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This is the fourth installment in my chronicles of the worst Alabama football games I have personally attended. The goal is to gain a little perspective about where we (as a fan base) have been and contrast the bad games with the good games in the past (and future).
No 7. Auburn(9) at Alabama(0), Bryant-Denny Stadium, November 18, 2000
To describe the 2000 season as anything other than a dismal failure would be foolish and in many ways this version of the Iron Bowl was a perfect analogy for the season; it was a miserable game played on a miserable day. You would think that coming into the game 3-7 after beginning the season as a consensus top 5 team that a loss wouldn’t be that bad. But it was – and then some.
Coming off the 21st conference championship in school history and the first visit to a new fangled BCS Bowl game at the Orange Bowl, in only its second year of existence, the expectations were through the roof – and that’s in comparison to the normal sky-high expectations around here. To say that the whole season was a disaster would be an understatement. Alabama lost to all its non-conference foes – for the first time in like, forever- every member of the division except Ole Miss, and all its rivals -going so far as ending the 30-year winning streak in Baton Rouge after leading in the fourth quarter. Mercifully the team also lost its head coach – but only after their creator had abandoned them first- which turned out to be the best thing about the season.
In spite of everything that had gone wrong, I still had hopes that a win could be pulled out against the in-state rival and a little dignity could be salvaged. Right. This was to be the first time that the Tigers had ever played in Bryant-Denny and eons since they had traveled to Tuscaloosa for a contest. Also the usual complement of out-of-town college buddies were coming back to town for the game and this would be the first time I ever went to an Iron Bowl with my dad. In spite of overwhleming evidence to the contrary I believe that the team can win every game. And as that week began, I believed just that. This is the game that everything is thrown out for. This is the game where miracles can happen and legends are born.
As the weekend approached the weather reports were more and more gloomy. Cloudy and cold with a strong chance of sleet that turned into a certain chance of rain by game time. The weather it seemed would match the mood in Tuscaloosa. All of my friends arrived on Thursday and the typical night of boozing left me wobbly on Friday, which I had wisely taken off work but still did not help me recuperate enough to actually enjoy Friday night.
Game day dawned cold and gray. About the time we struggled to the tailgate the sleet started. The bad thing is had the sleet continued it would have been better than turning to rain. See, sleet bounces off your clothes and fall harmlessly to the ground, unlike the rain, which began thirty minutes before kickoff, as if on cue. Now, I’m not going to compare the cold to Lambeau Field, because obviously, if it was raining it was above 32 degrees. But it wasn’t by much and here in the South, where cold is a relative term, 33 with high humidity and a breeze is brutal. You can’t get warm. It’s something about the dampness in the air that seeps through the layers you are wearing and prohibits any warmth whatsoever.
So as kickoff neared I was only mildly excited about the game; the prospect of sitting in the miserable conditions only slightly eased by the slim hope of grid iron glory. Oh, and I failed to mention, my wife was four months pregnant. Not happy, glowing pregnant but I’m tired and I want to lay down and my back hurts pregnant. So needless to say I was concerned with her well-being and comfort, which was also a relative term on that day. To her credit, she was a trooper and did not complain at all- she was the one who chose to go to the game after all- and I think that our upper-deck seats being about three rows behind the drip line played a big part in that.
To be honest, my only real memories of the game were that the team was not very good and this was perhaps the most boring game I had ever seen. Neither team would score a touchdown and Auburn only iced the game late with their third field goal of the day. It just sucked. There is no better way to put it.
I recall that as the game neared completion and the Orange and Blue clad fans began their choruses of their cheap, dime-store knock off of Rammer Jammer that I was thinking that soon this would all be behind us. The whole thing was mercifully ending.
Afterwards I didn’t want to discuss the game at all. I just wanted some time to pass. The long downward spiral had ended and in some strange way that was the best thing about that most miserable of days.
Number 9 – Alabama at Mississippi State – Nov. 14, 1998, Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, Mississippi
(editor’s note: this is the second installment of a series abou the worst Alabama games I have personally attended. You can see Part 1 here.)
This was my first trip to Starkville for a game and it is a trip that I hope to never make again. It was raining and pretty chilly, Alabama lost, and State has to the be the home of possibly the worst stadium in the conference.
As you might recall, in 1998 Alabama was in their second year with Mike Dubose at the helm and while there was some improvement over the dismal 1997 campaign, overall Alabama was still not a very good football team. The Tide was 6-3 going into this game with a blowout loss at Arkansas, a very close loss to Florida at home, and a pretty solid beating at the hands of Tennessee (who was on their way to a national championship). State had beaten Alabama two consecutive years and this trip to Starkville was to be the third. I’m sure that’s why the Bulldog fans seemed to be full of piss and vinegar as we passed through them on our way to the stadium after parking below the baseball field.
