Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Passion for Football…
A Love of Place

My childhood is scattered with moments, and my memory is sprinkled with memories of those moments.

Of Barbie dolls. And bike rides through our gravel-laned neighborhood. And Black Stallion books. And roller skating in the garage.

One of my most vivid of memories, though, doesn’t really have to do with childhood things. It, in fact, is a memory of a place.

When I was twelve-years-old, my Dad received his doctorate from the University of Texas. Always somewhat indifferent (aren’t preteens—even in an era before we were known as preteens—always indifferent?), I labored through the summers of living in Austin and rarely understood the appeal of the city and the campus and the state.

On the evening that Dad received his PhD, however, something changed.

As day turned to dusk and the ceremony ended, people around me turned their faces and held up their arms to the sky and began singing “The Eyes of Texas.” With the famous campus Tower behind us and the music playing, there was something that struck my prepubescent heart.

Dad says he can still remember the look on my face. He can’t really describe it, but he remembers it.

I imagine that it must have been something like the way you look when you first see the ocean. Or bite into your first bite of Cherry Garcia ice cream.

It was a transcendent moment, and it sent me on my way. I was forever linked to Texas (even though I’d been born there, I’d lived away from it for years) and found myself newly drawn to its history and its people and its sunsets.

And its Longhorns.

I became a Texas fan, and have remained so all my life.

But, as I became a teenager and then an adult, another place vied for my attention and soon captured ahold of my heart.

To this day, this is a place I can visit and immediately feel that little tug in my heart. (You know that tug, I’m sure.) I can close my eyes and immediately take myself to its sights and sounds and smells and textures.

My family moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when I was fifteen, and I did my best to resist. But oftentimes a place is a lot like a teenage boy trying to get your attention; the place is pretty persistent and you eventually give in to its wooings.

The University of Alabama is a beautiful place, with columned buildings (all its buildings are required, in fact, to have columns) and an old-world sort of gentility about it. It’s a place where I made lifelong friends, had my share of adventures, and even got married (Gary and I were married on the front lawn of one of those old columned, antebellum homes).

And where I fell in love with the Crimson Tide.

The Crimson Tide, like its home, is hard to resist. It woos you with its traditions, and its stadium, and its championships, and its pride.

Always a fan of football (any sports really!), I easily fell into the hands of the Tide. I became a fan, and then a student there, and in the process a ticket holder.

And then came this season. The dream season, really.

The last time Alabama won a championship was in 1992. McKenna was not quite a year old; today she is a senior in high school. Delaney and Sydney weren’t even imagined.

So it’s been a while.

And it’s about time it’s back again.

During the season—as we ventured to the games down in Tuscaloosa, or held Bama parties to watch the other games on tv—I just had that special feeling. The feeling that we’d be back at the top at the end of the year. We had the right players—players with great stories, and great personalities, and great attitudes. We had the right coach. We had, it seemed, all the ingredients.

As the season developed, though, I began to wish a wish.

A wish that my memories would come together…my teams would meet…that my places would converge.

My primary attention was always to Alabama. But I also watched Texas as they played out their games. I felt a kinship with their players as well, and I began to think that perhaps this could be their year too.

On the day of the SEC Championship Game, I wore my Alabama clothes proudly. I yelled “Roll Tide!” and beamed with pride as they hoisted that trophy after defeating Florida.

But then I went upstairs and changed into my burnt orange t-shirt and I screamed at the tv as the Longhorns barely escaped in the Big 12 championship game.

And then I sighed a sigh of relief as I realized that the two moments and memories and places were set to meet.

As I get ready to watch the national championship game tonight between Alabama and Texas, I feel a little pull at my heart because I’m giving up on my second-favorite team. I’m going to have to root against the team that grabbed my attention and passion as a child.

But, when it comes down to it, the only colors for me tonight are crimson and white.

(My Dad has found a way to be equally supportive and says he will wear an Alabama t-shirt for one half of the game and a Texas one for the second. I can’t quite make myself do that. I have to be fully committed to just one.)

It will make this the most anticipated championship game in my forty-one years, and it will either be wonderfully exciting or a bit bittersweet.

But, either way, it will be a really gratifying full-circle experience…as I remember that burnt orange sky I appreciated for the first time back in 1980; and then think on the lawns, and the monuments, and the classrooms, and the people, and the team, and the traditions that somehow pushed that sky to a smaller corner of my mind.

I will whisper "Hook em Horns," but I will yell boisterously "Roll Tide Roll!"


LZ Blogger said...

I love COLLEGE Football! ~ jb///

hippo chick said...

Great post, Cheryl. Roll Tide Roll!

~hippo hugs~

hippo chick said...

P.S. When this is all over, come on over and see what I'm looking forward to in 2010.


CrAzY Working Mom said...

Eating your first bite of Cherry Garcia! LOVE IT! That was the funniest thing ever. :)

I am not a football fan...don't shoot! :) But, I love your just seeps out in the post.

Just Me Again said...

I watched the game tonight (well, my husband was watching and I got to watch it, too.) I kept thinking of you with Alabama. Big hugs and congrats!!! You must be really happy...they won!!!

Gretchen said...

You're adorable. This is the sweetest post, and it's about football, which I don't really (gasp) care too awful much for, but still...I watch as a fair weather fan. My poor CU Buffs. So rotten.

Coleen said...

Wow, It's been a long time since I last visited your blog or even blogged on my own. Though instantly I remember feeling the need to visit the south after reaing your blog. Your excitement and southern spirit makes me want to move from the chilly winters of Canada!

Gin said...

As always, your post is awesome. I love your writing. And I am SO glad that your team won.

Becky Welch said...

I thought of you because we went through the same thing! It was so hard especially when Colt got hurt!