When reflecting back on Saturday's last second victory (or last eight seconds to be completely accurate), I'm reminded of the words spoken by Vinnie Jones' character Big Chris from the last few frames of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels:
"It's been emotional"
That was unquestionably true from the fan perspective. It was what I described to one friend as a "stranger hugging victory." I certainly know I was embracing those I didn't know as if they were old friends. When discussing this on Sunday night with OTS, he said something to the effect of, "Yeah, I think I violated a man law hugging strangers at the game."
I've had a difficult time explaining this phenomenon to many of my classmates though. Alabama, like any school worth its salt, has a few niche programs that aren't found at many universities and therefore draws people from all over the country. I'm in one such program. There are plenty of born and raised Alabamians in the program, but there is a large percentage of folks from all over the United States and from other countries as well. Many of these people have a difficult time grasping football in general, much less having any inkling of understanding the level of passion and devotion that it inspires among Crimson Tide faithful. One friend from St. Louis described it as "The South's cultural defect" and others have looked at it as annoyance that takes the town over and makes traffic bad on weekends in the fall.
Others though have converted. I know New Englanders and people from China that have tickets to the games and get really into it. I'm not sure they "get it" at the same level we do, but they surrender to the flow of football Saturdays and I certainly appreciate the enthusiasm of the novice.
I've certainly been at games that were more significant that this past Saturday's, but I'm still not sure they registered as much on my emotional Richter Scale. I was at the 1992 SEC Championship game in Birmingham. Antonio Langham intercepted a pass and returned it for a TD in the last 3-4 minutes of the game to propel Bama into the national championship game. The victory over the Hawgs certainly pales in significance, but I think that this past weekend's win somehow meant more to me. For one, I was fairly young during that SEC Championship game and I don't think I fully grasped then the difficulty of what that team achieved like I do now.
In some ways, I think our disastrous past decade made this victory feel even more special. Imploding, being unable to come from behind to win and losing in overtime became things we were too familiar with as a fan base. Sure, the team slipped up and blew a 21 point lead, but they also dug deep down inside of themselves and made a stop on defense when they had to and then the offense came out and marched 73 yards down the field in nine plays to steal a victory while firmly in the grasp of the jaws of defeat.
I think Saturday night made us all feel something we haven't felt in a long time: HOPE. Sure, hope comes in varying degrees with the hiring of any new coach if for no other reason than it's a new beginning. No Alabama fan will deny though that the hiring of Nick Saban brought a tsunami of hope that hasn't been seen in this town since the hiring of one Paul William Bryant. I hate comparing people to Bear Bryant and that's not what I'm doing here, but the rough decade since DuBose was hired bred a feeling of us needing a football coach hero to lead us out of the depths of despair just as Coach Bryant did after the debacle of a coaching job turned in by J.B. Whitworth. The Tide was struggling in the 50s and it has spent the last decade in struggle despite one conference title and a few 10 win seasons.
What we saw on Saturday after JPW's pass to Matt Caddell was more than a celebration of victory. It was a team and 92,000 fans exploding with hope. The last decade has been frustrating. We've all stuck behind our team through thick and (mostly) thin. I think we all feel like we finally have a coach that will give us a good shot of winning every time we step on the field. Sure, we'll lose some games, but I doubt we'll look grossly incompetent doing it like we often have in the recent past.
The head coaching job at Alabama is a difficult one and one that requires a strong personality. We've seen lesser coaches crushed by its awesome force over the past 25 years, but we finally have someone with enough resolve and ice water in their veins to be able to handle it. That feels really good and I'm going to enjoy the feeling while it's around. I know the honeymoon will end someday, but I think we can all agree that we've likely entered a special time in the history of Alabama football. The next few years should be exciting....