Roll Tide/War Eagle

If you’re a fan of college football, I’d highly recommend ESPN Films’ “Roll Tide/War Eagle” by director Martin Khodabakhshian.

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.

On the field, each school celebrated a national title, Heisman Trophy winner and Iron Bowl win. Outside the lines, the rivalry has taken a twisted turn, with a stunning tale of poisoned trees and a historic force of mother nature that brought both sides of this split state together.

This one-hour film takes you on an unpredictable and unforgettable journey through the history of bad blood that runs between the two programs — all told through the eyes of the school’s Hall of Fame icons, the controversial figures that launched this rivalry into the national spotlight, all the way down to its passionate roots — the fans.

It premiered November 8 and I saw it by DVR-delay on the 11th. It airs again on the 20th, 26th, and 27th. There was way too much attention given to the cretin Harvey Updike, but it was understandable given the director’s intent to highlight the sheer craziness of the rivalry.

Here’s a short take from the director:

One of the devices of the film that grabbed my attention–and apparently that of several others–is the opening sequence and several other scenes being punctuated by an over-the-top rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama” by jazz pianist Eric Lewis, aka ELEW. Here’s a more sedate version not from the film:

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Janis Gore says:

    Ahem. I like this version of Sweet Home Alabama (NSFW);

  2. Janis Gore says:

    And the program wouldn’t let me edit that semicolon.

  3. John P says:

    Watched this documentary last night. I’m a regular attendee at games in Tuscaloosa as my wife is an Alabama fan and most of the fans are pretty regular people. This film highlighted the weird “Toddlers and Tiaras” creep factor that is prevalent among many college football fans, particularly in the state of Alabama.

    We get it, if coach put you in to play your eight grade team could have amounted to something.

    Seriously, rival boosters paying former players to talk about when they got paid in college?

    As for Updike, all I’ve got to say is that he reaffirms my stance on people who wear jean shorts.

  4. Janis Gore says:
  5. Rusty Massingill says: