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Georgia Tech vs. Georgia? That's no rivalry

Heading into Rivalry Week, Georgia and Georgia Tech fans remind me of the wannabe street tough in "Crocodile Dundee" who tries to stick up the Aussie hero and his girlfriend with a switchblade.

"That's not a knoyfe," drawls Dundee, brandishing a 12-inch Bowie. "THIS is a knoyfe."

As someone who once lived in Alabama for several years, I can honestly say, regarding the annual UGA/Tech game, "That's not a rivalry."

The truth is, no other football rivalry matches the intensity of the one between Alabama and Auburn. When it comes to feelings of hatred for the other side, the Civil War was merely a warm-up for those folks.

That's partly, perhaps, because they're so evenly matched. Both programs have sustained success over decades - through different eras, different coaches, different cheating scandals - neither managing to achieve the upper hand for any significant period of time. Other in-state rivalries, meanwhile, are often diluted by one team's dominance.

Take Georgia and Georgia Tech. I'm partial to neither side, so I'm being entirely objective when I point out that this is the first time in years the Jackets have actually been favored. Georgia has won five in a row and seven of the last 10. That kind of one-sidedness does not a good rivalry make.

The situation is even worse in other states. Tennessee-Vanderbilt? Please. Ole Miss-Mississippi State? Who cares? Florida has some bitter rivalries, true, but the state's fan base is split three ways. That's no fun. The only saving grace is that whenever Florida, Florida State and Miami play each other, one of them loses.

In Alabama, nearly everyone is either a Tide or a Tiger fan. Partisanship stretches from Muscle Shoals to Mobile, with people evenly divided in virtually every part of the state. And neither side can stand the other, even families who have been next-door neighbors for years. I mean, people shoot each other's dogs over this rivalry.

Moreover, in the weeks leading up to the Iron Bowl, every aspect of daily life is focused on the feud. Local Red Cross chapters stage blood drives pitting fans against each other. (In my opinion, neither side gives enough.) Schools solicit canned-goods donations by placing two large boxes marked "Alabama" and "Auburn" near the front door.

One time I overheard an acquaintance, a rabid Tide supporter, ranting about "mixed marriages" and lamenting the fact that his daughter was engaged to "one of them." Knowing the state's checkered civil rights history, I bristled a bit at that.

"Look," I said, "shouldn't people who love each other be able to spend the rest of their lives together, regardless of racial differences?"

He stopped chewing his tobacco for a moment and looked at me hard.

"Racial differences?" he said. "What're you talkin' about, boy? I mean his folks is big Auburn fans."

Now THAT'S a rivalry.

E-mail Rob Jenkins at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.