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100 Things Crimson Tide Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die
By Christopher Walsh
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2012 Christopher Walsh
All rights reserved.
See Alabama Win a National Championship
If the disappointment of not returning to a BCS bowl in 2010 wasn't enough motivation for the Alabama football team, it got an overdose of tragedy during the months building up to the 2011 season.
Mere days after the annual A-Day scrimmage and unveiling of Nick Saban's statue for winning the 2009 national title, a series of horrific tornados struck the state on April 27, killing 53 people in Tuscaloosa alone — including long-snapper Carson Tinker's girlfriend Ashley Harrison. He barely survived with a concussion, a broken wrist, and an ankle injury.
In May, reserve offensive lineman Aaron Douglas was found dead on a balcony the morning after attending a party in Jacksonville.
Despite all that, and a 9–6 overtime loss to LSU at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 5, Alabama managed to reach the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans, where it dominated the rematch against the Southeastern Conference–rival Tigers with a 21–0 victory.
"I've never coached a team that was more determined, more dedicated to overcoming adversity than this group of guys," Saban said. "I've never seen a more dominant performance than what they did in the national championship game against LSU."
Although running back Trent Richardson was a Heisman Trophy finalist who set the Alabama single-season rushing record, and after moving from right guard to left tackle Barrett Jones became the third Crimson Tide player to win the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman), the defense put itself on the short list for best-ever consideration.
Alabama finished the season by leading the nation in pass-efficiency defense (83.69 rating), pass defense (111.46 yards per game), rushing defense (72.15), scoring defense (8.15 points), and total defense (183.62 yards per game) — in addition to third-down defense, red-zone defense, first downs allowed, and three-and-outs — all by wide margins.
It pulled off the first shutout in BCS history, never mind the title game, and the Tigers crossed the 50-yard line only once.
Meanwhile, with A.J. McCarron often passing on first down he became the first sophomore quarterback to lead his team to victory in the BCS title game and was named the offensive MVP.
"We knew coming into the game somebody else had to step up, and coach just gave me an opportunity," said McCarron, who completed 23 of 34 attempts for 234 yards and had no turnovers. "I don't think I did anything special."
If so, he was the only one.
"Tonight, he was on a whole other level, he actually blew me away," center William Vlachos said. "He talked to us at halftime, he talked to us pregame, he's on the stage getting offensive MVP. The guy is unbelievable."
With 4:36 remaining, Alabama scored the one and only touchdown between the two teams in eight quarters and one overtime of play on the season. Richardson recorded his 21st rushing touchdown of the season by bouncing outside on a 34-yard run.
"That was probably the most fun touchdown I've ever scored," Jones said. "Two games of frustration of not finding the end zone, just to seal the deal, that was a great feeling."
In addition to winning its second crystal football in three years, Richardson won the program's first Doak Walker Award (best running back), Jones collected the ACA Sportsmanship Award and Wuerffel Trophy, and Alabama was also presented with the Disney Spirit Award that annually goes to college football's most inspirational player, team, or figure. Tinker accepted on behalf of the Crimson Tide roughly a month before the championship.
"It's awesome," Tinker said between hugs and falling pieces of crimson and white confetti at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. "There are no words that can describe this. Just a lot of work paid off. Everyone here faced some kind of adversity, and just to see how they all came out of that is a great thing."
But that didn't keep the Crimson Tide from relishing the finality of the moment and all it had accomplished. For example, after playing in his final game for the Crimson Tide, Vlachos refused to let go of the game ball, even in the locker room, while offensive coordinator Jim McElwain walked arm-in-arm with his family off the field and subsequently stepped into his new job as the head coach at Colorado State.
Everyone else headed back to Tuscaloosa where the rebuilding continued but another crown jewel would be prominently displayed, and a championship like none other celebrated.
"It means a lot, we went through a lot this season, last year," Richardson said. "The tornado, we lost a teammate, it was big for our team. We needed this here and we're glad to bring it back to Tuscaloosa, and try and bring hope and faith back to our town.
