Wednesday, October 28, 2009

If Time Travel Were Possible...

From a great thread on a Bama msg board I frequent. "If you could go back in time and watch any Bama football game, which one would you choose?"

(note: to use a borrowed phrase, there's a huge head fake in this topic...keep reading, even if you couldn't care less about Bama football games past or present...)

Naturally, I couldn't just pick one. So here are a few of mine, along with my explanation as to why I'd go watch...These are not in order, except for the last one, which would be my one first choice by a long way.

--Bama v. Auburn, Tuscaloosa, about 3 years ago. The good guys lost...but this was my 1st Iron Bowl with my son sitting beside me. He drove over from Oxford & met me; we had a BLAST. Thus, it will always be one of my favorite games, despite the outcome.

--Bama v. Miami, Sugar Bowl, 1993. We destroyed the 'Canes, made all the sweeter by (a) the non-stop noise talked by the Cane players and the media before the game, (b) the fact that this game led to us winning our 12th national championship. But beyond all that, I attended this game...with Lisa's Dad sitting right there beside me. A great, great evening & road trip because of the company I was keeping that evening.

--Bama v. Auburn, 1985, Legion Field, Birmingham, AL. This game will always be known as "The Kick". Van Tiffen--father of current Tide kicker Leigh Tiffen--kicked a 52-yard field with just a couple of minutes left in the game to win it 25-23. The new mrs. beachbum was, of course, sitting there beside me. The game was awesome, but going w/ her was incredible.

--Bama v. KY, Legion Field, 1980. Defending nat'l champs Bama thrashed the Cats. Tide linebacker E.J. Junior was a force; UK had no answer (nor did anyone else who had to face EJ that year...). But the utterly-cool thing about that game is that it was my first as an actual UA student after transferring from the U. of FL. I was in the company of a number of folks who would impact my spiritual life significantly over the next few years. I also found myself wondering about this former UA coed I know who watched her first game as a student some 30ish years earlier...did she have the same excitement and anticipation of the game?--but much more--of what her time @ UA would mean to her? Maybe I'll ask her over lunch today...she & her husband Leo are visiting us for the weekend. Love you, Mom! Roll Tide!

--Bama v. Auburn, Legion Field, 1982 (or so). We had no answer for the great Bo Jackson of Auburn. He ran for nearly 300 yards that day. We lost. So, why would I go back to that one?? Because it's still the single greatest football performance I've ever seen live & in person. Incredible performance, even if it was against my guys. The future mrs. bb was there by my side.

--Bama v. Penn St., Tuscaloosa, about 1986. We won 6-0 in one of the best games I've ever seen. Old-school defensive struggle, with guys regularly limping off of the field, only to return a couple of plays later after the hamster climbed back on the little wheel and after the application of copious amounts of tape. Hardest hitting game I ever saw. Cornelius Bennett must have had 20 tackles that day for us. Neither offense could move the ball. We got w/in field goal range twice, and that was it. mrs. bb was there, as was a friend & classmate from India who was watching his 1st ever football game. Naturally, the great Joe Paterno was on the sidelines that day as head coach of the Nittany Lions, which added to the experience.

--Bama v. Notre Dame, Legion Field, about 1986. This game's known among the Tide faithful as "The Sack." Cornelius Bennett came in untouched and blasted Notre Dame QB Steve Buerlein. A totally awesome play. The Tide won big. A couple of guys walked around late in the game with a sign that said "This One's for You, Bear". I had some flashbacks...

...which leads favorite. The one I'd pick over all of these.

--Bama v. Notre Dame, Tulane Stadium, New Orleans, Sugar Bowl, January 1974 (or so). Pre-Superdome. Sat in the rain & watched my guys lose by one point to the hated Irish. Coach Bryant called this the greatest game he saw. So why in the round world is THIS one on the list? First, I met Coach Bryant after the game, which is just all kinds of cool. But much more, this was the only game I ever watched with James E. Madaris, Dad, who loved the Tide more than most. He died suddenly the next December of a heart attack when he was 3 years younger than I am now.

