These are a few of my favorite things!
"And believe me, to have been in the city of Tuscaloosa in October when you were young and full of Early Times and had a shining Alabama girl by your side--to have had all that and then to have seen those red shirts pour onto the field, and then, coming behind them, with that inexorable big cat walk of his, the man himself, The Bear--that was very good indeed." - Howell Raines
I cannot imagine saying it much better than that.
Got my season tickets yesterday. I wish that I could adequately convey the feeling Alabama football gives me. And not just me, but thousands of others. The experience of watching a game. The history and tradition that you can sense in the stadium. There is nothing like it to me. I went to my first game when I was eight. Alabama beat Vanderbilt 28-7 in Nashville. I went to my second game the following year. Alabama beat Arkansas State 34-7. It was 1982, Coach Bryant's last year, and I'm so glad I got to go. Although I remember little about it, I do remember spotting that houndstooth hat standing by the goalpost. My Mom took me. In our family, Mom lived and died by Alabama football. Dad couldn't care less. Meanwhile, Mom would get in the floor and yell and scream at the players and the coaches. Many times I've heard her yell, "Am I gonna have to come down there and coach?!" After Coach Bryant passed, before a big play, she would look to the heavens and say something like, "Oh Bear, please look down on us one more time." And I have a sneaking suspicion she wasn't alone. Alabama fans are kindred spirits. Total strangers can talk for hours once they discover they are both Bama fans.
"A tie is like kissing your sister." - Bear Bryant
One of my earliest memories is of listening to a game on the radio in the car. We were sitting in the parking lot of Hills Department Store when the game ended. Alabama had tied Southern Miss 13-13. It was 1981, I believe. My Mom was crying. I couldn't understand why she was crying over a tie. After all, it was better than losing, right? I would come to understand that all very well one day soon.
"I thought Nebraska was the most football-crazed state until I came to Alabama. Coach Bryant got up and introduced members of the 1925 Rose Bowl team, and he got teary-eyed, and so did all the people in the audience who welcomed the team with an absolute admiration that is hard to describe." - Author James Michener
Yes, it is hard to describe. Unless you're from Alabama... for Alabama. I remember reading somewhere that one reason Alabama football became so popular was that it gave the people of the state something to be proud of. Always near the bottom in civil rights, education, and other areas, football was something in which Alabama could be the best. That probably has some truth. Another thing is that the state has no major professional sports franchises. But there's more to it than both of those reasons. Much more.
I did not attend another game until 1993, although I watched faithfully on television. I started getting season tickets (to all home games) in 1997. I've lost count, but I've probably been to somewhere between fifty and seventy-five games. There's nothing like gameday. The drive down to Tuscaloosa from here is for the most part along a two-lane country road, passing numerous barbecue joints and not much else along the way. I imagine they must have been put there in large part just because of Alabama football. The feeling in the stadium is completely unexplainable. A few years ago, the University put together a short video that they show before every home game. It's a montage of highlights of each national championship team, including the Goal Line Stand, with Coach Bryant talking throughout. Chills! Everytime. Then the team comes running out as the band plays "Yea, Alabama." Not to mention the beautiful southern Bama belles all dressed in their crimson Bama t-shirts and earrings or carrying their Alabama purses. Nothing better.
"If someone in Los Angeles asks you and you say 'I played at Alabama,' everyone knows what that means. If you had to say 'I played at Auburn,' that would be about like saying 'I played at Rutgers.' People aren't even sure where it is." - Leon Douglas
Had to include some humor. So, what is the big deal? It's just a game. Why do people get so worked up over a game? I don't know. I can't explain it. This all probably sounds really silly and hokey, maybe even a little exaggerated to some of you. But it isn't. If anything, I have understated it. Maybe if you had grown up here, you would understand. I have heard many stories of people who had never been to a football game, or even those who rooted for other schools, being brought to a game in Tuscaloosa, and falling in love.
To this day, anytime there is something on television about Coach Bryant's death, I get teary-eyed. Everytime. Sometimes when I am at a game, I will blur my eyes, and try to imagine that it is thirty years ago, and wonder what it must have been like to have been there, to have seen history in the making. I can only imagine. If I were to make a list of reasons I am thankful to have been born in Alabama, it would start with Crimson Tide football. I am so thankful to get to experience this.
As silly as that sounds.
"From Carolina, down to Georgia, smell the jasmine and magnolia. Sleepy, sweet home Alabama, Roll Tide Roll..."