"That accomplishment is big. You dream of stuff like that, some dreams don't even be that big, but when stuff like that happens it's incredible. That tells you about the program we have here and the kind of program we built here, and we're still building. We're not done yet."CHAPTER 2
Paul W. "Bear" Bryant
They called him "Bear."
Think about that for a moment, and the words it evokes.
Powerful, gruff, intimidating, and yet with a gentle side. Paul W. Bryant was all of those things and much, much more, and perfectly nicknamed after actually wrestling a bear at a carnival for $1 at the age of 13 (he didn't get the money, and the animal bit his ear).
Today, the name is synonymous with college football, and Bryant is widely regarded as the game's greatest coach. He compiled an amazing record of 323–85–17, led teams to 29 bowl appearances and 15 conference championships, and won six national championships (1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, 1979). In the 1960s and 1970s, no team won more games than the Crimson Tide (193–32–5), and the national coach of the year award is named in his honor.
Even though Bryant died January 26, 1983, at the age of 69, hardly a day goes by that most Crimson Tide fans don't mention his name at least once, and half of Tuscaloosa is seemingly named in his honor.
Bryant was born September 11, 1913, the 11th of 12 children, three of whom died as infants. His father was an Arkansas farmer, but after he became ill when Paul was a child, his mother, Ida Mae, took over, with the kids helping out.
After leading the Fordyce High School Redbugs to a state championship, Bryant left home for the University of Alabama, where during his first fall he took high school classes to finish up his diploma. In June 1935 Bryant secretly wed Mary Harmon because it was against team rules for players to marry. Their first of two children, Mae Martin, was born nine months later. Paul Jr., who would become a prominent businessman, was born in 1944.
After turning down a chance to play in the National Football League, Bryant went straight into coaching and was an assistant at Alabama for four years, and at Vanderbilt for two, before serving in the Navy. Upon leaving the military, he was named the head coach at Maryland, but he resigned after one season. Next he took over Kentucky and guided the Wildcats to their only Southeastern Conference championship in 1950. In eight seasons, his teams went 60–23–5 and played in four bowl games, including the 1951 Sugar Bowl where Kentucky ended Oklahoma's 31-game winning streak.
After the 1953 season, Bryant signed a 12-year contract extension with the promise from Kentucky officials that football would be the athletic department's top priority, or at least on par with basketball. When it became clear that wouldn't be the case, he quit. Texas A&M signed him to a six-year deal to be coach and athletic director for $25,000 a season and an unprecedented 1 percent of the gate receipts, one day before Southern California made a lucrative offer that almost certainly would have snared Bryant.
That first training camp with the Aggies, Bryant took his players 250 miles west to a barren army base in Junction, Texas, and put them through the mental and physical equivalent of a meat grinder. More than two-thirds of the players quit, with those who endured dubbed the "Junction Boys," but it also defined the coach's legacy as a hard-nosed disciplinarian.
Bryant's Aggies were closing in on the 1957 national championship when he was lured away by Alabama and made his famous statement: "Mama called, and when Mama calls, then you just have to come running." He agreed to a 10-year contract with an annual salary of $17,000 and a house.
"I ain't never been nothing but a winner."
Three years later, Bryant won his first national championship, and the rest is history.
Coaching Titles (through 2011)
Paul W. "Bear" Bryant 13, Frank Thomas 4, Red Drew 1, Bill Curry 1, Gene Stallings 1, Mike DuBose 1, Nick Saban 1.
Paul W. "Bear" Bryant 6, Wallace Wade 3, Frank Thomas 2, Nick Saban 2, Gene Stallings 1.
Note: Nick Saban also won a national championship (2003) and two SEC titles (2001 and 2003) at LSU.CHAPTER 3
Attend the Iron Bowl
For a Crimson Tide fan, there is no bigger day of the year than the annual Auburn game, although things like birthdays, weddings, and Christmas come close.
