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Contestant #3: What It Means to Be Crimson Tide

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Here is the third entry for the "What It Means to Be Crimson Tide" contest. We've set up a poll for you all to vote on your favorite of the three essays. Voting will stay open until midnight central time on Thursday. Remember, the winner gets a copy of the book What It Means to Be Crimson Tide:

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Contestant #3:

I was born and grew up in Alabama. My dad went to Alabama, my grandfather went to Auburn. You had to pick sides early in our family. Fortunately for me I spent more time with my dad than with my granddad and I went with Bama.  

We moved from the state of Alabama to Florida when I was still young, but nothing could shake me from my love for the Crimson Tide. I remember as an 8 year old listening to the games on the radio with my dad down in South Florida. I'll never forget when Alabama lost to Ga. Tech 6-7 in 1962. That lost cost us a second consecutive national title. I remember crying that night as I went to bed wondering how Joe Namath could have ever lost a football game. Much less a game to Ga. Tech. When I went to the Orange Bowl game that January I thought Lee Roy Jordan had to be Superman. (I still think he is Superman.)

All through my public school years I lived and died with Alabama. Fortunately we were so good in those days most of my Florida friends did not rag me about wearing Alabama hats, shirts, etc. (In those days the Gators were nothing.) It was during high school I also started following Bama Basketball and became a big fan. I still think we could have won an NCAA championship the year we lost to Indiana.    

When it was time for me to go to college my family told me they couldn't afford to pay out of state tuition (we still lived in Florida) and therefore I couldn't go to Alabama. The biggest mistake of my life was not just borrowing the money and going anyway. Instead I went to the University of Central Florida because UCF didn't have a football team and I wouldn't have to worry about them playing Bama. Little did I know that years after I graduated UCF would get a team, then play and beat Alabama, 38-40. That was a sadder day for me than when we lost to Auburn 0-9 the same year.

While in college at Central Florida following the Tide was tough. I had managed to make the UCF soccer team and our games often fell on Saturday's in the fall. Although my dad had often come to my soccer games while in high school (it was a spring season) he was unable to make any of my college games while Alabama was playing. I'm glad he had his priorities right!!        

After college I was glad to be finished with playing sports on Saturdays and I hoped to somehow move to Alabama to be closer to Tuscaloosa and Alabama but it just never worked out. Instead I've lived all of my adult life in Georgia. When you have Bama tags on your car, wear Bama shirts, hats, etc, and live out of the state, people will look at you weird. If you are losing, like last year, they will even make fun of you. But none of that has ever mattered to me, IM4BAMA. I will say that many of the most committed fans do not even life in Alabama as the out of state persecution makes their resolve even stronger.                        

As I grew older my love of Alabama actually grew more intense. In the 80's I was living in Atlanta but Alabama was not on radio anywhere in the area. I discovered that if I drove about 75 miles west on I-20 to the Alabama Welcome Center I could pick up the games on my portable radio. So, for games I was not attending or the games were not on TV, I would make the drive to the "listening post" and sit at a certain picnic table by myself and listen to the games. We won some great games while I was at that picnic table.  

Eventually I moved to South Georgia too far from the Alabama border to just run over ands listen but luckily that was when games started being broadcast over the phone. It cost $44 to listen over the phone to the games but you could put it on speaker phone and the whole family could listen. It was at that time that I was also able to get night games on my car radio from a station in Alabama. But to get the signal  I had to go to a certain spot in the woods, about five miles from my house, and drive the car in circles. Many a night I burned a few gallons of gas in the woods by my self driving in circles listening to night games. But now that we have the internet it has been years since I have listened to a game anywhere except the computer. The last game I did not either listen to, see on TV, or see in person was the Cincinnati game in 1982.        

When my own children began to grow up of course they had to be raised Crimson Tide. So, we began to attend more home games as a family. Unfortunately my job (I am actually a youth minister) required me to be at high school games on Friday nights and then back in my church (in South Georgia) 400+ miles away on Sunday mornings.  

