Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What It Means To Be A Crimson Tide Fan - The Role We Play and The Expectations

I have to admit, there were plenty of mind-numbing, thoughtless, hateful comments that pushed me to write after the loss to Ole Miss this past Saturday.  I read many hateful, negative comments on various pages and sites, as well as criticisms of the fans.  I have to admit, I was even a bit upset at myself after it was pointed out to me that I had allowed myself to get pulled into it.  I was angry and embarrassed, as many of us were, about several incidents that took place during, and after, the game which got me thinking. A lot. Especially on a long drive with nothing to do BUT think.  From nowhere, a long-forgotten quote came to mind:

"To those whom much is given, much is expected." 

 - John F. Kennedy

For some reason, it stuck in my mind and I questioned, if only for a brief moment, it's correlation.  Was it applicable to my thoughts and our responsibilities as fans?  I've come too the realization that it is...and there are many reasons I feel that way.  Much has been given to us as fans of the program.  "Given to us," is the term I use because, I dare say, no one reading this has actually been a part of the team that plays on the field.  Don't get me wrong - I share Coach Saban's ideal that we, as fans, have our own particular job to do and our own special part of the 'Process' which is to provide support.

I remember walking into Bryant-Denny Stadium for the first time.  The south end zone had not yet been enclosed.  As we walked through the walkway leading to our seats, I was aware of the sense of anticipation.  Oh, sure, I had been in other stadiums...but this was Bryant-Denny.  This was the place built by the Bear and the champions of years gone by.  As we made the last two or three steps toward the seats and came out of the walkway....there it was.  It opened before me and, I have to confess, it still does.  I make myself aware of it every time I walk into these hallowed grounds.  This is a special place, my friends.  A place where the grass is greener, the sun shines brighter, the atmosphere is....well, electric.  It doesn't matter who they are playing - Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Florida, or Auburn or any number of so-called 'cupcake' teams - every time I go to a game in this stadium, I make myself keenly aware of what I am about to see.  As we sit and watch the videos on the large, oversized screens in each corner of the stadium, I silently glance at the clock in the corner.  It tells me how soon we can expect the walk from the Tunnel and kickoff.  When a few players run to the field to warm up, they are always greeted the same way - with cheers and applause.  We love these kids and what they are about to give us yet again.  When the time finally arrives - less than half an hour before kickoff - for the team to take the field, I feel it.  I kid you not, I literally feel wave of unbelievable good fortune wash over me yet again.  I am about to see the Alabama Crimson Tide play football.  I DO NOT CARE WHO THEY PLAY!  I just know I get to watch them......and that, to me, is a gift no one can give me but the team wearing crimson jerseys with white numbers on the helmets.  THEY give me this gift....and they don't even know it.  Nick Saban has assembled the finest staff of coaches and players IN THE NATION right her in Tuscaloosa!  He has NO IDEA what he is giving me as a gift...which is why I choose to support them.  Look at what they are doing for me....FOR US!  Don't get me wrong, I know why they do it. the game and the competition.  Some are playing so they keep their scholarship and get a quality education.  Others, still, are trying to get to the next level and become professional players.  Yes, they're doing it for themselves...HOWEVER...Coach Saban also instills the values that they are doing it as, and for, the team.  He is teaching these boys to become men.  Better people, if you will, by instilling values they will carry with them through life.  Still, I have to admit, they're doing it for us, too.  And we should be DAMN GRATEFUL!

Show of hands - how many of you, when the mercury topped 100 degrees, would be willing to strap on the pads and jersey, buckle the chinstrap, and spend hours playing this game?  Let's try to go back a few months when we sat, transfixed, listening to the evening news and waiting for the sportscaster to give us the Tide practice update.  Do you remember counting down the days until the season began?  I do.  It was....well, it seemed to last forever.  The season is 1/3 over already.  These young men have been there in the grueling heat of summer and will be there in the cold hours of winter pounding into each other, tackling each other, and practicing the same play for hours in the relentless pursuit of perfection.  My question to you is, "Why do they deserve less from us?"  If these young men are willing to do that so that we can do our part and bear witness to their efforts, why is it okay for us to give less than 100%?  Why is it okay for us to criticize them or the coaching staff?  Honestly, why is it okay for us to do anything other than support them in every endeavor?

Along with being a cheering section, we have other responsibilities, too.  One of those is to perform with the same level of class that is expected of this team.  I'd like to point out that this town did not bear witness to a 13th Championship for 17 years.  17 YEARS!!!  We, along with the school, found that unacceptable.  Mal Moore found it extremely unacceptable as he had been part of this university as a player, coach, the AD.  What did Mal do?  Only went out and got the 'Ungettable," Nick Saban.  The university and we...WE...have been reaping the rewards of his work for several years now.  This past week, I've heard more than enough criticism of both the coach and his staff to last for the rest of my lifetime.  I want to personally slap someone every time I hear them do it.  Why?  Well, I can give you 17 very good reasons. Lest you think he's 'lost it', you might want to check the recruiting classes we get each year...for the past 5 years! Coaches Saban, Smart, Kiffin, and the others cannot perform on the field.  Their position is excellence in play-calling and game management.  The players have that responsibility.  I said it earlier in the week and will say it again - please, will the person who never commits an error or makes a mistake at work kindly make your presence known.  I have yet to meet them.  These are 20-23-year old kids and, though they appear to be brick walls with clothing, they are kids.  Let's try to be understanding that they are in the pursuit of excellence...not excellent every time.  If they make a mistake, we want nothing more for them to admit it, correct it, and not make it again.  Period.  We can ask nothing else.

While we are on the subject of class, let's deal with the treatment of opponents and other schools.  I have heard one of the Ole Miss players being called everything from a criminal to a thug to a....well, I can't repeat some of the things I've read.  Many Alabama fans have been calling for his dismissal and stating that he should be charged with assault.  We act, dare I say, 'holier than thou' on these occasions and it honestly bothers me.  Why, you ask? (go ahead, ask)  I'll tell you why - it wasn't that long ago that we had a few players charged, publicly, for beating a student, taking his debit card, then using it. Yes, they were removed from the team - I understand that.  My point is, if you're living in a glass house, drop the rocks.  We have had our share of problems with this program, though they (fortunately) dealt with quickly.  Still, there is NO reason to be saying some of the hateful, horrid things directed at other teams and their fans.  We are better than that.  By now, many (if they are still reading this) are saying, "What are we supposed to do? Just say nothing about the actions of another team or their fans??"  That's exactly what I am saying.  I remember several years ago when Penn State came to Tuscaloosa for a renewal of that rivalry.  They came to town and, much to their actual surprise, left feeling like they had been at the most hospitable place on earth (short of Disneyland, I'm sure).  Seriously, when we travelled north the following year, their comments to fellow PSU fans was, "Please show the Alabama fans the same hospitality we were shown and treat them as well as they treated us."  You have NO idea how good that felt.  Did Bama beat them?  Absolutely?  Were they unkind toward us or the team?  In no way, shape, or form.  We need to have class in everything we do, every day, as we strive for the same degree of excellence that is expected of the team.  They, as players, deserve that and should expect nothing less.

I realize there are points I will want to make later but, for now, this is a start.  This is my message to the Crimson Tide faithful and, I hope, the feelings of many rather than a few.  Perhaps I am wrong and I am in the minority.  I hope not.  For those that take the time to read this, I thank you and hope that you, too, will join me in doing our best always for this amazing team and university...while making sure that we discourage others from giving any less than their absolute best in supporting the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Until next time..................

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