Introductory note: We had a very difficult time selecting just three essays for you all to vote on. Every one that we received was passionate and reminded us in different ways why we love the Tide. Here is the first of the three we chose for you all to vote on. The voting option will appear after the third essay has been posted. Please don't reveal yourself as the author in the comments section, because we'd like for the voting to be unbiased.
I am what you would call a 'dirt road alumni'. I grew up dreaming of playing for my beloved Crimson Tide, but as I grew older life and circumstances prevented me from attending the great University of Alabama. Regardless, my intense love and devotion to the Crimson Tide never wained.
Some of my earliest, most vivid memories from childhood came from watching Alabama football. My father, with a dirt road degree himself, lived in the era of segregation and civil rights. When the rest of the country looked down their nose on our fair state (for some justifiable reasons), like many he latched on to Coach Bryant and the Crimson Tide as a source of pride and tradition. I can remember, even at age 4 or 5 watching Alabama destroy the likes of Miami and Virginia Tech back when they were homecoming fodder. I can remember being a huge Charle Daniels fan until I saw him perform halftime in Knoxville during an Alabama game decked out in orange and leaving the room angry that my musical hero would dare support the enemy.
My dad was never one to show direct affection, but we really connected during those Saturday afternoons. I recall waking him up in 1986 when he gave up and went to bed before Mike Shula hit Al Bell for the game winning TD against Georgia in Athens. I recall watching Coach Bryant's last game with him in the Liberty Bowl and feeling a sense of sadness at the end of an era. Then him taking me to my first of many games (at Vanderbilt of all places) to watch Ricky Moore and the team in those old school white helmets crush the Commodores under the lights.
For me, being Crimson Tide is a bond as strong as family. Today, my three year old son's room is decorated with posters of the Bear, the Catch, and George Teague's stripping the ball in the 1992 Sugar Bowl. Even now when we go over his animal sounds, a lion may roar and a cow may moo, but an elephant says 'roll tide'.