Pick a random day of the year, and ask a random person in the state, "Who won the last game?"
Then ask who Van Tiffin is and wait for the reaction. If the person is a Tide fan, his or her face will probably light up, and he or she will say something like, "You don't know who Van Tiffin is? Oh, you poor thing," as if there's something seriously wrong with you, such as having brain damage or being terminally ill.
If he or she is an Auburn supporter, expect the exact opposite reaction, because the 1985 Iron Bowl was decided by a 52-yard field goal as time expired, giving Alabama a dramatic 25–23 victory after the lead changed hands four times in the final 15 minutes.
Fans take this game so seriously that they start the countdown to the next one the day after the game. Heavy rains and the threat of a tornado didn't stop the 1983 meeting when running back Bo Jackson had 256 rushing yards and two touchdowns to lead Auburn to a 23–20 victory.
The series actually dates back to February 22, 1893, when the two sides met at Birmingham's Lakeview Park and Auburn claimed a 32–22 victory. Auburn also won the subsequent matchup, 40–16. The following year, Alabama won 18–0, and a football rivalry was well under way. However, following a 6–6 tie in 1907, the schools refused to play again for 41 years due in part to animosity. The series was revived only after the state legislature threatened to get involved.
Yeah, it's that extreme. Scott Brown wrote in his book The Uncivil War that he had "never felt anything more intense than the hatred between Alabama and Auburn. Period."
ESPN analyst Beano Cook did it one better by referring to the rivalry as "Gettysburg south."
"I was working the 1995 game at Jordan-Hare [Stadium at Auburn], which had zero championship implication, with a producer from another part of the country," said ESPN's Rece Davis, himself an Alabama graduate. "He said, 'I can't believe how intense this is.' I said, 'You should see it when they're playing for something.'
"Actually, come to think of it, the intensity never changes with the circumstances."
For 50-some years, the two sides met at the neutral site of Legion Field in Birmingham, even though Auburn continually argued that the location provided Alabama with an unfair advantage since it was much closer to the Tuscaloosa campus.
Only once have the two sides met when both were undefeated. That was in 1971. The No. 3 Crimson Tide posted a lopsided 31–7 victory over the No. 4 Tigers as Alabama halfback Johnny Musso outshined Auburn quarterback Pat Sullivan, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy. However, Alabama lost the national championship game to Nebraska at the Orange Bowl, 38–6.
"Any game that causes married couples to divorce, or even worse in some psychotic cases, must be a pretty big deal," said Norm Wood of the Daily Press in Virginia.
"I went to Auburn for a basketball game in 1986 shortly after Alabama won the football game, and some Auburn football players told me they hadn't shown themselves in public for three days," John Henderson of The Denver Post said. "Enough said."
The First Iron Bowl
In February of the 1892–93 academic year, Alabama scheduled one final game to its inaugural season, against Auburn. Like the team's first three contests, the game would be played in Birmingham, but in front of approximately 4,000 fans, who were probably far more curious about the sport than anything else. Auburn won 32–22, and Alabama's first season concluded with 2–2 record.
Auburn won the second meeting as well, 40–16, in Montgomery on November 30 of the same calendar year. With many of its best players from the inaugural season lost to graduation, Alabama finished the 1893 season winless (0–4), including a loss to its first out-of-state opponent, Sewanee, 20–0.CHAPTER 4
When he came to the University of Alabama from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, he was simply known as Joe Willie, but became the most famous rogue quarterback in history. When "Broadway Joe" eventually hung up his cleats, he was not only a legend but an icon for both football and America.
"The late '60s and the early '70s were times of compelling social and political upheaval, and Namath, with his antiestablishment shaggy hair, mustache, white shoes, and Life-Is-a-Bacchanal philosophy, became a symbol of inevitable, triumphant change. The antihero," Tony Kornheiser wrote in Inside Sports.
Excerpted from 100 Things Crimson Tide Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die by Christopher Walsh. Copyright © 2012 Christopher Walsh. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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