"These were the happy days, the salad days as they say..."
~ Raising Arizona
My typical January blahs lacked their usual bite this winter. And I have a couple of theories as to why.
One is that the blahs are holding off until February when I turn that age which shall not be spoken, thus in all probability entering a mid-life crisis the likes of which the world has scarcely seen, at which point my usual winter depression will last indefinitely, or longer.
The other has to do with the fact that this particular January has included a beautiful 2-inch snow (school was out for two days) and yet another Bama national championship. To slightly reword the song, those are but two of my favorite things. So I spent a decent portion of the month on cloud ten.
The man most responsible for this -- the football, not the snow, well not as far as I know anyway -- is Nicholas Lou Saban.
I nearly titled this post, "Have you ever really, really really ever loved a man?" Because I have. I do. I love this man. And I'm not ashamed to admit it.
If I would've had a Nick Saban in my formative years... who knows where I'd be right now? I'd probably own a small country. Or at least an E-Trade account.
These are the new glory days. Three national championships in four seasons. Are you kidding me?? My life has never been better. As a sports fan, I mean. (Important caveat there.) These are my salad days.
For better or for worse, folks around these parts place a fair amount of importance on our college football, and, more specifically, our Crimson Tide. I would even go so far as to say that for a majority of people in this state, their top three priorities are God, family, and Alabama football. And not always in that order.
I just assumed it was that way everywhere. It's kinda like the first time you leave the South and discover they don't have sweet tea in other places. But in my golden years, I've come to realize that for many, many
people, football is nothing more than a dalliance. (You have no idea how
long I've been trying to work "dalliance" into a post.)
Just as I never thought to write about the delights of sweet tea, I've not written about Bama football from this angle. So allow me to tell you a few things about our organization.
"Roll, Tide" is our cheer. Maybe you've heard of it. If not, you can hear it from 100,000 fans inside Bryant-Denny Stadium on most Saturdays in the fall, or in a million living rooms across the state on those same Saturdays, where families gather around televisions, and sometimes radios, hoping for another Bama victory, high-fiving and yes, roll-tiding after every big play.
But it's not just a cheer. It can be a greeting, a better way to say
"goodbye," even a question. Say you've had a minor misunderstanding
with someone. After talking things out, you might say, "Roll Tide?"
instead of "We good?" And they might respond with, "Roll Tide" instead
of "Yeah, we're good."
You might hear it from someone you pass in a convenience store, or your postal carrier. You hear it at school and at work, where people wear their Bama gear on Fridays during the season. Every Friday. Not saying we're superstitious or anything, but if you didn't wear your Bama shirt and they were to lose that weekend, well good luck reconciling with your family.
I've heard it from a hotel front-desk clerk in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a McDonald's drive-thru attendant in Nowhere, Tennessee. I've even heard it from a pulpit on Sunday, several times. (Is it any wonder those faith and football priorities get muddled occasionally?)
Hear it from a stranger, and you've instantly made a lifelong friend.
It's an aura that hangs in the air of this state like the heavy blanket of humidity on a summer night. A commonality. And a source of pride.
You didn't have to attend the university to get it. We get it from our mothers and our fathers, our uncles and aunts, or maybe our granddaddy, our older brother or sister. One of my favorite all-time family photos is of my aunt as a teenager in the '60s, wearing a Bama t-shirt. Some pick it up on their own, attend their first game, and fall in love.
However you get it, once it's in you, it's lifelong. For better or for worse. In sickness and in health. Good seasons and bad. 'Til death do you part.
Is it too important? That probably all depends on who you ask. But is it important? No question.
My Mom once loved a man who wasn't my father. His name was Bear Bryant. He became coach of the Crimson Tide when she was 8, and he retired and passed away when I was 9. An entire generation. He won a few championships, too. Six, to be exact.
So the morning after this year's Bama team had showed them northern boys from Notre Dame what real football was, I was talking to Mom and decided to ask her if this was how it was then. If these glory days were as good as the old glory days.
Now this is a woman who, before and during many a football game, has been known to utter the
statement, "Please look down on us today, Bear," as if soliciting some
divine intervention. The same mother who apparently trained me so that when a Sunday school teacher showed me a picture that was supposed to be Jesus walking on water and asked who it was, I replied, "That's Bear Bryant. My Momma says he is the only person who can walk on water.
So when I asked her, "Is this how it was in the old days?" the answer I got was not the answer I expected.
After first scolding me for intimating she was old, she kind of laughed as she said, "No. We never won like this."
"I'm feelin' pretty good and that's the truth / It's neither drink nor drug induced, no / I'm just doin' alright /
And it's a great day to be alive..."