Now, I’ve know some fine folks that went to State, but in all honesty, Starkville is one of those places that you go to, not through. There just isn’t anything there and it seems to me that it would be an absolutely dismal place to go to college. Their stadium is a reflection of that. With the exception of Vanderbilt they are the only stadium in the conference who hasn’t constructed proper end-zone seating, giving their stadium the appearance of an overly large high school venue. There is very little aesthetic appeal to it (if college football was played in Russia, this it what I imagine all the stadiums would look like) and on this day in particular it was a dull-gray mammoth lurking into a dull-gray sky.
Alabama gave very little to cheer about that day. The running game never got un-tracked and it seemed that the defense was totally incapable of stopping State’s ground attack. As I recall, our fireplug of a fullback, Montoya Madden, was the only bright spot. While ten years have made the details sketchy, I distinctly remember that the weather was awful and the Alabama’s play was not much better.
At half-time I went to the concession stand in the upper deck to get a hot dog. I was about sixth in line for the half-time rush and remember the first customer ordering a hot dog only to be told they were out but more would be arriving shortly. About that time a man comes up the ramp with a tray of about thirty-five hot dogs. Of course they were all gone when I got there and I just kind of looked at the girl with disgusted silence when she told me they were out of hot dogs again.
After the game, as we made our way through the jubilant State fans who were knocking each other over to shake a cowbell in the face of any Alabama fan they could find, all I could think was that this was a fan base that was so unaccustomed to winning that they didn’t know how to handle it. We were treated quite rudely as we left and it was not a pretty site. Now I know that not every Alabama fan is the model of decorum after a victory, especially after the defeat of a hated rival, but actions of a lot of the State fans we encountered as we exited left enough of a bad taste that I decided then and there that I never want an opposing fan leaving our stadium, regardless of the team, to be treated the way we were treated that day.
One of my favorite parts of college football is the tailgating and fellowship that takes place before and after a game. Regardless of the outcome I am usually up for a beverage or two after the game but I have never wanted to be on my own couch, which was a scant ninety mile away, as I did that day, and so without bye or leave we left Starkville as quick as we could vowing never to return. And to this day we haven’t.
One final note; on the way out of town, off the side of the ramp onto the four-lane, there was a couple of State fans standing in the grassy area right of the shoulder, dropping their pants and mooning the Alabama fans as the started east. The whole scene was funny enough until a car about three or four ahead of us, pulls out of line and starts in their direction, sending the drenched mooners sprinting toward the fence. At least we had one thing to smile about that day.
This is a very busy week for me so posting will be very light. The arrest of Jeremy Elder is old news at this point so I won’t try to add what is a sad situation. I will say though that I made a lot of stupid decisions when I was a young adult but it is hard to feel sorry for someone who seemed to have the world literally at his feet and chose to throw it away. I can remember my Grandmother saying, “I feel sorry for his Mother” in situations like this. I never really knew what she meant until I had kids.
It seems that the rumblings have started in Tennessee already. We’re only in February. This is gonna be fun.
Obviously there is a faction in any fan base that supports the coach regardless of whoever he is, but it does appear that Fulmer is losing touch with his players or that he recruits a type of young man that is more prone to erratic behavior. Don’t get me wrong, there is no excuse for it in whatever program you are in and it is becoming more common in college athletics in general. But there is just something going on within the Tennessee Program or as John Adams has dubbed it, “the college equivalent of the Cincinnati Bengals.”
All in all it seems to be a fairly written article. Truth be told, I’d like the fat one to stick around Knoxville for a few more year because there is nothing I enjoy more than watching him grimace when he loses like someone had just announced the closing of every single Krispy Kreme store. But I also believe he has dodged a bullet the last couple of years by winning a big game at the right time, but losing to rivals is not a way to keep yourself endeared to the fan base in this “what have you done for me lately” football world we live in.
One last thing; winter is almost over. That is kind of a sad thing for me because I loathe the nauseatingly hot summer months here in the deep south and long for what little cold weather we have. Spring is right around the corner; the Mockingbirds started singing late last week and the Maple tree in my front yard has started to bloom. Spring, like fall, is truly the best time of the year here in Alabama but while the cool snaps in October and November tease us about what is in store for the winter, the col snaps in March are brutally beaten down by warm air and the promise of low 90′s and 70% humidity.
I find the bare trees strangely beautiful and they will be covered with new leaves in four or five weeks. Time, she is moving forward. Take a minute to enjoy the chilly morning air we get this time of year. After all you have only got a finite number of those mornings.
There is the possibility of 1″ of snow for central Alabama on Saturday morning. I’ve been at my desk all morning since this was announced but I am absolutely certain that there is not a single loaf of bread or gallon of milk to be had in the region.
Having lived for a while in a climate where snow was common, I am always amazed at the way people in this region freak out.
First, I don’t think it will snow because a.) it hardly ever snows here and 2.) Clay Travis has said there will be no winter. And that SOB is smart. But even if it does, it won’t be much, and it will be gone by Sunday, guaranteed.
If you’re going to go out and get anything then get whiskey, because the worst case is you run out during the day Saturday and the slippery roads might make it tough to get to the liquor store. That is if they don’t close.