Above center: University of Alabama Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban, with Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram (right) holds up the Waterford crystal football given to the year's National Champions.
After spending my three years of high school in Anchorage, Alaska, I thought I’d died and was en route to Heaven down the vehicle-bashing Alcan Highway toward The University of Alabama, 5,000 miles south of Anchorage, to enter as a freshman in September 1961. Green from the beginning, I thought everything was fun, pure fun. It was, even the classes.
In January 1962 thousands of students stood bundled up on the Quad waiting for Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant to get the call from President John F. Kennedy congratulating the Crimson Tide football team for its National Championship – its sixth!
But wait. That’s not all.
(l - r) 1961 team members Tommy Brooker, Pat Trammell, Lee Roy Jordon, Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, Mike Fracchia, Billy Neighbors.
While I was an undergrad, 1961-65, the Crimson Tide would win three National Championships. Yeh, it really was fun. Who wouldn’t conclude that it was just the way things were supposed to be.
And cute! We were seriously cute at football games, and SO fashion plates, in our suits, hats, and kid gloves. And stockings – which meant garter belts, as there were no panty hose in 1961. Joe Namath made those palatable after his Bama-to-Jets career.
This suit-and-gloves tradition was just leftover crap from the 1950s. I remember best my salmon-colored suit trimmed in blonde mink and the mink hat to match. Mom had sewn a Lord and Taylor label in it. I think the material was part mohair and hot as all-billy-hell. Alabama autumn temperatures in Denny Stadium did NOT warrant suits, hats and gloves.
But we stayed cool with lots of bourbon and Coke during the games. Lots. Our dates just put the bottles in their pockets and bought Cokes in the stadium. It was not too long after I graduated that I never wanted to see bourbon and Coke again. Bourbon, yes; bourbon and Coke, no. Today I still like the smell of good bourbon, but not the reality, so I put a fourth of a cup in my pound cakes.
My son was born in 1972, and he would later play for Alabama’s Coach Gene Stallings (pictured above on the team members' shoulders after the 1993 Sugar Bowl win). Meanwhile, more Championships came in 1973, 1978, and 1979. Then came the first hiatus from Championships. We wouldn’t see another until Stallings reeled in the 1992 title in the 1993 Sugar Bowl. Bama won 34-13 against the Miami 'Canes. Since our son was on the team, we were at that game, where we trounced the 'Canes, who had acted like trash-talking rouges an entire week before the encounter. That memory had to last through the next hiatus.
A 17-year hiatus.
Last Thursday night, January 7, 2010, the Crimson Tide pulled off the win against the Texas Longhorns for the 2009 National Championship, the 13th. Watching it in the den was a far cry from my salmon mohair suit or the streets of New Orleans after the Sugar Bowl. But by golly it was fun.
I hope it won’t be another long dry spell; in 17 years I’ll be. . . . Well, let’s just say, it won’t be fun.
As an “A Club” member, my son gets the “A” List e-newsletter, which he forwarded after the game so we could see the early photos taken by David Butler. I am including some of those in this post and hoping I’m not infringing on copyrights.
Terrance "Mt." Cody, #62, is just too big to fail. Below, he dwarfs Coach Saban.
In case anyone wonders how Ingram, #22, won the Heisman. . .
Here's a link to a great video from Facebook showing the run-up to the Rose Bowl match-up; I got it in an e-mail before game: http://b.static.ak.fbcdn.net/rsrc.php/z4HBM/hash/3krgnmig.swf?v=103488933009216&ev=0
And in the locker room. . .
Let’s keep things in perspective. The University of Alabama also boasts top-notch academic pursuits. The Debate Team has won 15 National Championships ( http://uanews.ua.edu/2004/03/ua-forensics-team-wins-15th-national-title/ ). Our gymnastic team has won National Championships and the team members’ GPA is consistently over a 3.5. Several UA schools, colleges, and divisions are nationally ranked. And, look, it’s still a really fun place. Check it out at www.ua.edu/.
UA athletics, especially football, brings in a lot of money to the school and to the community. Home football games account for some $12 million each in Tuscaloosa. Local retail stores carrying UA licensed gear have already made a killing, and a National Championship event planned for this Saturday, Jan. 16, in Bryant-Denny Stadium will likely rival a home game in bringing money to the area.
Ok. Whatever. ROLL TIDE.