Friday, March 12, 2010

5 years of UPs and DOWNs

Five years ago, I was a senior in high school and highly anticipating my departure to school. I had made the important life-decision to attend the University of Alabama. Now, as I reach home stretch of my senior year in Tuscaloosa, I look back at what it was like five years ago and am amused at what all has taken place.

My senior year of high school the Auburn football team went undefeated but did not receive a bid to the BCS National Championship game. Being a 'Bama girl now this is hilarious to me, but more so aggravating because if you go undefeated in the Southeastern Conference then you deserve a damn chance to play in the big game.

My senior year of high school the Carolina basketball team won the NCAA title in St. Louis, Missouri after they defeated Illinois 75-70. Being born a Tar Heel this is ranked as one of the top 10 best days of my life.

My senior year of high school I could easily run 6-8 miles a day. I was genuinely tired one Saturday when the cross-country team ran a 13 mile trail run as part of a fundraiser and then I started and played every minute of two club soccer games in a round-robin tournament.

My senior year of high school the Alabama football team went 6-6 and lost to Minnesota (wtf?) in the Music City Bowl.

My freshmen year of college the Carolina basketball team was blessed with Tyler Hansbrough and he was the key to the rebuilding year.

My freshmen year of college the Auburn football team became my biggest enemy when I felt the painful sting of losing to them in the Iron Bowl.

My freshmen year of college the Alabama football team won the first 9 games of the regular season and reached a ranking as high as No. 3 in the polls, then lost to LSU and Auburn before winning the Cotton Bowl against Texas Tech.

My sophomore year of college the Carolina basketball team was many people's national champion pick in their bracketology polls. Georgetown rained on our parade in overtime of the Sweet 16 game.

My sophomore year of college the Auburn football team beat Alabama... again.

My sophomore year of college the Alabama football team went 6-7 and Mike Shula was a goner. Usually, I would hate the fact that the NCAA vacated all six wins (appeal pending) but I guess if any season could be erased from the books, I'd want it to be this torturous one.

My junior year of college the Carolina basketball team was jam-packed with talent. Some say this team had as much talent as the famous 1982 and 2005 teams. All four No. 1 seeds in the tournament made it to the Final Four for the first time in history. Roy Williams suffered delirious confusion when he attempted to coach the Heels in the semi-final game against his former Kansas Jayhawks. In a nutshell, he must have forgot which team he was coaching and decided to let the game go to hell in a handbasket.

My junior year of college I feared that the loss to Kansas would mean Tyler Hansbrough would go into the NBA draft a year early and not stay for his senior year. Fear not, though.

My junior year of college the Auburn football team beat us... again.

My junior year of college the Alabama football world became Sabanation. The 2007 ("two thousand Saban") season started off with a strong and hopeful 6-2 record but ended with losses in 4 of the last 5 games.

My junior year of college St. Nicholas assembled one badass recruiting class.

My senior year of college the Carolina basketball team won the NCAA title in Detroit, Michigan and did so in hardcore style. Defeating all the opponents they faced in their bracket by more than 12 points. This, too, is one of the Top 10 days of my life.

My senior year of college the Auburn football team did NOT beat us. Excuse my language, but there is no other way to put this, we beat the shit out of them. 36-0. Tommy Tubberville got fired. (Begin singing Blondie's "The tide is high and I'm holding on, I'm gonna be your number one...")

My senior year of college the Alabama football team went undefeated in the regular season and held the No. 1 ranking going in to the SEC Championship game against UF. We got beat by Florida and by Utah in the Sugar Bowl, but we were just getting warmed up.

My senior year of college St. Nicholas assembled another badass recruiting class. Being as half of the SEC fired their coaches because of us, this was understandable. Bye Bye Fat Phil, Sylvester Croom, Tommy Tubberville! Oh, and you too over there in the ACC, Tommy Bowden!

