It's easy to make the comparison. The Iron Bowl and the Cold War, Roll Tide and War Eagle versus the Soviets and the Americans. Big-time rivalries, with a heck-of-a-lot on the line. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Violence was never the answer. As a matter of fact, it was the fear of mutual annihilation that kept the world in balance. There's no such fright in the state of Alabama.
Call it blood-lust, call it virulence, or call it whatever it is you please. I'll call it cannabalism in it's most primitive form. A bunch of Alabamans trying to maim, murder, and devour other Alabamans.
The correlation simply doesn't make sense.
Not to insist that people in Alabama lack intelligence (you can listen to 15 minutes of Finebaum if you hope to draw that conclusion), but the Cold War was more of a thinking man's game than the mud-wrestling match that is Alabama-Auburn. And since we have a sociological dependency on the comparative method, I think there's another SEC rivalry that seems to be a more appropriate parallel.
Much like the Cold War, the Third Saturday in October has seemingly ground to a halt. With Nick Saban playing the role of a much more diminutive Ronald Reagan, and a human centipede of Fulmer, Kiffin, and Dooley playing the role of Gorbachev (Fulmer clearly serving as the face of the beast due to his uncanny resemblance to Gorbachev himself.)
Sabagan came into power with the goal of bringing the power-struggle to an end once and for all in 2007, and depending on who you ask, the wall's been down since '08-ish. However, it wasn't always such a one-sided affair.
In reality, the Russians were never really a threat to American supremacy. Soviet power was more of a facade than a reality. Tennessee, on the other hand, was once VERY capable of striking fear into the hearts of Bammers as evidenced by their 12-year stretch of dominance from 1995-2006.
Relax Tuscaloosa, I understand you've all lived a vitriol incarnation up to this point, and the thought of parody within the confines of the Third Saturday in October makes your mouths froth with venom like an aggravated cobra. If you need me to bow down to prolong your inevitable chastising then I will. Alabama football has been historically more successful than Tennessee and it isn't close. You happy?
Good, although I still don't think the validity of my statement has been broached. There have been periods in time where Tennessee posed a serious threat to the "almighty" Alabama Crimson Tide. This fact is simply undeniable.
That being said, it's Alabama who reins supreme right now (equally undeniable.) Yet, even though the downtrodden Volunteers should be drowning themselves in vodka while trying to survive another harshly mild winter, or simply scrambling to avoid some sort of potato famine like their Russian brethren, Alabama simply hasn't let their guard down.
Don't take my word for it, just take a look at this excerpt from the Third Saturday in October Wikipedia page (which I assume was updated recently since it has yet to be edited.)
"Alabama currently enjoys a 5 game winning streak in the series from 2007-2011 with an average margin of victory during this stretch of 21 points. In order to save face, Dooley and UT's president are attempting to hire all of Alabama's scrub personnel so that they can keep Alabama from running up the score on them and stay afloat in the dreadful SEC East. Most of Vol nation is in stage 3 denial over the current state of UT's program, and not just football either. University of Tennessee athletics is a dumpster fire of monumental proportions."
The Cold War reached an anti-climatic end as America began to flaunt it's clear economic superiority, and while Alabama has that same aura, there's still life to this rivalry.
I don't mean to imply that hiring away Dave Hart and Sal Sunseri from the Alabama staff is some sort of coup d'etat, but Tennessee has flipped a couple of assets. Whether they wind up providing Tennessee with anything of substance is still yet to be determined, but if anything it's reaffirmed that this rivalry is far from dead.
For all we know, we'll find suspicious Cayman Island bank accounts belonging to both Hart and Sunseri, with Saban funneling large lump sums of his 17 trillion dollar salary to employ them as secret "double-agents". I wouldn't even be mad. After a season as desolate as 2011, we could use that kind of Robert Ludlum novel-type excitement.
Maybe the Vols never get to light up the victory cigars again (middle finger to the air of whatever NCAA offical deemed that illegal). The rivalry part of it all simply fades into obscurity, relegated to a few pages in the textbooks of college football history. However, the contentious nature of the relationship between Alabama and Tennessee will never die. There will be no detente.
Sixty years from now, a leathery-skinned Peyton Manning will sit in Knoxville telling stories of long-forgotten battles like an old KGB agent, reminiscing about the the authority he felt when he dawned the Soviet red Tennessee orange. In Tuscaloosa, even the slightest hint of an Appalachian accent will draw the suspicious looks of all the crimson clad folks to which it becomes audible. "What sort of unsavory intentions does this unwanted visitor possess?" they'll ask.
We'll all remain weary, because just when we all think the rivalry is over, it fires right back up again. Will you ever truly trust a Russian?