College Football: All About Loyalty

I have loved college football since 1963, when I was in the second grade.  My family had just moved from Madison, Wisconsin to Birmingham, Alabama.  On the first day of school, on the playground, I was meeting the kids who would be my classmates.  As they told me their names, several of them asked “Alabama or Auburn?”  I had no idea what they meant.  They said “Are you an Alabama fan or Auburn fan?”  I hadn’t given it much thought, but having lived in Wisconsin I knew that Bart Starr (the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers) had gone to Alabama so I said I was an Alabama fan.  I picked well.

Alabama was very, very good in the early 1960s, when I arrived in Alabama.  Joe Namath (who later won a Super Bowl for the NY Jets) was the quarterback for the Crimson Tide, later to be followed by Ken Stabler (who later won a Super Bowl with the Oakland Raiders).  Alabama had won the national championship in 1961 and would win it again in 1964 and 1965 (and had the only unbeaten and untied team in the nation in 1966 but somehow lost the polling to Notre Dame – a topic for another day).

I have been a loyal fan of the Crimson Tide ever since – now going into my 51st year of living and dying with the fortunes of that football team.  Loyalty, through good times and bad times, is one of my favorite things about college football.  Loyalty builds community.  Loyalty builds family.

Today was the first game for the Crimson Tide, and I watch the game through the middle of the third quarter.  But then, it was time for another game to begin.  I don’t care a bit about either team in that other game, but I care a great deal about my daughter.  She started college last week and is a member of the marching band at Duke.  Today was Duke’s first home football game and the marching band was performing.  As loyal as I am to Alabama football, I left behind the Alabama game to try to catch a glimpse of my daughter and the rest of her marching band – and was rewarded with one momentary crowd shot on ESPN of the band.  I could not see her face, but I did see her base drum.

Fortunately, there is one location in our home where I can see two television screens at the same time.  So I tuned one TV to the Alabama game (with the sound off) and the other one to the Duke game (with the sound on).  Throughout the game, my wife, my younger daughter, a friend and I all listened for sounds of the band – music or drums – and yelled “I hear her!”

It was a different type of loyalty.  Not loyalty to a color, or a uniform, or even to a university.  It was loyalty to a person, a member of the family.  And that loyalty easily trumps fifty years of loyalty to a team.

After the game, my daughter wrote “I’m very tired due to having wearing a jacket and drum for seven hours in 90-something degree weather and humidity, but I have to say the emotion that’s above all the others is pride.”  She was proud of herself, proud of the drum line, proud of the band.

I am proud, too.



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