Tag Archives: University of Alabama

Saturday Morning Ramble

25 Oct

I was going to write about our trip to Hilton Head, but, frankly, I am not ready to write about that. The post needs to be as fun as the trip, and that feeling is still working its way through my mind.

Everyone has left the house, which means that the only sounds are the keys of the laptop and the neighbor cutting the grass. Most of the lights are off, which means all of the light is filtering through the windows. My desk is a disaster, which means that I need to, once again, straighten it up. It is amazing how much stuff can collect on top of desk.

One of the things that cannot get thrown away is an answer sheet for an assignment that I assigned. It will be coming back to me in a few days, and the trusty purple pen will be put back to work. It was put to great use when we returned from Hilton Head. As soon as we got home, I was heading to campus to grab a stack of tests.

Speaking of tests, my nephew is taking the SAT this morning. I am certain that he will do well, but it must be tense to take a test that higher academics takes that seriously. When I was in school, it was not that big of a deal. They told us that we would be taking a test in a couple of weeks. When the day arrived, the put us in the cafeteria and let us work. It turned out that we were taking the ACT.

These days, kids are put into courses to prepare them for the test, and they also take it several times. My stepdaughter is taking it in December, and she is in the seventh grade. I know that we must have some measurement for college acceptance, but, to me, this seems to be a lot of stress at a young age. They will have enough stress in their lives. Do they really need this?Stress

Speaking of stress, I will have plenty of the self-made kind by the end of the day. In a few hours, we are driving to Knoxville to watch the University of Tennessee play football against the University of Alabama. I have already written about this rivalry, but, honestly, it is not much of a rivalry at this time. My team, Tennessee, is going through one of the worst times in its history. Alabama is going through one of its best. That does not make for a good game or a good rivalry. It may be crazy, but watching my team struggle stresses me out. However, it is not just me. I know a lot of people who cannot wait for better days.

Writing about stress makes me think about our trip to Hilton Head, a time of relaxation. Now that I am getting the inspiration to write about that, the next post will be about our South Carolina adventures.

Tennessee, Alabama and Me

24 Oct

This weekend, the University of Tennessee plays the University of Alabama in a football game, and this is the one I look forward to the most. Younger fans may think of other games as bigger, but, for me, nothing is bigger than when these two teams get together. My dad started taking me to Tennessee games when I was 6 years old, and I have been to every Tennessee/Alabama game since then. There have been a lot of wins. There have been a lot of losses. There has also been a lot of memories.

When I was a kid, it was always me, my dad and my grandfather, who we called Daddy J. Most times Larry would be with us. You’ve read about him before. My dad would drive while Daddy J sat in the passenger seat tugging on a big cigar. Being in the backseat, I would lean up to hear the adult conversations that were going on.

Obviously, we went to Neyland Stadium all of the time, so I considered it special to attend a game at Legion Field in Birmingham. For the younger folks, that’s where Alabama used to play all of their home games. If the timing was right, then we would eat at All Steak in Cullman. Once in Birmingham, we would park in someone’s yard and walk to the stadium, where they had the greatest hot dogs I have ever eaten.

Legion Field was different from a lot of stadiums because it had a walkway around the field. Fans could go up to the fence and get close to the players and coaches. I can remember my dad telling me about Bear Bryant and pointing to the man standing under the goalpost.

He had a program rolled up in one hand and a cigarette hanging in the other one. Of course, he always had on the houndstooth hat. These days houndstooth has become a fashion statement in Alabama, but I always wonder how many of the people wearing it actually saw Bear Bryant coach a game.

All of that was cool, but it has always been about more. On Saturday, I will attend my 39th game between these teams. I have forgotten the details of a lot of them, but a few games stand out.

1982 – Tennessee came into the game in full rebuilding mode under Johnny Majors. Alabama came into the game ranked second in the nation and with eleven straight wins over Tennessee. Shocking everyone, Tennessee intercepted a pass in the end zone to preserve a 35-28 victory. No one was more shocked than me because it was the first time I saw Tennessee beat Alabama. Honestly, I never thought it would happen. More honestly, I shed a tear or two.

We were staying in Gatlinburg that weekend, and I wore orange the rest of the night. As we sat on a street-side bench, people would walk by and say “Go Vols!” Crimson couldn’t be seen anywhere as Tennessee fans celebrated.

It turned out to be the last time that Tennessee played against Bear Bryant. He retired at the end of the season and passed away a few weeks later. Most Tennessee fans know the photograph of Johnny Majors and Bear Bryant shaking hands after the game.Johnny Majors

1983 – The rematch in Birmingham was an offensive explosion. The teams traded blows until Johnny Jones scored on a 66 yard run to make the final score 41-34. It was electric, but things got better. Larry and I snuck into the Tennessee locker room and joined in the celebration. I got wrist bands from Charles Davis, one of Tennessee’s players. However, the best souvenir was a pair of socks from Clyde Duncan. Those socks scored on a long touchdown pass that day, and I wore them to every game for many seasons after.

1985 – This time we didn’t drive to Birmingham. Some people who my dad did business with flew us down on their private jet. On Friday, we toured their factory and had dinner at the fanciest restaurant I had ever been to. We had to wear a coat and tie, which I didn’t have. I had to wear what the restaurant gave me. There was a piano player, and my dad paid money for him to play “Rocky Top.” The other diners were not pleased.

The next day, Tennessee, ranked twentieth in the country, won 16-14 as Alabama, ranked fifteenth in the nation, barely missed a last second field goal. The game was full of drama as Tony Robinson, Tennessee’s starting quarterback, went out with a knee injury. The defense had to hold on, and Dale Jones did his part by making an impossible interception.

