By (Ellen Johnson)

If you live in Alabama, you know that college football is a season-long – sometimes year-long – celebration and rivalry that brings friends and families together for fellowship and traditions, and there is no rivalry greater than the Iron Bowl. Those who live in this state chose a side at an early age, and for one Dothan family, The University of Alabama has always been the only choice.

“I supposedly went to my first Alabama game when I was two, due to lack of a babysitter,” said Shelia Kelly, 55, a University of Alabama alumna.

Kelly has attended the Iron Bowl game for 42 straight years, and this year will be her 43rd game in the streak. While 42 years may seem like a long time, football isn’t something Kelly grows tired of.

“I just love football in general,” Kelly said. “I love the excitement and the crowd, and I like visiting with people on the weekend and getting to see people. I get a rush out of going to the ball game.”

Kelly’s father, Hugh Overton, 84, is perhaps the only person whose Iron Bowl record is longer than Kelly’s, having not missed a game since 1958 when the original Auburn-Alabama rivalry resumed and took full force.

“I was a life-long fan from the time I was born,” Overton said. “I like to study it. I’m not one who hoops and hollers the whole game. I’m analyzing it and watching certain players do certain things. And Sheila has been by my side the whole time, and she knows as much about football as any man.”

Overton explained that one of the reasons college football might have such a big influence on the state is the lack of professional sports in Alabama.

“I’m not too fond of professional football because it’s boring most of the time,” Overton said. “College football is just part of my life. [Sheila’s mother] and I went to every game for 48 years, and the last one after she passed away was one of the hardest things I ever did, going without her.”

With no one to watch on Sundays, Alabama residents instead fuel their fandom on Saturdays.

“We have to pick one school or the other,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t matter where you went to school or where your parents went to school. When you move to Alabama, you are forced to a pick a side. “

Kelly’s son had a friend who moved to Birmingham, and upon entering the state, he was faced with the same choice.

“His dad brought home two hats and said ‘Pick. You have to pick,’ ” Kelly said. “It’s everyone can become involved in, even if you didn’t go to school there. Even if you didn’t go to school here, it’s just your team. You get bragging rights.”

Kelly said that while she doesn’t grow tired of all the football hoopla after all these years, she doesn’t always enjoy going to Auburn, or seeing Alabama lose.

“I don’t want to go to Auburn, I don’t enjoy going to Auburn by any means, and I could just as well skip going to Auburn, but I’m not going to let Auburn get me out of losing my streak,” Kelly said.

Overton agrees that Auburn isn’t his favorite place, but he isn’t going to stop supporting the Crimson Tide no matter where it takes him.

“I hate to go to Auburn because I don’t like their stadium, I don’t like their people who direct traffic, I don’t like their parking facilities, and I don’t like anything they do over there,” Overton said. “And I certainly don’t like their fans when they lose.”

So even though the Alabama will travel to Auburn this weekend, this father-daughter team doesn’t plan on missing the game. And they won’t lose support for their team any time soon.

“I’m still going back,” Kelly said. “I’m not going to give up on them. I just have to keep going back again and again.” 

Even after attending over 50 Iron Bowls, Overton still enjoys taking his daughter to the annual edition of the in-state rivalry.

“No, I don’t get tired of it,” Overton said. “I’m 84 years old, and it’s too late to get tired of them now.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports