It's been forever, I know. Over a month since I've written anything...ANYTHING...here for someone to read. Maybe it was too often then. Some too controversial. Too.....I don't know...lacking, perhaps. Tonight, though, I'm sensing some of you almost expected to see this again. More than me simply reliving last night's Crimson Tide victory over LSU, this is more of the 'why' we expected this...or thought it was destined to happen.
Many, if not all, of you remember back a little more than eight months ago when THE tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa. Living here, watching it head our direction, seeing the reports as it tore through downtown Tuscaloosa was more than we could believe. Unimaginably, it headed for Bryant-Denny Stadium...and missed. What it did not miss, though, were the thousands of lives in and around the University of Alabama campus. Most notably, as we've all come to know, was the first confirmed fatality for a Crimson Tide student, Ashley Harrison, the girlfriend of Tide long snapper, Carson Tinker. According to Tinker's later report, he and Ashley, along with one of his roommates were in their apartment when the storm headed toward them. They huddled together, he and Ashley, until the incredible winds literally ripped the 22-year old woman from his arms. The storm threw them all from the apartment - Tinker landed in a field about 50 yards away, while Ashley was found about 100 yards away. The storm decimated much of Tuscaloosa. 60 miles away, here in Birmingham, we watched as debris rained down as readily as the raindrops themselves. You looked toward the sky and watched pieces of trees, mobile homes, family dwellings come floating toward the ground. It was, as I mentioned those months ago, unnatural. Ashley was killed that day...and Carson Tinker was indelibly touched with loss.
The town began the rebuilding process as I've come to know southerners simply do. They do not stand around asking, "Why us, why here?" but, rather, they pick up the pieces and rebuild almost as if it is an expected part of the life process. They just survive...and come back stronger. It is, honestly, something very cool to see. This town, you have to understand, lays claim (at that point) to 13 National Titles in college football. Hell, everyone knows that, right? Okay, in the poll-era they are only recognized with 9 Championships, however the system that dates back to the beginning of college football itself recognizes the number "13". Needless to say, life here revolves around this school and its teams. The legendary Bear Bryant, with 6 Championships to his credit, saw to that. The town began looked to this team, the 2011 Crimson Tide, to provide some sense of belief that life could actually return to 'normal'. They had their chance and spoke of, "If we can...," knowing it would help heal the wounds. The season began with the Tide ranked #2 behind Oklahoma...and they knew they could. Those hopes remained...until November 5, 2011. That day. The game between LSU, ranked #1, and Alabama, ranked #2, was billed as 'The Game of The Century.' Okay, so the century is only 11 years old. Fair enough. A little over-hyped? Perhaps. A great game when all was said and done? Very much so, especially if you are a purist and love defensive battles. It was a 6-6 tie at the end of regulation and Bama had missed 4 field goals. In overtime, they missed another...and LSU would not be denied. What no one realized, though, was that it was meant to happen. It HAD to happen. Was SUPPOSED to happen. I only realized that toward the end of last evening's game.
Alabama had lost to the #1 team in the nation. Surely, they could not fall that far in the polls. They didn't. They dropped to #3. Along the way, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oklahoma, and a few others had a chance to leap over Alabama and reach the summit - a #2 ranking - for a chance to play LSU in the Championship. LSU continued to win...and looked incredible doing it...as they marched toward a perfect season. Alabama continued to win, too, as their defense maintained the #1 ranking in ALL major categories. They were outstanding and had held the LSU offense to three field goals in their loss....but it was a loss. Those other teams? Yes, they marched toward the end of the season, too.....and all proceeded to lose a game. The highest-ranking challenger to Alabama would end up being Oklahoma State who had posted an unexpected loss to an unranked Iowa State. Today, they are still talking about why THEY deserved to be in the Game rather than Alabama. Moot point, though. With a very flawed BCS system, they are simply charged with placing the top two teams in the country into the Championship Game. They got it right. For a few weeks, we've heard the question, "If LSU wins it all, will they be considered one of the best teams EVER in college football?" If they had spanked Alabama, then yes. If they had SCORED on Alabama, then maybe. They didn't.
We've heard all the reasons Alabama should not have been in this game. They are in the same division of the same conference as LSU. They did NOT go to the conference championship. LSU played Georgia for the SEC Championship. It would be a rematch...and they aren't supposed to happen. Then we understand that, nowhere in the rules does it state that you must win your conference to go to the Championship game. Whew. What? Just the two best teams? Good - I'm thinking LSU and Alabama...right? Again, the system is flawed. Don't hate the teams, hate the system. We didn't "work the system," we played within it. Went out and....well, won. Like I said, this was meant to happen. SUPPOSED to, even...because, at the end of the evening, Alabama had come into New Orleans ranked #2 with the #1 defense. LSU had the #2 defense. it promised to be another slugfest...that never materialized. LSU was held to 92 total yards, 5 first downs, and only got past the 50-yard line one time. The defense was dominant, while LSU could not contain the Nick Saban-designed game plan. it was, if you're a Bama fan, something of beauty and domination. This team handled business at hand with incredible determination, skill, and focus. The kicker, he of, "I can't believe I missed another," fame earlier in the year, banged 5 through the posts last night. It was a lopsided 21-0 drubbing that was the first ever shutout in the BCS era. Again, for a Crimson Tide fan, it was remarkable.
As I said initially, though, this was a thing of destiny. If you don't believe it, remember this - Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State. Stanford lost to Oregon (on cue) and Baylor knocked off Oklahoma (when needed) so Alabama could retain the #2 ranking much to the chagrin of many. I know it sucks...but those are the rules. Hey, all they had to do was...not lose! Destiny. As everyone watched, the final point to this 'Destiny' theory was driven home - today, 1/10/12, would have been Ashley Harrison's 23rd birthday. Carson Tinker, along with Ashley's parents and friends, lost a beautiful young lady that day. I refuse to believe that, in ANY small way, last night wasn't touched by destiny....or fate. Ask Carson if he believes....
Congratulations to the 2012 National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Last night was something every Crimson Tide fan needed...and appreciated.
Until next time.............