I'd give pretty much anything I've had since then to be able to go back & sit with Dad at that game again, even with the same outcome. He was great at being a serious, passionate fan without becoming...well, a north end of a south-bound horse. That particular way of being a fan is fairly well a lost art these days. (Even at the high school level!) Anyway, what a joy it was to share that game with Dad--even tho the wrong team won! I've remembered that experience at every game I've attended--Bama's or anyone else's!--since then. I dearly love the game in & of itself...but I'll always wonder if part of the reason isn't that football in gen'l--Bama football in particular--presents one of my most vivid memories of time spent with my Dad. At pretty much every game since then, I've had a very powerful "Dad, I remember" moment.

So, did you catch the head fake? I even "head-faked" myself with this one. I started out writing about some of my favorite Bama football games. Turns out, though, that this post actually has very little to do with football. Which really makes me wonder...I LOVE football, especially college football, and especially Crimson Tide football. Have loved it all my life. I wonder, in light of the head fake here, if my love of the game isn't really a celebration by me of some key people in my life. Especially my wife...and of my kids who are now loving their respective schools' teams...and of my parents, one of which is a two-time UA grad & the other of which was a serious UA fan for his all-too-short 47 years on earth.

Make no mistake. I love the violence of the game...the hits...the blocks (as a father of a former offensive lineman, I really love the blocks!)...the strategies...the fakes...the scores...the interceptions...the strength & athleticism...God help me, I so very much love all of that. But I'm beginning to decide that much of what I really love is the people in my life who I remember each & every time I watch a game. Any game.

I can't wait until Saturday's games on TV. And the next USM home game I get to watch live. And my yet-untaken annual jaunts to Oxford and to Starkville to watch football, while hanging out with my favorite pharmacy student & my favorite psych major...And maybe, just maybe, a trip to Tuscaloosa will occur at some point in the not-too-distant future.

And once again, I'll choke back a tear as the team takes the field.

Roll Tide! Thanks Lisa...and James & Anne...and Mom...and Dad. Also, thanks Gary & Kelly & Ken & Aunt Daisy & Uncle George & all the rest who loved me when I arrived there in 1980 as an angry, childish, remarkably un-love-able lout. I hope you know that you've made a huge difference in my life.



Kelly Bryant said...

Mike, I can agree whole-heartedly with what you've written. I love football, too. But I can tell you more about the people I was with than the games themselves.

Growing up, the highlight every year was flying down to Texas for Christmas and then going to a Cotton Bowl or Sun bowl game with family and friends. Or sitting in in Lubbock, TX watching Tech and TCU play to a TIE in FREEZING weather, but my sweetie was beside me. Or, talking with my dad on the phone after every Texas Tech football game...except last Saturday night. Go figure out that one!

Those kind of memories are stuck in my head forever. Scores of games...probably not. Who I was with...absolutely.

Anonymous said...

I have lots of favorites. There area few that stand out in my mind, though.
1. Auburn v Michigan (Sugar Bowl)I think it was 1983- with Bo Jackson. I was in 2nd grade. I remember Bo Jackson running up and down the superdome at will, but what I MOST remember is being there with all my grandparents, mom, dad, and sister. My grandparents drove me home and I went to school the next day. No one else had to!!! Auburn did win, by the way!

2. Southern Miss vs LSU 1994- I was in the band, sitting in the endzone of Death Valley when USM kicked the field goal that sealed Curly Hullman's fate. I had my eyes covered and couldn't believe we won!!!I remember Mr. Moser telling us to run to the bus.

3. Auburn V Georgia 2004
This was Auburn's year after jetgate. I love the atmosphere of the Auburn/UGA game. This particular game was the 'ESPN Gameday Game'. I went to this game with my best friend, and watched Cadillac and Ronnie Brown run all over the place. Auburn went undefeated that year,but we didn't get a chance to play for the National Championship. As is our mantra, I believe in Auburn and love it- never meant more than it did that year.

I LOVE to read your football posts. I love football more than most girls my age, and my kiddos that are football players are amazed at my ability to discuss plays with them, etc. I just love it!!!

I remember the Tiffin kick. :)


Anonymous said...

Mike, I need to add another!!!!
Auburn V Alabama 2001 in Auburn
Auburn lost, but let me tell you what I remember most. This was the first AU/AL game after Sept. 11. The bands performed a joint patriotic show. First, I am a fan of the bands at both universities...(since band paid my scholarship at USM!!!) AND I am sucker for patriotic music. They had t-shirts made that said 'The only thing that can bring Auburn and ALabama together...Sept. 11'
It was a great moment. Til the end of the game.!