This is the first edition of a brand new series of articles I'm doing called "Alabama Fans Abroad." I will interview Crimson Tide fans about their experiences as a fan living in a country where American football isn't a part of the cultural landscape.
If you are an Alabama fan living another country as a civilian, a student or military personnel and would like to be featured on "Alabama Fans Abroad" please contact me at RollBamaRoll@gmail.com.
Pat is a Tuscaloosa native and Alabama graduate now living in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Dhahran is located just south of Ad Dammam near the Persian Gulf and is part of a greater metropolitan area with a population of 1,000,000.
Pat was kind enough to answer a few questions for Roll Bama Roll recently:
Pat: We've been in Saudi Arabia since 1992. I work for Saudi Aramco, the national oil company. I am an accountant involved with producing financial statements for the world's largest oil company.
RBR: How do you follow Crimson Tide games over there? Internet radio? Satellite TV? Somebody back home mailing you newspaper clippings?
Pat: Before the internet, it was very difficult. When we first got to Saudi Arabia, we were able to watch Armed Forces TV, so I got to see some Bama games that way (such as the win over Miami in the Sugar Bowl). Plus there was occasionally Bama games on AFN radio. After the Khobar Towers bombing, the majority of US troops in the Dhahran area were relocated into the deep desert and then finally completely removed from the Kingdom so AFN was no longer an option.
We have a satellite TV service that offers ESPN International, which has one or two college games every week along with three pro games, but UA is rarely shown. It's mostly Big 12 and Pac 10. I listen to all Bama games now over the internet. It can be tough because our work week starts on Saturday and we are 8 hours ahead of CST. So if UA kicks off at 6:30pm, I have to get up at 2:30 a.m. to hear the game, and then be at work at 7:00 a.m.
RBR: Have you managed to get any Saudis interested in American football?
Pat: Not really. During the 70s and 80s, Saudi Arabia sent thousands of students to colleges all over the US. I work for [a Saudi] who attended Middle Tennesse State University. I have met a hand full of Saudis who studied at the Capstone, and they have an interest in SEC football. The majority of Saudis [at my company] went to school in California, Oklahoma and Texas.
RBR: Saudi Arabia recently participated in the World Cup. Was the country ecstatic over their participation in the world's biggest sporting event? Did you watch any of the games?
Pat: Yes, they were ecstatic. The Saudis are soccer crazy. There are literally "sandlot" soccer fields everywhere. My company runs soccer leagues for players from ages 4 to 50. There is soccer on TV all the time. We get Spanish, Italian, Brazil and Premier leagues. I watched some of the [World Cup] games.
RBR: Have you been able to make it back to any Bama games since moving over there?
Pat: Nope, the best I have done is 2 A-Day games and a couple of scrimmages open to the public. I have two options for my vacation July-August or March-April. Since March-April is good weather in Saudi Arabia and my nieces and nephews are out of school in July-August, the family usually comes home in the summer.
I asked Pat for a photograph of him in Bama gear in Saudi Arabia to post, but he's back in Alabama on vacation and wasn't able to send one. I was happy to hear though that Pat proudly flies a Bama flag in front of his house on gamedays.