As the sun rose over his townhouse in the suburbs of Cincinnati—a peculiar shade of "puke inside of a pumpkin orange"—Irvin Carney turned off his alarm clock and prepared for another week of work. He drove to his downtown, data-analytics office and fired up his computer, which sits next to a miniature Alabama football helmet. He poured a cup of coffee, or two, and plopped down to work.
But then a message came through—one that only comes around the third Saturday in October each year. See, Carney, a former University of Alabama student, isn't just any 2010 graduate of the school. He's also the face of that viral "Bama fan trashing Tennessee" video that surfaces before the Crimson Tide and Volunteers face off.
On a normal year, Carney sees the video shared a few times on his Facebook wall and on Twitter, all filled with stills of his face eight years younger poking fun at one of college football's most historic rivalries. When the clip was originally posted on Oct. 18, 2007, the Tide wasn't exactly a favorite. In Nick Saban's first season, they were 5-2, after a disappointing 6-7 finish the year before under coach Mike Shula. Shula was replaced at the end of the regular season by interim coach Joe Kines, marking the fifth coach to come up short after the legendary Gene Stallings retired in 1996, and this viral bust of unabashed fandom quickly became a part of the fabric of Alabama fandom year-round. This year in particular, however, the video has been extra popular; Carney has received multiple requests to relive his infamous rant and to once again express his feelings about Tennessee.
What most people probably don't realize is that Carney actually grew up cheering for that other school across the state, archrival Auburn. A Montgomery, Ala., native, Carney attributes his fandom from second grade though his senior year of high school to proximity. "I was just around more Auburn people," he explains. "We grew up out of the dawn of the '80s with Bo Jackson, and then in the '90s, the competition between Auburn and Alabama was actually really competitive. I even used to make bets with my PE teachers over who would win the games. So, I didn't even start rooting for Alabama until I was going there." But it didn't take long—"a few hours in Tuscaloosa because you don't have a choice," he says—before Carney turned into an avid Alabama diehard.
In the fall of 2007, when a random guy with a camera approached him on campus at a Crimson Ride bus stop near the Ferguson student union building, Carney, a self-proclaimed lifelong Tennessee hater, was more than happy to share his thoughts.
"The idea for the video was to talk about rivalries and try to get student perspectives on major college football games," Carney recalls. "We had a long conversation before we ever started filming and everything we talked about just came off the top of my head. It was really natural. And, I mean, that's how I really feel. I'm just saying what everyone else was already thinking about Tennessee."
It would have been impossible for a 19-year-old Management Information Systems major to have predicted the fame that would come with the creation of that video (at last check it had nearly 621,000 views on YouTube). Months after it was posted, Carney recalls sitting in a computer science class and hearing the rumblings of his celebrity status begin. "I'm in class and this guy was like, 'Dude, you're in this video and you're famous,'" he says. "By this time it was March, and when he showed me the video, I instantly remembered doing it, but couldn't believe how it just started to pick up steam." Over the years, the viral video star has been told his voice has played as the Volunteers walk into the looming visitor's entrance at Bryant-Denny Stadium, at bars and even over the radio in Birmingham during the off-season.
Even more shocking may be how rampantly the video is still shared on social media. The more than 600,000 views doesn't include the views belonging to versions that have been reposted by hundreds of YouTube users over the last eight seasons. Carney had no idea that his infamous repetition of the phrase, "Man, I hate Tennessee," would one day spawn a #TennesseeHateWeek campaign that springs to life on the Monday leading up to the matchup, which will take place for 98th time on Saturday afternoon when the Volunteers (3–3) visit eighth-ranked Alabama (6–1).
Current students, Alabama faithful and the Crimson Tide's uncountable number of fans use the hashtag to share their less-than-friendly feelings about their rival to the north, a showing that goes against ingrained traditions of Southern hospitality yet exemplifies the intensity of the SEC, even in what has been deemed a weak year.
"When I watch the video now, it's hard to believe we haven't lost to them since ," Carney says. "And it does feel good to beat them every year. I actually think it's good the video happened when it did, because if we continue to beat them another three years in a row or so, the rivalry is going to continue to lose its luster. So, I think it's a good thing the video came out, because it added meaning to an otherwise nostalgic rivalry that hasn't honestly been all that impressive, and is actually really lopsided. All I know is, everything happens for a reason."
Alabama hasn't lost to Tennessee since the video was posted on October 18, 2007. While there have been a few close calls—including the unforgettable Rocky Block from '09—it's been mostly lopsided. The Tide have outscored the Vols 283—95 over the last eight meetings. And Carney has rejoiced in every single victory—even when he couldn't be there in person. He watches now from his new home in Cincinnati, and says there's a larger Bama contingent in Big Ten territory than people might expect.
"You might not believe it, but I get recognized on the street all the way up here," he says. "I was at a Bengals bar recently, and some guy walks up to me and asks if I'm the Tennessee hater. I think that happens because it's a passionate video."
One thing is for certain—Carney will be propped up in front of his TV on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., surrounded by converted friends and proud alums, again proclaiming his allegiance to crimson and white. Even after all these years, his feelings regarding Tennessee haven't changed. "I still feel the same way about dogs, pumpkins, and the place looking like a garbage truck workers convention," he says. "All that stuff still holds. Those feelings will never change."