So what did we learn over Thanksgiving? Mainly, we learned that a 42-0 halftime lead plus weather in the 40s lends itself to free admission to a football game.
It started down in Florida, where my wife and I were spending Thanksgiving with her family. On Friday, we were relaxing and my wife casually mentioned, “You know, it’s only about 4-and-a-half hours to Tuscaloosa…”
My wife and I are both ‘Bama graduates, and we were both keenly aware that it was Iron Bowl weekend. We had planned to watch it in Florida, but my wife’s suggestion had some traction. For one thing, the kids had never been to the campus, something my wife and I both admit is a tremendous failing as parents.
So Saturday morning, bright and early, we hit the road, traveling the familiar path on Highway 82 up through the state of Alabama. The kids were excited about the adventure and quite pleased to finally get to be amongst throngs of ‘Bama fans. I did let them know that there was going to be a higher concentration of Alabama fans than they had ever experienced. We cross paths occasionally with Bama fans around town, and, of course, greet them with the obligatory “Roll Tide.” However, as I told the kids, you’re going to be saying ‘Roll Tide’ a lot to start with, but if you greet every person on campus wearing a ‘Bama shirt – 100,000 of our closest friends – well, you’ll probably pass out from lack of oxygen.
When we set foot on campus, the kids were in awe. The Alabama campus is a beautiful one, and the kids were excited to see various places where my wife and I went to school and lived. We went back to my fraternity house to show them the place where we met, because there is nothing more romantic to share with your kids than the time their parents met at a fraternity keg party.
We considered buying tickets to the game but reasoned that the trip itself was plenty, and we could experience game day on campus. Right around halftime, our thoughts shifted. With a 42-0 lead and a swirling cold day outside, it was evident that the stadium was going to shift to exit mode for plenty of fans. I turned to my wife and suggested that we go to the stadium and, perhaps, just see if the kids might be able to sneak a peek inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
So off we headed towards the stadium. When we got there, we saw folks leaving in droves. We approached one gate and, as scores of people marched passed us, we just kinda poked our head in. We weren’t going to sneak in, and had someone stopped us, I would have certainly told them that I just wanted my kids to have a chance to see the stadium.
We strolled through a ramp and, just like that, we were in the stadium, Bryant-Denny’s awesomeness surrounding us.
A police officer looked over at me. “Can I help you,” he said.
“Oh, I was just looking at the stadium,” I said, which was quite honest, thank you very much. “But I don’t have tickets for those seats,” I said, also honestly, motioning to the seats right down by the endzone.
“Folks are gone, and they’re not coming back. Go on down if you want,” he said.
I turned to my wife and kids. The officer nodded his head at us. And down we went, on the first row of the stadium, right by the action. The kids were amazed at the size of the stadium and the roar of the crowd. Even though plenty of folks had left, it was still a decibel assault.
The second half flew by, which was good because it was brutally cold. But the kids did get to experience not just gameday, but the stadium as well. They are eager to go to a game again soon. Wonder if I’ll have to buy tickets…
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken and is a graduate of the University of Alabama.