This past Saturday, I was given the opportunity to attend my very first Alabama football game. Well, not truly or technically my first, but it was my first one in Tuscaloosa. (I'd only been to two other games in my life: Bama vs. Ga Tech waaaaay back in the early 80s when Tech was still an SEC team, and then back in 1991, when the Iron Bowl was still played at Legion Field.) It had been nearly 20 years since ANY game day experience so I'd say I was well past overdue.
My football spirit had been languid this year. I think it was because of the weird and unusual summer we had because of our house fire. Everything is just different now and I was having a hard time feeling like I usually do this time of year because everything has been incredibly unusual.
My friend Kelly called me Saturday a week ago (Sept. 25) and asked what I was doing on the next Saturday (Oct. 2). I casually replied that I was doing jack-squat. She asked if I could find a sitter for next Saturday night and I said I probably could manage to do so. I asked if I needed to find a sitter so both Cal and I could do this something with her or was it just for me. She said, "No, just you." I knew then that something was up. Her next question confirmed my suspicions. "How would you like to go to the Alabama game with me next Saturday night?" she casually asked.
Surely ye jest. Please don't tease me so.
Fortunately, she was dead serious. : )
We made our plans and I informed King Waffle (nickname change coming soon!) that he would be keeping Poodle, Slick and Noob next Saturday night whether he liked it or not.
I still had a hard time getting excited as the week progressed. I got up Saturday morning and got showered and dressed and waited patiently for her to arrive. I was still wondering if it was all real until she pulled up outside the house. When I saw her car with the Bama flags flying from the back window, I lit up. "I really get to go!", I thought.
We left and headed toward Tuscaloosa. Our first stop was Taco Casa. From there, we headed to downtown T-Town and parked. There was an energy and electricity in the air that you just had to be there to experience. We made our way down the street and began to see more and more traffic. Fans streamed up and down the streets and sidewalks sporting their team's colors. As we got closer to the stadium, the smack talk began to freely flow from one car to another, from car to pedestrian and from person to person across the street. The smell of beer hung in the air, even at 1:00 in the afternoon. As we continued down the street, we approached the area known as "The Strip". As we walked a little further down the street, suddenly the top portion of Bryant-Denny Stadium appeared over the top of a small building. I was not expecting to see it so soon and yelled to my friend, very excitedly I might add, "Kelly!!! THERE IT IS!!!!!" She turned and looked at me and couldn't help but giggle at me. I tell you, it doesn't take much to excite and amuse me. A few steps further and we were at the official entrance to the campus. I had to stop and pose next to the sign. As we made our way towards our destination, the sea of crimson got so thick that you could hardly see the street ahead of you. I was wowed to see Denny Chimes and then turned around to see The President's Mansion directly across the street. We walked around the hundreds of tents and found our destination, the CBS 42 tent. We were welcomed into the tent with a soft chair and a nice cold bottle of water. From there, we continued walking and looking and touring. We came to a tent that had former players Andrew Zow and Shaun Alexander signing autographs. We got word that Brodie Croyle and another player were down the street in the Sports Illustrated tent. There was just so much going on and I was soaking up as much as I could without letting all my crazy spill out onto the scantily-clad sorority girls that kept walking by. Eventually, we made our way back to the CBS tent where we were delighted to indulge in free Dreamland ribs and banana pudding. (Some of you know about Dreamland and you'll know that getting them for free was quite a treat!) We ate our ribs and our banana pudding and then made our way back toward the stadium. There, we stood in line at the front of the stadium and waited for The Walk of Champions to begin. This is where the coaches and players make their way into the stadium prior to the beginning of the game. Finally, after waiting for 45 minutes in the throng of people, the buses arrived and the line began. Coach Saban was flanked by several sheriff's deputies and Alabama State Troopers. Then the players made their way down the path. I got to see Mark Ingram and Greg McElroy. (I actually saw all of them, but those were the only two I immediately recognized.) After the processional went by, we walked across the plaza and took pictures of the statues of Coach Stallings and The Bear. Next, we made our way back over towards The Quad where we found Big Al, the cheerleaders and several members of the Million Dollar Band. We made our way over to The Mound at The Quad where we found the trombone section doing some warm-ups. It was so neat to get to see them doing their thing and to just have fun doing so. We wanted to stick around for the Elephant Stomp, but Kelly told me we might miss kickoff if we waited too long to head back to the stadium.
When we got to the stadium entrance, I was mesmerized all over again. She handed me my ticket and I got a little emotional. It was a little surreal; something I'd longed for for years was finally in my possession. We got up to the gate and I handed them my ticket. I was a little nervous because I truly didn't believe I was so fortunate to even be standing there and ready to go inside. The man took my ticket, tore off the stub and then handed it back to me with a big "ROLL TIDE!". Kelly was already inside waiting for me and I looked at her with my mouth hanging open and said, "They let me in!" She cracked up at my giddiness. Again.
Next was the long walk up the spiral ramps. When we finally made it to the top, we walked to the spot where we'd enter the field. When we finally made it inside, I was overcome with emotion and then here came the tears. I guess only a nerd like me gets all teary-eyed when entering a football stadium. I had to holler for Kelly to stop so I could get my act together. When she turned and saw me wiping my eyes, she said, "Jen, this is almost a religious experience for you, ain't it?!" I think she's almost right. It was just so...wow. And I don't regret it at all.
We finally made it to our seats and had a great view of all the action. We saw the team go through warm-ups. We saw them enter the field to the sound of thousands upon thousands of cheers. I got all emotional again when the first chords of 'Yea Alabama!' started up. It was SO awesome to be able to sing it with all the fans.
When the game started, I cheered every cheer. I yelled "ROLL TIDE!" I don't know how many times. I sang 'Yea Alabama' every time the band played it. I yelled 'Rolllllllllllllllllllll....TIDE ROLL!' with each and every kickoff. I jumped up with a giant yelp at the awesome interception which was returned for a touchdown. Then...it was the end and there was a 31-6 score.
It was Rammer Jammer time, my friends.
Singing Rammer Jammer with 100,000 of my closest friends was quite an awesome experience. You can sing along with the TV at home, but it's just electrifying to sing it there in person.
Then, sadly, it was time to go.
As we made our way back towards the car, we were inundated with shouts of "ROLL TIDE!" and "GO BAMA!". The Gator fans, surprisingly, did not appear sad and dejected, as I would have. They walked down the street, silently. The scantily-clad sorority girls seemed to have progressed to even fewer clothes than they'd had on previously. Someone puked in the street. I almost walked right into the middle of a fight on a corner. The smell of beer still hung in the air, but it was much more potent and pungent now. Sirens wailed. People yelled. The crowd was thick. But all the while, I grinned and grinned and thanked God a million times for the fabulous, perfect day I had. Everything I hoped and prayed for came to pass. It was one of the best days I can ever remember and I hope I'm blessed enough to get to do it again. Soon.
I leave you with just a small fraction of the 764 pictures I took. Yes, I took more than seven hundred pictures in one day. Click the link to see the pics: