Monday, September 13, 2010

Alabama vs. Penn State

Bear with me folks; this is a long one…

This past Saturday, my dad, brother (Justin), Jackie and I took a road trip to Tuscaloosa to see the Alabama-Penn State football game. I’m sure most of you know, but Penn State and Alabama were pretty big rivals back in the 1970s and 1980s and my dad had mentally circled this game on the calendar. As luck would have it, we stumbled upon some tickets and were able to load up the car and head south. My dad had wanted to take his dad to the game, but Ben-Pa was feeling old I guess and decided not to go. Truth be told, I don’t think he could have handled it – going to a football game is exhausting for me and I’m 33! Instead, my brother got the honor of going in his place.

It’s really hard for me to put into words the emotions I feel regarding Alabama football. I realize that it’s “just a game” and in the grand scheme of things doesn’t matter all that much, but to me, life doesn’t get much better than football season in general and Alabama football specifically.

I was one of those girls who basically grew up inside a football stadium. My dad started taking me to games before I could walk. Life without football is a foreign concept to me and it amazes me when I meet women who are ignorant about football because not understanding or loving football is something that I cannot understand.

In addition to my dad giving me a love and appreciation for Alabama football, I also went to school at The University of Alabama and Tuscaloosa is one of the few places on earth where I actually feel at home and at peace and like all is well with the world. I leave my troubles behind and am flooded with treasured memories. It’s a city that reminds me of who I was and who I am and the road I took to get here. It reminds me of being young and carefree and it allows me to remember myself as a young girl, a high school girl, a college girl and a post-college girl; it’s the one place I’ve continually been through every aspect of my life.

From the roof of my sorority house I watched the construction of the east side upper deck allowing the stadium to hold over 80,000 people; it now holds over 100,000. My dad can remember when the stadium seated just 10,000 people – ten times less than it holds now. Alabama football is in our blood and has been for generations. We may forget what day of the week it is but we never forget what happened in an Alabama game from (insert year here). You get the point.

The newest stadium addition

So, needless to say when we had the opportunity to go to the Penn State game we all screamed a resounding YES!

We left Huntsville around 11:30a.m. for the 6:00p.m. kickoff and arrived in Tuscaloosa about 2:30 or thereabouts. We were prepared for a warm day – it’s always warm in Tuscaloosa – but were unpleasantly surprised when we stepped out of the car and were hit with what felt like 100 degree heat and 200% humidity. Really the high was 97 and the humidity about 84% but good gracious it felt like the gates of hell had opened up as soon as we stepped out of the air-conditioned car and I think my fellow game-goers would agree.

We parked about one and a half miles from the stadium so we had a bit of a walk in front of us. My sorority house is directly in front of the stadium and that was our destination because 1) it was air-conditioned; 2) it was dry (rain was headed our way); 3) there was a TV on which we could watch other games while waiting for time to go into the stadium; and 4) free food! What more could you ask for? Now I am a big fan of the game day experience. I like to watch the players stroll in to the stadium. I like to listen to the band warm up and play some Bama cheers on the front steps of the Gorgas library (my former place of employment I might add). I like to walk around and yell Roll Tide as much as the next person, but the heat prevented me from wanting to do anything but find a cool place to sit down and wait.

The Kappa Alpha Theta house as seen from the top of
Bryant Denny Stadium.
This was my home for a fleeting moment.

I’m a slow walker. I think everyone probably knows this about me. For whatever reason, I’m infamous amongst my family and friends for walking slow. Having a heel spur doesn’t help things. As we walked to the stadium, I dragged up the rear of our line of four people, sweat pouring down my face wondering if I was going to die right there on the strip where I had spent so many of my Thursday-Saturday nights in the late 1990s. Thankfully I didn’t. The heat and I don’t get along too well. I have said, and stuck by it, that Tuscaloosa is the hottest city in the state. I truly believe it! Try walking to classes in the extreme heat every day of the week and you’ll be a believer too.

I finally had the Theta house within my sight and was focused on getting there and not passing out. I am not exaggerating here. I felt like I was on the verge of blacking out and wanted nothing more than to be safe within the confines of my former home. I finally reached the back porch, went inside and sat on the sofa in the formal living room. My heart was beating so fast and I was so hot and shaking so terribly that it’s a modern-day miracle that I didn’t pass out. Jackie went and got me a glass of water (she was right behind me) and a nice older Alumnae got me a cool wet paper towel. My brother and dad came in a little later (they had lingered outside looking at statues and whatnot because Justin had never seen them and when they came in my dad found a spot in front of the TV in the den and my brother was kind enough to snap this lovely photo of me.

