Why I Cheer for The Crimson Tide
Among a myriad of reasons to cheer for The Crimson Tide, this is mine.
I wrote this article the night before Alabama took on Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship game. Alabama faces off against Clemson in the College Football Playoff Championship Game tonight, and I wanted to share this with y'all again--it is, after all, about one of the most important people in my life.
I lost my PawPaw on November 8, 2016. I miss him every day, sometimes with an ache that fills my heart to the point that all can do is cry. I think of his empty Lay-Z-Boy and how I would give anything, anything to be able to watch just one more game with him.
This is for you, Paw Paw. Semper Fi and Roll Tide.
There is a house in Northern Alabama, and in that house is a grey Lay-Z-Boy recliner. It sits in a spacious room where Daniel Moore prints adorn the walls and tucked away in the display cabinets are medals, photos, and other Marine Corps memorabilia. All eyes will be on the big screen TV tonight as the Tide takes to the field in Miami—both in that house and around the world—and I know for an absolute fact that there is no one who will be quite as excited as one man.
He is my grandfather, known to all his adoring grandchildren simply as PawPaw. He’ll sit in that Lay-Z-Boy tonight while he watches the game—the way he’s done for every game as long as I can remember. It’s not his first Lay-Z-Boy, rather one in a string of replacements; the arms of those recliners would become battle worn after a season or two, with distressed fabric and indentations from the rhythmic pounding of his fists in those moments of tension before a big play. He claps, too, and shouts, and he taught me everything I know about football.
I recall Saturdays in my childhood; my family would have traveled north from Birmingham to visit my mom’s parents for the weekend. PawPaw seemed to sit in his recliner all day, flipping the channels from one game to the next, but never missing a moment of the Crimson Tide. I honestly think that after my Grandmother, our family, and the Corps, there is nothing my PawPaw loves more than Alabama football.
He didn’t graduate from the University of Alabama. Times were different then, and he needed to work to support his family. He served three voluntary tours of duty in Vietnam before coming back home to the States. His experience allowed him to learn more about engineering, electronics, and eventually, computers. He travelled the globe in the early 90’s establishing internet connections at US Embassies. By the time he retired, he was an IT specialist at Redstone Arsenal.
He worked hard, but Saturdays were his. Saturdays were for football. As a kid, he could have turned me away when I ventured into the den during a game. As a girl, he could have assumed I wouldn’t be interested in sports. But he didn’t. He patiently explained the rules of the game to me. If a flag was thrown, he could tell me why before the play-by-play crew cut to a shot of a ref on the field. He bought me a set of crimson and white pom poms so I could cheer on the team while we watched the game together. I remember the pride and happiness on his face when he and my grandmother came back from watching the 1992 Championship Game with Bama T-shirts and presents galore for me and my sisters.
My PawPaw taught me everything I know about football, and he taught me so much more. He taught me the value of hard work and the virtue of dedication. He taught me how to use a computer, the right way to talk into a microphone (he’s a HAM radio guy), and the recipe for the most delicious lasagna on the face of the Earth. He taught me never to judge another, to take pride in myself, to love my family above all others. He even let me drive his pick-up truck once, a black 70-something Chevy Silverado with (you guessed it) crimson interior.
Several years ago, he suffered a massive stroke. As families of stroke victims can attest, he was never the same afterwards. He struggles to communicate with us. He gets frustrated. His dream of owning an RV and tailgating his retirement away turned in to hospitalizations, doctor’s appointments, and, sadly, more strokes. Then came congestive heart failure and Alzheimer’s.
He hasn't let that stop him, though. He’ll still be on that recliner tonight, pounding his fists into the arms of that Lay-Z-Boy when he thinks the play calling is crap. Sickness and disease may have taken him to a place I can’t quite reach, but Alabama Football can. I can see it in his eyes: that twinkle, that happy twinkle. I also know that boisterous laugh I miss so much will make an appearance tonight, too.
People talk trash about bandwagon fans. I've had people tell me that I can’t truly be an Alabama fan because I went to Western Kentucky University (I lived in Kentucky when I graduated high school, and only an idiot turns down a full-tuition scholarship when it’s offered to her), that I don’t and can’t know anything about history and tradition.
Those people, I guess, have just never watched a game with my PawPaw.