Since the advent of the SEC championship game, a decade ago, the teams can no longer schedule an off week before the Iron Bowl, so what was once a Super Bowl-like fortnight of anticipation has been halved. "In the first week there was a lot of back-and-forth," says Finebaum. "By Sunday you could just sense it everywhere in the state. As you got closer to the game it was like your wedding day approaching."
The lead-up might be shorter now, but the Iron Bowl is still the Iron Bowl. Many couples in what is known throughout the state as "mixed marriages" won't speak on game day, because one spouse is an Auburn fan and the other roots for Alabama. Office workers will wear their colors to work the day before the game. And the media will provide saturation coverage. In 2000 the game was played on the same day that the results of the presidential recount were announced. That Friday's Birmingham News ran a story reassuring readers that the local CBS affiliate wouldn't let something like the identity of the leader of the free world get in the way of its broadcast. The headline: WIAT WON'T INTERRUPT IRON BOWL FOR ELECTION.
In Selma, Gillis Cammack, now 79, will be watching just as intently this Saturday as he did 55 years ago. As for the hatchet he helped bury, no one knows what became of it. Woodrow Wilson Park has undergone several renovations—it is now called Linn Park—and there is nothing to mark the burial site, which probably doesn't matter anyway. Says Cammack, "I doubt if that hatchet stayed buried very long."