When you live in the great state of Alabama, there will be a moment in your life when you have to make a decision that will affect you every day for the rest of your life: “Am I an Alabama fan or am I an Auburn fan?“ It’s a decision that has the potential to divide families, friends, and co-workers. It also has the potential to unite all of them. In my case, it unites.
My very first memory of Alabama football is seeing players carry Coach Bryant off of the field after winning his 315th game as a head coach. I was only 5 years old so it is a very faint memory. The part that I remember most was the happiness that it brought my dad.
My next memory of Alabama football was when Coach Bryant passed away. I was 6 years old, but I remember that like it was yesterday. Four days earlier, I had found out that my Granddaddy Roberts, my dad’s dad, had passed away. We had just gotten home when we heard the news about the Bear. My dad still describes that moment as “losing both of my heroes in the same week.“
The first full game that I remember watching with my dad was the 1985 Iron Bowl, known for ”The Kick.” The years following that, just the Iron Bowl alone became a big deal in our house…especially with sisters that pulled for Auburn. The Iron Bowl might have been a family thing, but watching Alabama was just mine and his thing.
There are so many other games that I recall watching with him, but two things had avoided us. Number one, I had never watched Alabama win a national title with my dad. (I HAD a chance to watch the 1992 team beat Miami. However, my dad would not let me skip work at a local fast food place to watch it because “Those people are relying on you to be there.”) The second thing that eluded us was going to a game together. I had been to a couple of games myself, but never with him. In his whole life, he had never been to one. That changed in 2006 when I got us tickets to the Vanderbilt game.
I remember that I couldn’t sleep the night before, because I was so excited. My day started at 5:20 AM. We left my dad’s house at 6:30, bound for Tuscaloosa. We got there about 8:45. My dad could not believe how many fans were already there. Our first stop took us to the Bryant Museum. After that, we parked my dad’s truck in the handicap section right beside the stadium. My dad has a handicap due to a knee replacement going bad with infection. Eight surgeries later, they fused his right leg. He is probably more active that I am, but there is no way that he could do all the walking that is required to see everything that we wanted to see that day. We decided to take a wheel chair and I pushed him up and down the Walk of Champions, all around The Quad, and stopping at Denny Chimes. I pushed him around in that wheelchair everywhere that we went that day…and was happy to do it.
Before the game, went back to the truck, got our radios and binoculars and headed back for the Walk of Champions. The team got there and all of the coaches and players walk about 10 feet in front of us. We snuck away from that a little early to get a head start into the ticket line so that I could exchange my tickets for the wheelchair seating. I remember pushing him to our spot and then sitting down beside him. I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face, but I did have to wipe a tear or two from my eyes. I had waited for a long time to go to a Bama game with my dad and we had finally made it!
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