Their sunburns were badges of honor. Evidence that they had listened when their favorite football coach told them to stay. Because when Nick Saban says stay- you stay.
One week after Nick Saban scolded Alabama fans for leaving home games early (particularly the Georgia State game) and the school banned block seating for a week, the Tide faithful decided to actually be allegiant, remaining in Bryant-Denny stadium for all four quarters against Tennessee.
Maybe it was the loved SEC rivalry that kept fans in the stands. Maybe it was the hatred of that “puke inside a pumpkin orange” (I Hate Tennessee) that so notoriously takes hold of UA’s campus every third week in October. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the moment fans remembered that instead of only coveting another Alabama win, it was fun to simply behold the game of football- whether ahead by 30 points or not. Because let’s face it, even though the Tide dominated their game against the Tennessee Vols (final score 45-10), fans were treated to everything a game should be: Interceptions, great catches and memorable moments.
Seconds before half time, Safety Landon Collins returned his first career interception 89 yards for a touchdown, running straight to an end zone full of roaring crimson fans. (Wonder if his mom still wishes he went to LSU)
“That interception just breathed new life into me!” screamed one boisterous Bama fan as she cheered with her friends in the still packed student section.
The same seemed to be true for the rest of the Alabama fans, who kept a consistent level of noise each time the Alabama defense took to the field. When Dee Hart pumped his arms up and down while looking to the student section, fans took their role seriously- creating an environment in Bryant-Denny that no opponent would feel comfortable playing in.
Any time Alabama set foot on Bryant-Denny’s grass, the stadium’s seats held a standing sea of people armed with shakers that feverishly danced across the setting sun like a true wave of energy cascading down onto the field.
Now, the Tide’s performance wasn’t perfect, but Kevin Norwood once again became a critical receiver right when he needed to be. In perhaps the highlight of the night, Norwood pulled in a 34-yard catch spectacularly with one hand as shouts of “no way!” and “He is SOOO clutch” came from the crowd that fervently applauded his performance. Norwood ended up catching six passes for 112 yards. That makes 348 yards on the season- more than any other Crimson Tide receiver.
And in the end, Nick Saban was once again able to praise the patronage of Alabama football.
“I hope our fans are really happy,” he said after the game. “I certainly appreciate our fans today. They stayed for the game and did a great job of supporting our team and it was a great atmosphere.”
In the end, the chance to scream, “Hey Vols, we just beat the hell out of you” in the traditional Rammer Jammer chant should have been gift enough for Alabama fans who stood affectionately for 60 minutes to victory.
Because whether students, or fans of any age realize it or not- these seasons we are living right now will not be forever. There will be moments when fans look back and think, “I wish I soaked in every moment of this feeling of winning”, because there are at least four more teams left on Alabama’s schedule who want nothing more than to make sure Bama and its fans don’t experience that elated sensation again.
Be grateful on the gridiron, people. It won’t last forever. Appreciate history as it’s being made.