My fifth year of college the Carolina basketball team was one giant flop! Posting the second worst record in school history (yikes! It is sad to think there has been a worst, but 8-20 in 2002 is, in fact, crappy!) and not making the 64 team tournament that they absolutely demolished only a year ago.

My fifth year of college the Auburn football team did NOT beat us... again.

My fifth year of college the Alabama football team went undefeated in the regular season for the second consecutive year. The Alabama football team also went undefeated in the post season, as well. (Begin singing "Rammer Jammer" and alternate using Hey Gators! and Hey Longhorns! It's so fun.)

My fifth year of college I would die if I had to run 6-8 miles a week, not a day. I'd be in a coma if I had to play 2 soccer games after I ran 13 miles on a trail. I'm out of breathe when I walk up and down the stairs of my house.

Five years gone by and I'm fortunate to have experienced all of the many fun tailgates, many days without a voice, many tears (more so in the wake of a win rather than a loss), and many wonderful times in this remarkable journey.

"I ain't ever been nothing but a winner." -Paul W. Bryant word.

As always, Go Heels & Roll Tide! (And Go to hell Aubs!)

Saturday, February 27, 2010


A few of my favorite things:
1. Tebow crying :( boo hoo
2. SEC Champs (the most in SEC history)
3. Alabama's first Heisman winner - (then-sophomore Mark Ingram)
4. BCS National Champions! (RMFT!)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hansbrough Halftime!!

As Roy Williams talked briefly on behalf of the retirement of the #50 jersey, he credited Tyler Hansbrough for making him a better coach. His remark on why he would be brief was, "...we're a little busy right now."

Busy keeping No. 7 Duke to a mere 1-point lead over the Tar Heels at halftime.

Not only did Tyler Hansbrough make Roy Williams a better coach, but apparently his presence in the Dean Dome makes the group of young but talented Tar Heels a better team. I don't know, there's still another half to play but I'm thinking maybe Tyler Hansbrough should come back for a couple more games this season. It could maybe secure the Carolina boys an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. It seems to be working, so far.

I'm still marrying him one day, by the way.



Love, Hate, and Basketball

Today is that day that I wait all year long for. Another chapter in one of sports' most storied of stories. Tonight is the first of two North Carolina and Duke basketball games. The rivalry that consumes me. You love one and hate the other. And no matter where you grew up or where you went to college, you have a favorite. There is absolutely no way that you can be unbiased. With a rivalry like this, it's impossible not to be biased.

Everyone knows the team I love is North Carolina and the team I hate is Duke. If you are native to the state of North Carolina then this fate is decided before you're born. You are either born into a Tar Heel loving family or a Blue Devil family. I consider myself fortunate for the fate of my fanhood. See, the University of North Carolina is the pride of the people from small-towns across the state that are hard-working and proud of their Southern upbringing. Duke University, on the other hand, is the pride of the mostly Northern, prep-school type, riches.

They both have tradition, success, and prestige in the basketball world that they share. Both schools are considered to have one of the best basketball programs in the nation and it's rare if there's a year when at least one of these teams is not ranked within the top 25 teams in the nation. Actually, the last time that these two teams met and neither were ranked was 1955. Being as they play two times a year, sometimes three if they meet in the conference tournament or in the NCAA tournament, I'd have to argue that 55 years is pretty impressive.

The rivalry dates back to 89 years ago. The University of North Carolina is celebrating it's centenial year of basketball this year and that means, minus the first eleven years of the program's history, there has been bad blood with the neighboring school for almost all of it's 100 years. I guess with only eight miles of separation the intensity of this matchup is hard to withhold.

This year the odds are against me, however. The Tar Heels are struggling and very topsy-turvy. It's basically the worst stretch under Head Coach Roy Williams. Duke, is currently ranked seventh in the nation and is,obviously, the largely favored team to win tonight. Personally, this is a painful truth. But, I understand that a rebuilding year full of up's and down's was in store for us after we won the national championship last year. Still, I'd rather lose every other game of the year if it meant we could win the two games against Duke.

