This Saturday (God willing) I will be in attendance for the opening game of my 52 year as an Alabama fan. I became a fan at the first Bama game I attended as an 8 year old on Nov. 18, 1961. Aside from my faith, my family and my friends there have been few things that have brought me as much joy as following Alabama for all these years. I can not explain why this has brought me such joy, I only know that it has.
I would like to take just a few minutes of y’alls precious time to share with you just a few words of wisdom I have gained in regards to being an Alabama fan.
First, never, never take attending, watching or listening to an Alabama football game for granted. You never know when it will be your last game. I remember the last game I went to with my dad, who taught me to love Bama. It was a 1 point win over East Carolina in 1998 in Birmingham. I remember how we were actually upset we had traveled to Birmingham from a great distance to see the game and that we thought it was a poor showing by Bama. In fact, we talked about how we had wasted our money making the trip. That was a terrible attitude to have after a win. Especially my dad’s last game. If only I had known at the time.
Furthermore, I would highly encourage you to attend or watch every game that you can. In my youth, and even early adulthood, I would occasionally miss an Alabama game that was not televised against a lesser opponent to play golf, go camping, or go to some other event. That was a mistake. I now plan nothing on Game Days except Game Day. It has been well over 20 years now since I have missed attending, watching, or at the very least listening to the game on the radio. I can not always attend in person, but I am fortunate enough to be able to follow every game live. If you will stick by this your friends will soon discover that this is important to you. A few years ago, because I am a minister, I had to go out of town to SC to preform a wedding on the day of the UT game. I only agreed to do this afternoon wedding because I figured our game would be a night game. And as it turned out I was right. The bride & groom both understood when I left the reception early to go to my hotel to watch Alabama on TV. At another wedding, which actually took place during a game, I was able to miss just a few minutes by watching TV right before and right after the wedding which actually (fortunately) took place during half time.
Personally I hate weddings in the fall, but it has now become the number one season for weddings. So, we will all have to, on occasion, attend a wedding on a Game Day. But try your best to still catch the game even if it is Georgia St.
Also, please never give up. Hey, do whatever crazy thing (like swinging a cactus or abusing innocent clothing) you do to get our team back rolling, but never give up. And, if you are ever at a game and we are behind DO NOT LEAVE. Keep yelling, keep cheering you never know what might happen. Ask LSU about the 1998 game. We were down by 9 with under 4 minutes to go and LSU HAD THE BALL. Four minutes we had the ball and we were taking a knee running out the clock for a 6 point victory. By the way, that miracle comeback was on the road and we weren’t that good in 1998.
Another piece of advice I would give is just be careful with whom you watch the game on TV. There is no need to watch with anyone who is not an Alabama fan. Under no circumstances watch a game with your opponents in the room, unless the opponent is Colorado St or someone of that stature. Just tell your AU friends, your UT friends, your UGA friends you will call them after the game. If we don’t win, just don’t call em. And, it is ok, sometimes it is preferable, to watch a game all by yourself.
I would also encourage each of you to attend at least one game in Tuscaloosa. I travel quite a bit and often run into random Bama fans a long way from Alabama. I generally will ask them if they have ever been to a game in Tuscaloosa. Surprisingly a lot of them have not. Furthermore I’d bet some of the RBR readers have never been to Tuscaloosa for a game either. I won’t go into all the reasons why you need to go. But I will say this, you don’t really know Alabama football until you have been in BDS and cheered on the Tide. I would especially encourage you to go to either UT, AU, UGA, UF, or LSU. Those games are electric. It may cost you a little money, but when you get old and can’t even feed yourself that $1000 you saved by never going to an Alabama game is not going to mean anything to you.
And, while I’m at it, if you have been before you know how awesome it is and I would encourage you to go as often as you possible can. If you have kids take them. Start when they are young. My oldest daughter went to her 1st UT game when she was just over 3 years old. It was just dad and daughter, we had but 2 tickets. I had to get a stranger lady in the stands to take her to the bathroom at half time. She ahs never wavered from loving Alabama.
Also, when we do win, remain humble. The master at this was Coach Bryant. To be honest I’ve known too many Bama fans that became very arrogant after a win. It really makes us look like poor sports. When we beat Texas in Pasadena the Bama people I was around were just so excited to win that we basically forgot about Texas. That is fine. But, when we beat LSU I saw way too many Bama fans in the French Quarter giving LSU fans tons of grief. Just remember how you feel when we lose and then just let them be.
Furthermore, when we do lose, take it like a man even if you are a woman. Do not make excuses. Do not blame the refs. Even if we were cheated, and we have been (83 PSU), just don’t whine and complain. Instead congratulate the other guys and tell them they deserved to win (even if you don’t believe it.)
By the way, later on it is alright to get by yourself (or with your family) and have a good cry. I definitely shed some tears driving home from Columbia when we lost that game to SC in 2010. And, when we lost to UT in 5 overtimes I cried big time that night and we weren’t even good that year.
Finally, remember that as important as football is there are other things more important. It was easy to remember that in the Dubose & Shula days. But when you are winning sometimes you let the line between the game and real life get blurred.
Now I’ll be the first to admit I forced one of my daughters to break up with her UT boyfriend. But, I was just trying to spare her from seeing her own children dressed in that pumpkin orange. So, just remember that it is a game and there are actually more important things in life, like the afore mentioned faith, family, and friends. However, if you can somehow tie #2 and #3 to football you will be that much ahead of the game.
(And by the way, as a person of faith, let me ask you not to attempt to bring God into a football game on our side. Some of the stuff that happened at Auburn under Chizik was an embarrassment to Christianity. I have no problem having a team chaplain and preaching to the team before a game or even at practice. I even preached in the locker room to our local high school team this past Friday night before their 1st game. But God does not pull for one team over another and don’t try to proclaim that He does.)
At any rate, I just thought I’d share with your younger folks a little perspective from a life long fan. I suspect this is going to be a great, great year. I even think we will win it all. But even if we slip up and don’t win the NC I am still going to enjoy Alabama football this year and for as many years as I have left. Saturday cannot get here soon enough.
PS- When you encounter a perfect stranger wearing Alabama gear, even if you are not wearing it, just say Roll Tide as you walk by. I said that to a guy walking in a Home Depot parking one June in San Diego and the guy said "Son you just made my day Roll Tide."