Darryl and Renee James prepare for this weekend's Iron Bowl.

Archived Story

A house divided

Published 8:34am Wednesday, November 24, 2010

When you’re married to someone, it’s inevitable that you will disagree on something: the house payment, how to discipline the children, where to eat on Saturday night, who gets the remote…

The list could go on and on.

But there’s one thing that a couple living in Alabama can disagree on that has the potential to be more serious than all those things: being an Alabama fan or an Auburn fan.With the Iron Bowl scheduled for Friday, the Alabama and Auburn rivalry is on just about everyone’s mind, and this is no different for Russellville couple Darryl and Renee James.

The couple, who married on Christmas in 1997, doesn’t disagree on many things, but when it comes to football, that’s a completely different story.

Darryl is a lifelong Alabama fan who takes pride in the tradition associated with the university.

“Alabama has so much tradition and history with the championships, Bear Bryant’s legacy and the players,” Darryl said. “I’ve always lived in Alabama, too, so it’s also just representative of where I’m from.”

That same tradition and history that endeared Darryl to Alabama football is what turned Renee away from it. Renee has been an Auburn fan for as long as she can remember, but her love for Auburn football grew out of a rebellion against what she called “the university.”

“When I was in high school, everyone was an Alabama fan,” Renee said. “Everything revolved around their traditions and around Bear Bryant. I just couldn’t take it anymore and I started to really get into the Auburn games.”

When Darryl and Renee met in 1997 and discovered that their football loyalties were not the same, they decided to make the most of the situation and just throw a big party on the day of the Iron Bowl for their family and friends.

“Where I grew up in Mobile, everyone had Iron Bowl parties,” Renee said. “It was always a very big deal with the whole ‘house divided,’ and I knew of couples that wouldn’t speak to each other after the game.

“I love Auburn and Darryl loves Alabama but we weren’t to the point where we wouldn’t speak after a game. We wanted the rivalry to be fun so we decided to throw our own parties here in Russellville.”

Darryl and Renee invited family and friends from church over to their house that they decorated with orange, blue, red and white balloons. Auburn and Alabama memorabilia and banners hung from the doors and walls and food covered every flat area in the kitchen and the dining room.

One room was designated as the “Alabama” room and one room was designated as the “Auburn” room and each respective team’s fans would crowd into one room or the other to watch the game.

“It was always so much fun having both types of fans there and jeering each other all night,” Renee said. “Insults were flung from room to room, but it was always in good fun.”

That basic description of Darryl and Renee’s Iron Bowl parties pretty much stayed the same throughout the 11 straight years they hosted them. But there were some memories that stood out more than others.

“My favorite memory of our Iron Bowl parties was the year I fed the fish,” Darryl said laughing. “I had an Oscar fish in our aquarium that was carnivorous and would eat other fish. I named the fish ‘Bear’ and I kept ‘Auburn’ goldfish around to feed it.

“One year during one of our Iron Bowl parties, I decided to feed ‘Bear’ an ‘Auburn’ goldfish every time Alabama would score. Everybody really got a kick out of that.”

Darryl and Renee’s divisive love for their teams has trickled down to their children. Shay, 22, developed a love for Auburn that she still carries to this day; Ryan, 21, remains a true Alabama fan; and as if Renee needed another reason to love Auburn, Nick, 19, is currently a sophomore at Auburn University and a member of Auburn’s marching band.

“Nick going to Auburn has made it worse on me,” Darryl said. “Renee now pauses and rewinds the Auburn games because she’ll think she saw Nick when it shows the band. I can only take so much of the prolonged games before I have to go in the other room.”

Darryl and Renee’s normally tame rivalry has actually gotten a little more heated this year with the Auburn/Cam Newton scandal and rumors. Renee said that it’s sparked many debates.

“Darryl just thinks that Auburn cheated and I’m always trying to defend them and Cam,” Renee said. “The only thing we agree on when it comes to the whole Cam Newton debate is that, scandal or not, he’s a great player.”

“He’s definitely a great player; it’s just too bad that he had to go and cheat,” Darryl said while smiling at Renee.

Darryl and Renee have taken a hiatus from their Iron Bowl parties in recent years due to busier schedules but they are looking forward to enjoying the game this year with family.

While Darryl was skeptical about the outcome of Friday’s matchup, Renee was confident in how the game would end up.

“There’s no question in my mind who’s going to win,” she said smiling. “It will be the best team and we know who that is.”

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