I fought the heat and the heat won!

Yes, folks, I’m pretty sure this is what heat exhaustion looks like. Why everyone else in my group didn’t look this awful I will never know; and yes, I felt just as terrible as I looked.

It took me a good 30 minutes or so before I was feeling well enough to get up and go check on my dad who was also not enjoying the heat. I got him a glass of water and went back to join Justin and Jackie in the formal living room. Jackie was wearing jeans (God bless her) and I don’t know how she wasn’t as miserable as I was. I guess some people can handle the heat better than me. Bring on the cool weather, Mother Nature!

We hung around at the Theta house and were eventually joined by my uncle (for all of about 15 minutes) and friends Tina and Chad, who sat with us at the game. We ate some BBQ and then headed inside about an hour before kickoff.

While the teams were practicing, Saint Nick and Joe Pa met at the 50-yard line along with Bobby Bowden for a photo op and a little chat. Yes, I got teary eyed.

From the Jumbotron

Prior to the team running on to the field, I got teary eyed again; it happens every time I got to a game. The emotions and memories flood my heart and mind and I just can’t hold it in! I soak up the moment. I make sure to look around and remember the smell of the air, the look of the sky, the roar of the crowd and all the other sights and sounds around me and to me there’s no greater feeling, nothing in this world can match the sensation of that exact moment.

We were sitting in the upper deck in the Penn State section but there were other Alabama fans there as well. We obviously enjoyed the game (Alabama won 24-3) and we enjoyed the company as well – it was my brother’s first game in almost four years, Chad is a like a giddy school girl at Alabama games, I always enjoy going to games with my dad, it was nice to catch up with our childhood friend Tina, and Jackie and I always find something completely ridiculous to laugh about. And of course, we munched on Bryant-Denny stadium dogs, God’s gift to the Alabama nation!

Yum! I want one now!

We left the game with a few minutes left to play and tried to book it back to the car. I am again not exaggerating when I say I arrived about 20 minutes after my dad and 10 minutes after Jackie and Justin. After standing up Friday night at high school football and being on my feet most of the day Saturday, my poor left foot did just not want to move any further. Jackie and Justin waited on me a couple of times but we would get separated again and inevitably I would end up stopped at an intersection by some cop changing the flow of traffic, which put me behind even further. I eventually made it to the car and we headed home, making one stop along the way for some late night snacks and talking about some guy in a Cadillac (BRAD-I) that passed us on a two-lane road and then wouldn’t pass the next slow car. We all finally made it to the interstate where Brad zoomed past us leaving us in his dust. We arrived back in Huntsville a little after 12:30 a.m., exhausted, sticky, and stinky, but we had a great time, heat exhaustion and all.

College Game Day was there - love those guys!
I saw Chris Fowler walking into the stadium as we were leaving.
It was very reminiscent of the time I saw him at LSU.
I still think Rece Davis is the hardest working man in college football though.

Big Al on the field before the game.
I tried out for Big Al when I went to school at Alabama.
Maybe one day I'll tell you about it... or maybe not!

Tina took this photo of me and Jackie.
I was rumaging through my purse for something.

Jackie and my dad

Chad and Tina

We saw the Nittany Lion as we were walking to our gate.
I told my brother to take it's picture -
he got the back of it's head way over in the distance -
can you see it?

My daddy - lover of Alabama football!


Janice said...

I love the post. I'm worried about your foot though. I even talked to my fellow support group ladies and you need to get some more help. Jackie told me she was very worried about you too. I do think it was also the pain with your foot making you feel worse. Although I heard how very hot it was. Jackie told me she was worried about you and Steve.
So please go back to the foot Dr. and see what else they can do for you.
Now I will shut up about your health. I totally enjoyed the info on your history with Alabama, football, college etc. It makes the entire information more interesting.
I'm so happy that Justin got to go. Jackie told me that she didn't think Ben Paul could have made it with the heat.
Take care of yourself and keep us posted with all your news.
Love you

Candy said...

I can finally comment and blog! Yippee! Love this post and love the picture of you more. I would have killed anyone who took a picture like that of me - then again I can't imagine why in the world you would want to post it :)

Getting My Words Out said...

I'm just getting caught up on reading blogs... Given the fact I just went to SC and saw the I'm SO GLAD to read this post and remember a better day in Bama football.

I hope to read that you've been to the dr (or "back to the dr") about your foot. That doesn't sound good at all.