With this minor problem we began a pattern of getting up early on Saturday, driving 8 hours to T-town, going straight to the game, running from the stadium after the final gun (to beat traffic), jumping into the car, and driving 8 hours, all night long to be back at church by 8:00 am the next morning. Often times on Sunday morning some of the people in my church would ask me if I saw Alabama on TV the day (or night) before. I would reply, "I didn't see it on TV, but I was there in person."  

Usually when I say this people think I'm joking about being there. But, when they find out I really was there they think I'm crazy. Nevertheless in about ten years of making these all night drives I have never skipped a game to which I had tickets due to the starting time of the game. However, I'm not saying I could always speak from being horse, or that everything I said or taught on some of those Sunday mornings made perfect sense.  

I guess my ultimate loyalty to Alabama will begin this fall. My daughter will be a freshman at The University of Alabama beginning in August. As a straight "A" graduate in the State of Georgia she could have gone to UGA (or any other school in Georgia) for free due to our Hope Scholarship. Instead she turned down a free ride to pay out of state tuition at Alabama. I figure her four year education at Alabama will cost between $90,000- $100,000. If she went in Georgia it would probably cost about $15,000 for all 4 years.

But, she has wanted to go to Alabama since she went with me to the SEC Championship game in 99 when she was in 5th grade. (She thought Shaun Alexander was Superman. Still does.) But, we aren't exactly rich so she never thought she would ever be able to afford to go to Alabama (and she didn't want to get huge student loans.) But, last spring she told me she really wanted to go to Bama. I told her not to worry about the cost, I'd pay for it.  

I'm still not sure how we will work this all out but I have been working hard at the task. I'm cashing in what savings I have (who cares if I'm broke) and we've even started a website (ctina2bama.com) to try and form a team approach to sending her to Alabama hoping friends and even strangers will lend a hand. If all else fails I will be taking a second and third job by this time next year. No doubt one of the greatest days of my life came last fall when she received her acceptance letter from Alabama and I can't wait to be a Bama dad.  

So why am I Crimson Tide? Well first I can tell you what it is not. It is not about tailgating because we rarely get to the game in time to tailgate. It is not about bragging rights either because even when we have won I never could give Auburn people that hard a time since  my granddaddy went to Auburn. It is also not about a social affair. Except for my family I usually listen to or watch games alone.  

And, as much as I like winning it is not totally about winning. In 2000, when we had probably our worst year ever I went to the Auburn game in Tuscaloosa. It was 34 degrees, raining and hailing, the team looked to be honest pitiful and we were behind at half time. I had ridden to Tuscaloosa with a friend of mine who had just had it from the cold and at half time he asked me if we could go. I told him we weren't leaving even though it was his car.  

He said, "You know they aren't going to come back and win, let's go."  

I replied, "That is not the point, I'm staying. You leave if you have to." Reluctantly he stayed and I'm glad. But it would not have mattered. I simply have never left and Alabama early. Never.  

So, if it is not tailgating, or bragging rights, or socializing, or even winning what is it that makes me Crimson Tide? First it is tradition. The kind of tradition that is passed down from father to son and then from that son to his daughter. It is tradition that says Alabama was the first great southern team and still the most respected name in football in the south. It is tradition that says all 12 national championships are still significant.

Secondly it is pride. Pride in the school, but also pride in the state. Most of the great college teams have not only represented their school but also their state. Teams like Texas, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, etc. These teams are more than just schools. They represent their states and the people who are born there and the people who live there. When Alabama runs onto the field everyone from Alabama, no matter where they live, feels a certain pride. Auburn represents a town, Alabama represents a state. That is what forever will separate the two.

Finally, it is class. You can win like Miami and who cares? But Alabama has always had class. It is the reason the goal post at Bryant Denny have never been torn down (to my knowledge anyway) after a victory. We don't tear the goal post down because there is always another game to be won another goal to be achieved. It is the reason Coach Bryant kicked Joe Namath of the team. It is the way Tyrone Prothro played, the way he left the field, and the way he is working hard to play again even if the odds are long against him. Class just means you don't quit and you don't complain about a call or a break. And, when people who play for Alabama, or even support Alabama, don't show class it is...well it is just wrong. It is not Alabama.

So you can see why I'm Crimson Tide.