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All in the family

Jeremiah Dial spent much of his youth in Missouri and still managed to find his way into the middle of college football’s best rivalry.

“I pulled for Alabama when I was a kid in elementary school,” Dial said of the short period of time he lived in Alabama before moving to Missouri, “but my brother went to Auburn. So I’ve been an Auburn fan since I was 10 or 11.”

For Jeremiah, the passion for his beloved Tigers runs deep; enough so that it irritates his wife, Jessica, who comes from a family full of Alabama fans.

“I am hardcore,” she said of her fandom.

Things came out roses for Jessica in 2009 when Alabama defeated Auburn en route to a national title run that culminated in Pasadena, Calif. Last year, things were not quite so good.

“Last year it got real serious,” Jeremiah recalled.

The couple was not together during the Iron Bowl and while Jeremiah loved the epic comeback that led to a 28-27 Auburn victory, Jessica was less than thrilled.

“When you got home, it got real serious,” Jeremiah told his wife as they reminisced about the game that proved one of Auburn’s highlight moments on its way to a national title.

“It’s one of those things you don’t talk about a whole lot,” Jessica said of the rivalry between the state’s top two football programs, a turf war that has divided its fair share of houses. “I’m pretty competitive and I don’t like for my team to lose.”

Despite the tension that can sometimes hang over the house, the couple does its best to make sure it watches games, especially the Iron Bowl, together.

“We sit in the living room and watch football all day long or we sit in separate rooms and watch separate games,” Jessica said how the family spends most of its fall Saturdays.

“For her birthday, we set up a projector and a 120-inch screen in the back and about 40 of our friends came over,” Jeremiah said. “That may be what we do (for the Iron Bowl). Game time is sometimes bigger than Thanksgiving around here.”

While the Dials try to make sure they watch games together, they also have to make sure they keep the communication as cordial as possible.

“I scream a lot,” Jeremiah said of his viewing habits.

“I do too,” Jessica noted. “We try not to scream at each other though.”

“It’s more comical when Alabama makes a bad play and you’re watching your wife get angry,” Jeremiah added. “But it’s not funny when I get angry.”

While each spouse has a preferred team, they both make sure to root for the conference when their squads are not meeting head-to-head.

That prospect has been considerably harder for Jeremiah.

“It is in state,” Jeremiah said of Alabama. “I’m not going to be a stuck up Auburn fan. I guess one of the biggest things is that I am tired of hearing about how many national championships they’ve won.”

The attitude between husband and wife, while competitive, has been good. But things start to take a slightly different turn when the children get involved.

“It really makes me mad when he gets our children saying those ugly words,” Jessica said, referencing Jeremiah’s penchant for coaxing daughters Alyssa and Autumn into exclaiming Auburn’s trademark battle cry.

“They’re split too,” Jeremiah said of the children. Eight-year-old Alyssa likes the Tigers while three-year-old Autumn prefers the Crimson Tide.

“She was a daddy’s girl,” Jessica said of Autumn. “Autumn is all about Mommy.”

However, Jeremiah has not given up on his youngest daughter. He aims to convert her from her crimson ways at the first opportunity. Though, he admits, that may be a difficult task during this year’s Iron Bowl.

“I hope Auburn wins,” Jeremiah said. “But Alabama has one of the best defenses in NCAA football. If Auburn wins, it is going to have to be on turnovers. Their defense has to get better. I want Auburn to win, but probably not.”

“At least you recognize it,” a temporarily triumphant Jessica prodded after her husband’s concession.