It's the only game that matters, really. Well this one and the second one against the Blue Devils. Tonight's showdown is in Chapel Hill at 'the Dean Dome' and maybe a little home court advantage will play a part and give Coach K and his squad a hostile environment. Lord knows when we play at their home it will be a hostile environment. As annoying as they are, their famous 'Cameron Crazies' really do make it a hard place to get the 'W'.

The outcome tonight? Who knows... I've seen upsets and I am very aware that a rivalry this intense has little to no regard for rankings and statistics. But, for what it's worth, and if statistics did mean anything to further enhance the epic proportion of this battle, then let me throw a few quick facts out there in attempt to cushion what could quite possibly be a very, very ugly game for my fellow Tar Heels.
  • UNC leads the series 130-97
  • UNC has won the last six of seven matchups
  • For 4 consecutive years, UNC never lost at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium (this, in fact, is marvelous!)
  • UNC lost 82% of their scoring from last year
  • UNC has more wins, National Championship titles, Final Four appearances, Sweet 16 appearances, and tournament appearances than Duke

Ok, that makes me feel a little better now. I've witnessed a loss to Duke before and I know I will survive the excruciating heartache it causes me but I will still cling to any and all hope that Carolina surprises the nation tonight. If the 'Heels decide to start "gelling" at all this year, I really hope it's tonight.

Go Heels!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I can't say that every single thing in my life has gone according to plan. I can't even come close to saying anything along those lines. I can say that a large part of me is a passionate lover of sports and that, well for this calendar year, everything has been pretty perfect.

The 2008 football season was Alabama's 'come-back' year but ended in great disappointment with a loss to Florida in the SEC Championship and a loss to Utah in the New Orleans Sugar Bowl. However, once the sting of those two fateful losses subsided, the rest was nearly perfect.

Roy Williams and my beloved Tar Heels completely dominated the March Madness brackets and won the National Championship in April of 2009. This was shortly after Nick Saban and my beloved Crimson Tide raked in the top recruiting class in college football for the second year in a row. Living in a town where football is everything and the only other sport that gets a share of the limelight is baseball, I enjoyed the SEC fanhood of watching the LSU Tigers win the College World Series in Omaha.

Fall of 2009 rolled around and Alabama football stole the show with the second straight undefeated regular season. But this time, the undefeated part didn't end in Atlanta against Florida. The words of the taunting 'Rammer Jammer' cheer never fit more appropriately, "...We just beat the hell outta you!" It was pure bliss.

To top of the bliss with even more bliss was being in my Florida hometown and not having to defend Alabama with our tradition and excellence. This time, it was tradition, excellence, and undeniable domination of the Southeastern Conference, it's reigning conference champs, and "Mr. Football" himself. Then came the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Our sophomore running back from Flint, Michigan brought the University of Alabama it's first iron trophy in the program's history. So, no longer can we assume that O.J. Simpson was headed to Tuscaloosa in the white Bronco because no one would ever look for a Heisman winner there. Joke's over.

It gets better, and I think being on Cloud Nine hit me as I was on my cross-country flight to LAX Airport in Los Angeles. The Crimson Tide, for the first time in 17 years, was going to play for the National Championship. Our 13th National Championship. In the Rose Bowl. Against Texas. The stage couldn't have been more perfect!

We won. Number 13. And it was magical! We took another star quarterback completely out of his element because our defense hits harder than anyone else. If anyone tries to tell me that Alabama lacked any prestige or pageantry in that BCS National Championship just because Colt McCoy got hurt, then I'd like to have some very heated, personal words with you. It was no cheap hit. No Gerald Henderson punching Tyler Hansbrough's lights out. No, it was the Defensive Player MVP taking one solid "here's the Southeastern Conference for your Big 12 ass" hit. Texas' back-up quarterback Brantley Gilbert proved to be the next big thing in the subject of quarterbacks and gave Alabama a scare or two. Still, at the end of the game the confetti was flying in MY student section as MY fight song was sung like heaven's angels had opened up the pearly gates. We had died and gone to heaven.

