- Cullman, Alabama

February 3, 2013

SOUTHERN STYLE: Alabama football

By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times

— What I know about football you could fit into a thimble, but I have family and friends who eat, breathe and sleep football. I don’t even know how many home runs it takes to make a touchdown.

But most people can’t wait for the season to start and they schedule every aspect of their lives around the schedule for their respective teams.

So I polled folks for their best memories, funniest stories and traditions. Here is what I learned…

From Cullman resident Jill Gudger-Howell, Past District Vice President, UA National Alumni Association (NAA): “The biggest thing that gave me a different perspective was our Cullman County BAMA Chapter partnering with the ‘BAMA In Atlanta’ Alumni Chapter to host a game day tent on the Quad For all of our members, right behind Denny Chimes, for all (4) SEC home games this past season” said Jill. “We were amazed--and thrilled--that we somehow seemed to become a de facto ‘Meet Up Spot’ of sorts for UA friends and fans from many alumni chapters who were on campus from around the state and from around the country, as well as sort of a hospitality tent for fans. Even the opposing teams stopped by to watch a few minutes of ESPN's college game day with us and grab some sweet tea and Blue Moon barbecue as they made their way on around campus to take in the rest of the pre-game festivities.’"

Other fans who stay home and watch the games on television often treat game day as a holiday, with all the trimmings. Chili, barbecue and chicken wings seem to top the chart of game day favorites, along with pizza for those who don’t cook.

Others gather at sports bars, or rent big screen televisions and set them up in their garages or recreation rooms.

I know people who have planned their weddings around when Alabama or Auburn were playing, and where. Many social and civic events are also arranged around the dates of home games because they know that participation will be down if they happened to choose a date when there is a game.

Last year, when planning our class reunion, that is the first thing we looked at before choosing a date.

For Karen Harrison it was always a family thing. “We would always alternate homes with relatives for the meal on Jan. 1,” said Karen. “Most always Alabama was playing in a bowl game on that night. All of the children would gather around the small TV set with the adults,” she recalls. “I distinctly remember the night Alabama played Texas for the National Championship 1965 Orange Bowl, when they said Joe Namath did not make it over the goal line. I was 12 years old and cried all night. I couldn’t sleep. It took me at least a week to get over the defeat. I have experienced several defeats but have rearranged my priorities as I have aged.

“Some years ago, when Alabama played Oklahoma in Norman, my husband could not attend so I asked my cousin to go with me. The only problem was that about five days before the game I was in Baptist Montclair Hospital in Birmingham for an arteriogram on my heart. I had the procedure on Monday, they put in two stents, I got out the next day, came home and left for Oklahoma City on Thursday before the game on Saturday.” (Now that’s determination!)  

“One reason we attend so many games is that I can hardly watch Bama play on TV,” Karen laughs. “It is so stressful. Unless it is a runaway game, I go to the back room and watch something else.”

“When we play at home, I simply must get to the stadium exactly one hour before kickoff,” she said. “This is the only time held tradition I have, I am adamant about seeing the band march on the field.”

Ann Black: “Attending an Alabama home game is one of my favorite things to do,” said Ann. “I'm one of Bama's biggest fans. I even have converted a small bedroom in our house into a ‘Bama’ room. We are members of Tide Pride and attend all of the home games. Occasionally, we tailgate but sometimes just stop and eat somewhere on the way or at the Ferguson Center on campus.”

“I know some people had rather watch the games at home, but I love the crowd, the atmosphere, the band — just about everything connected to the game. When they are playing away, we prefer to just sit at home in our recliners. Sometimes, I think the neighbors might hear me yelling so loud,” she laughed. “No outside plans are made on Bama game days, so none of our friends can expect us at weddings, showers, or any social event.”

Tony Appleton/Bama collector: Among Tony Appleton’s extensive collection of all things Bama are Tarrant Lynch's helmet and Antonio Langham's jersey from the '92 championship season. He also has a Bear Bryant autographed football and a wall full of Bama art prints.

I know babies whose first words are either “Bama”or “Woll Tide.” All of their little outfits are crimson and grey.

One thing is certain, game day for football fans in the south is tantamount to all other holidays rolled into one. True fans can’t wait for the season to roll around each year, starting with A-Day and concluding with the SEC Championship game.

Those of us whose first priority isn’t football watch in amazement, and I have to admit, a lot of pride when those boys from T-town put us in the national news yet again. Alabama has seldom been shown in a favorable national light. Economics, racial troubles in the ’60s, boycotts, and the fact that some of us are still fighting the Civil War, frequently see flying saucers, or are showcased without our teeth in front of a tornado ravaged mobile home park have long been favorite topics of late-night television, but the Crimson Tide has put all that on the backburner. They have given the ivy-league colleges a run for their money and have made us all proud.