A real house divided

Published 3:36 pm Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Harrells truly are a house divided.

If you drove by their house in November 2006, you would know why.

As the Iron Bowl approaches on Nov. 29, Eric and Jennifer are glad their home is now just one color, but it wasn’t always that way.

On a drive to work one day in October 2006, Eric heard a promotion about mixed Auburn-Alabama couples. Eric called Jennifer to see if she would submit the essay, but she told him she didn’t have time to do it. Eric was going hunting that afternoon, so he didn’t have the time to do it either.

Eric is a Crimson Tide fan; Jennifer pulls for the Tigers.

“But by the time I got to the woods, she called me and said ‘I got it done,’” Eric said.

Jennifer’s essay won the contest, which resulted in the Harrell’s house being painted half orange and blue and half crimson and white for the three weeks leading up to the Iron Bowl. Home Depot sponsored the contest and painted the Harrell’s house to their specifications once the Iron Bowl was over, in addition to giving them a $5,000 gift card.

And the fact that Alabama lost that game, 22-15, didn’t seem to bother Eric too bad.

“Saban was hired in January, so it was all worth it,” Eric said.

In Jennifer’s essay, she detailed how the couple doesn’t watch Auburn or Alabama games together, especially the Iron Bowl. After being teased as an Auburn fan growing up, Jennifer also wrote about how it was Auburn who was now the top team in the state.

“I just unleashed this pent up frustration that (Alabama fans) have been experiencing until this year,” Jennifer said.

The couple did watch the 1994 Iron Bowl together the first year they were married, but that one experience at Jennifer’s parent’s house was enough to teach the couple that they needed to be separated on football Saturdays.

Alabama won that game, 21-14, after holding Auburn on a last-second drive.

“We watched one game together, and (Jennifer’s family) didn’t like the way I acted too much,” Eric said with a laugh.

Even though their passion for their respective teams runs deep, they are able to set aside their differences in a marriage that has produced a daughter, Rebecca, and a son, Ethan.

But ironically, Rebecca, 11, is an Alabama fan and Ethan, 6, is an Auburn fan.

Even crazier is that neither Eric or Jennifer went to their respective schools. Eric attended UAB and Jennifer went to Samford.

Eric grew up an Alabama fan as his dad did some filming for the Bear Bryant Show, and Jennifer grew up a Tiger fan as her dad graduated with a veterinarian degree from Auburn.

But even before they met, neither had ever dated someone who liked the same team. So it was only natural that their relationship would work.

Even Eric’s brother is married to an Auburn fan, a fact that Jennifer likes to point out.

“At least these men have good taste,” she said with a laugh.

Now that the tide has turned with Alabama being ranked No. 1 and entering the Iron Bowl an undefeated 11-0 with Auburn limping in with a 5-6 record, things in the Harrell household have certainly changed.

“She’s not watching a whole lot of football this year,” Eric said.

Jennifer has a bit of a different take on things, saying she has been humble the last six years and now it’s Eric’s turn.

“Over the last six years, Eric’s been upset. He realizes these are kids, but at the same time he’s used to greatness,” Jennifer said. “So this year I have said ‘Eric, now I’ve kept my mouth shut. Now it’s time for you to do the same.’”

While the outcome of this year’s game is yet to be seen, the couple acknowledges their love for their respective teams is always second to the love for their family.

“We’ve learned if we can’t deal with this, we’re going to have a whole load of problems,” Eric said.

And after 14 years of marriage and 14 Iron Bowls, they seem to know what they’re talking about.