And, to top it all off, the football loving fanbase in Tuscaloosa has always kind of adopted the New Orleans Saints as their NFL team. The state of Alabama has NO pro-teams in any sport whatsoever, so our 3 1/2 hour away French neighbor and her Saints gave us all another solid reason to cheer as they won their first ever Super Bowl against Peyton Manning's Indianapolis Colts. It's never fun to watch leaders like Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, Brett Favre, and Peyton Manning lose a big game, some of them their biggest game, in their respectful careers.... but, this year, if you were a Tuscaloosa resident.... it was VERY fun.

So, there's my year in sports.... blissful, joyful, and allowingly arrogant.

Go Heels, Roll Tide, Geaux Tigers, and Who Dat!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I have not written since the glorious victory over Florida in the conference championship game. I will write after Christmas. Enjoy the Christmas season and have a wonderful New Year!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Champions Once Again

Unless you are a part of it you most likely hate it. You hate the never-ending stories we have of Rose Bowls and Sugar Bowls. You probably don't hate the man - the 'Granddaddy of College Football' but you might hate our houndstooth caps and our tendency to worship him and the past. Your favorite color most likely isn't crimson and you might think it's funny that we are slow-talking and stuck on tradition and history.

We love houndstooth and who it represents and crimson and southern drawls. We love college bowl games but we actually just love college football in general. And just as we believe tradition should be cherished we also believe that no matter how good or bad we may be, there is something special about our school and her football program.

Our quarterback explains it simply.

"There's a lot of pride in playing football for the University of Alabama." The past, the present, the future. We, the ones who are a part of it, know this to be true.

Before this past Saturday, the last time the Crimson Tide won the Southeastern Conference title was 1999 when the coach was Mike Dubose. The ten years that have followed Alabama's victory over Florida, coached then by Steve Spurrier, holds a multitude of coaching changes. After Coach Dubose was fired, Coach Dennis Franchione came and left, disrespectfully, for Texas A&M and the Aggies. Coach Mike Price was hired and then fired before coaching a single game for the University of Alabama. Then, amidst NCAA violations and bowl game suspensions, Coach Mike Shula returned to coach his alma-mater. With both post-season and scholarship restrictions applied to Alabama, the former Tide quarterback coached the program to mediocracy. There was the epic 31-3 upset over a No. 5 ranked Florida team in Bryant-Denny Stadium during the 2005 season, but repeated losses to arch-rival Auburn was a factor in Coach Shula's fate at Alabama. See, we at Alabama do not settle for mediocracy. Being a mediocre program is not accepted. Shula was fired and then Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines coached Alabama in the Independence Bowl following the 2006 season which resulted in a loss to Oklahoma State.

Meanwhile, the Alabama Athletics Department searched for the next head coach of the Crimson Tide. Title-hungry and determined, the search dragged on. The Rich Rodriguez rumors and Steve Spurrier rumors hung over Tuscaloosa but were ultimately, and gladly, dismissed when Nick Saban was announced the Head Coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide. A perfect guy for the job. A highly pressured job.

Saban's short coaching tenure in the National Football League for the Miami Dolphin's franchise was what followed his tenure as the head football coach at Louisiana State University. While there, he coached the Bengal Tigers to a BCS National Title. The news of Saban's arrival meant a new era of Alabama Football was more promising than ever.

Without any of his own recruits, Saban's first season looked nothing like the two that would follow. The 2007 season held a 7-6 record for the Crimson Tide. Of the six losses, four of them were to conference opponents (Georgia, Mississippi State, LSU, and Auburn). Bobby Bowden's Florida State Seminole's met the Crimson Tide at a neutral site in Jacksonville, Florida and sent Saban and his boys back to Alabama with another loss on the season. The most embarrassing loss of the season, and maybe even in the program's history, was to Louisiana-Monroe on Alabama own home field.