The flight home was quiet because we were the only Tennessee fans on the plane.

1995 – We had learned a couple of months before the game that Daddy J had an inoperable brain tumor. On the morning of the game, I visited him at the hospital and talked to him about football. He probably didn’t understand, but I like to think that he did. After this visit, I met Larry and the other guys to drive to Birmingham for a game between two highly ranked teams.

Tennessee was ranked sixth in the polls and was led by Peyton Manning, who was just a sophomore. Alabama came in eleventh in the nation. Like in 1983, Tennessee had not won in a while, and fans were anticipating a change in fortunes. We didn’t wait long as Tennessee scored on the first play and went on to win 41-14. Tennessee found a favorite son and started a seven game winning streak over Alabama.

After the game, fans tried to storm the field, but the Birmingham police would have none of it. They brought out the pepper spray and got a few journalists in the process. It was an eventful night, and it was a terrible day. My grandfather passed away that morning after I left the hospital.

At the visitation, I told Larry that I wished Daddy J could have seen that game. Larry replied that God let’s us see good things when we are in heaven.

I have been to many Tennessee/Alabama games, but those are the ones that I remember most. So, what’s the record between the two teams since I have been going.

Tennessee has won 15 games.

Alabama has won 22 games.

There was one game that didn’t count. You’ll have to ask an Alabama fan about that.

Emersed in the Subculture that is NASCAR

23 Oct

This past weekend, I went to the NASCAR race at the Talladega Superspeedway with my brother, my nephew and some friends. We had a lot of fun hanging out and, in general, acting like a bunch of guys. We traveled on a luxury bus. You know, the kind that famous people rent to take on tour. Our bus had recently been used by John Cena, the WWE star. Considering that the NASCAR fans surrounding us are probably WWE fans, I thought it was a fitting coincidence.John Cena 2

Wait, did I just stereotype NASCAR fans? I didn’t mean to do that. In my mind, NASCAR fans represent a subculture within the larger framework of society. Numerous subcultures exist in our country, and each one of them can be stereotyped by those who do not understand it or do not want to understand it. Heck, we are all part of one. I am a fan of a Southeastern Conference university. That’s a subculture. I am a blogger. That’s a subculture, too. My dad used to be in the cattle business, and I can promise you that cow people are a subculture.

As I said, NASCAR is one of many subcultures, and all subcultures lead themselves to be stereotyped and parodied. I started thinking about this somewhere around the halfway point of the race. The beginning of the race is always cool, and the end is always exciting. However, the middle gets to be somewhat tedious. After all, it is just a bunch of cars going around in a circle.

Anyway, I began to analyze my surroundings and came up with some thoughts.

1. NASCAR fans embrace the stereotypes and parodies. They have to because they cheered for the Wonder Bread car, which was the car driven by Will Ferrell in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Surely, they realized that this car represented a movie that made fun of them and their sport.Ricky Bobby

They must also embrace the stereotypes and parodies in what they wear to the race. Surely, someone who wears a white t-shirt with a hole cut in the front so their beer belly can hang out is doing it for laughs. Surely, they realize that this is what non-NASCAR fans assume they wear and, in turn, are making a statement by embracing this unrealistic view.

2. NASCAR has abandoned its fan base, and ticket sales have suffered because of it. At one time, Talladega was packed. Now, a good seat can be bought on the day of the race. I believe it is because NASCAR has become too corporate, and the drivers have become too slick.

Drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Junior Johnson, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison and many more could fit in with the fans. Now, drivers marry supermodels and live in New York City. Fans can’t relate to that. They also can’t relate to the fact that races have been ripped from historic tracks and placed in Chicago, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Wine Country. Wine and moonshine don’t mix.

3. Most of the crowd cheers for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. because he is a link to the past. He’s not just a link to his dad, the last of the great southern drivers, but also a link to all of the other great southern drivers. Ironically, Dale, Jr. is one of the few drivers who grew up wealthy. He may look and act like the fans, but, in reality, he has less in common with them than the other drivers who came up through the ranks.

4. Barack Obama didn’t get many votes from NASCAR fans. On Saturday night, we went to a karaoke gathering where beer and moonshine were flowing. Songs were sung badly, but something more interesting happened. When people had the microphone, they took the opportunity to bash the president. They told jokes about him. They cussed him. The First Amendment was alive and well.

I don’t like the president, either. I don’t like his politics or his policies. However, I believe that it went deeper than that with the people on stage. They don’t like him because they believe he is a Muslim who was born in another country. Oh yeah, they also don’t like him because he is black.

5. Many fans of University of Alabama football are ridiculous. This guy behind us yelled “Roll Tide” every time the cars went around the track. I looked for a car that was driven by Nick Saban but couldn’t find it. My only conclusion was that he wanted everyone to know that he cheers for a great football team on Saturday. This was on Sunday. I am sure he does it on every other day of the week, as well.

He, and many others, wear the school colors all of the time and brag about national championships that they didn’t actually win. Admittedly, I cheer for a rival school, but I am glad that my greatest accomplishment in life is not watching a group of other people accomplish something. Last time I checked, the guy yelling “Roll Tide” at the NASCAR race did not win a damn thing.

6. We met a guy called Big Little, and he was a top-notch grill man. According to him, women surround him just to get a taste of his Brisket and Boston Butt. I have to admit that it is funny to hear a big guy from Mississippi say Boston Butt. The fact that he was wearing overalls made it even more funny. I know he embraced the NASCAR stereotype.

That’s all I thought about. The rest of the time, I was keeping an eye on Danica Patrick’s car. First, because its color scheme makes it stand out. Second, the other fans were booing her. If the “Roll Tide” guy was against her, then I needed to be for her.