bailed out for Texas A&M. I’d keep him around at least for one more season/rivalry. But with this fourth loss in a row there’s going to be a very local and vocal contingent that’ll demand he be given the axe.