And then, the tide turned. Since then, it hasn't stopped rolling.

The 2008 season brought the first undefeated twelve-game regular season in Crimson Tide history. It also brought the first trip back to Atlanta since 1999 to contend for the Southeastern Conference title. Underneath the lights of the Georgia Dome was a battle that featured the two top ranked football teams in the nation, the same two that played in 1999. The winner would receive a bid to the BCS National Title game in Miami, Florida. Defeating Alabama 31-20, the Gators went back to their home state and clinched the title against the Sooners of Oklahoma. Alabama went to New Orleans to play in the Sugar Bowl against the University of Utah. Although Alabama holds the record for the most Sugar Bowl appearances than any other team, the Tide played with no "home away from home" field advantage. The season ended with an upsetting loss, but it only fueled the fire for what was to come in 2009.

Quarterback John Parker Wilson was gone and all eyes turned to Greg McElroy, the junior out of Southlake, Texas. In the 2009 opening game in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome, McElroy proved that another successful season and maybe even conference and national titles were within reach as he led the Crimson Tide in a win over Virginia Tech, and thus gained respect from the title-hungry students and fans.

Fast forward. With another undefeated twelve-game regular season behind them, Alabama returned to Atlanta to contend in the SEC Title game for the second year in a row. McElroy and his offense made their opponent's defense and No. 1 ranking look like a perfect case of "over-rated."

Yet again, Alabama and Florida met for the crowning of the Southeastern Conference's "King" and to answer the most-asked question in college football this year: Which one of these teams will go to Pasadena?

All year long it was assumed that the SEC champion would be one of the contenders in the BCS National Championship game. The assumptions were on point and the question, as of Saturday night, has been answered.


Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, and McElroy were unstoppable against a defense who apparently was "the best."

When the scoreboard read Alabama: 32, Florida: 13 the promise was kept. The title was won. The new era of Alabama Football finally became a reality. That turbulent decade was over.

For those of us that are a part of Alabama, we no longer have to seek glory in the past. We have witnessed a return to glory.

A mental preparation exercise that Saban had the team participate in had the team state what they thought Sunday's headline should say about Saturday's game. He asked them this on Thursday.

Colin Peek goes first, according to what he told 'The Atlanta Journal Constitution'. His answer, simple and short, was poetically true.

"Tradition Restored".

Alabama held the record for the most SEC titles before Saturday's showdown. Yet, the ten years between the 1999 and 2009 conference championships made many people discredit that highly honored record. No more discrediting the Crimson Tide because the tradition has, indeed, been restored.

No larger than life man in a blazer and checkered cap stands on the sideline with a rolled-up playbook in his wrinkled hands. Just a man in a Nike polo with a cordless headset and a genius play-calling mind and a gift for assembling top-ranked recruiting classes that are changing the face of the Alabama football program.

A quarterback who plays a simple style of football and does things the old-fashioned way - similar to the quarterback legends who wore the same number "12" jersey like Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler. A standout sophomore receiver, a Heisman Trophy worthy running back, and a nose tackle whose size is as big as his game-winning plays.

The Alabama Crimson Tide has redeemed themselves. Although we have new coaches, new faces behind the masks of our crimson helmets , and new renovations and expansions to our stadium, we've restored our tradition. We've redeemed ourselves against the Florida Gators and we've relived our days of glory.

"Pride Restored"
"Class Remained"
"Glory Returned"
"History Relived"
"Excellence Regained"

Headlines or not, we're back. We reside among the best and we return to the level of the most elite. We show no sign of regression because of Coach Saban and "The Process."

One thing is for sure after Saturday's win over the University of Florida,

"Champions Remembered".

roll tide roll