Alabama Crimson Tide fans may not have noticed, but the sun did come up this morning.
For Alabama football fans, this Sunday will be filled with clouds and despair, as they continue to work through the stages of grief. The process of coming to grips with Alabama’s 29-24 loss to Texas A&M Saturday night is something for which many younger Tide fans were unprepared.
It was, in many minds, a foregone conclusion that Alabama would roll through the season undefeated and cruise into the BCS National Championship game. After all, since 2008 Alabama has lost a grand total of seven games and won two national championships. Alabama fans are more accustomed to debating whether Nick Saban is history’s greatest coach or whether Alabama could beat an NFL team, than worrying about the Tide’s next opponent.
If you stroll down University Boulevard in Tuscaloosa, all indications are that winning is Alabama’s birthright and its destiny. The statues, plaques and other memorials to greatness are overwhelming for those being introduced into Alabama’s championship culture. It’s easy to understand how one could begin to expect nothing but winning, when the man whose name is on every other structure in town is famous for having been “nothing but a winner.”
It wasn’t always thus.
Tide fans who grew up in the 1970s are keenly aware of what young Alabama fans are now going through. Our childhood memories are filled with images of Alabama victories, and Bryant as a national figure and media darling. With few exceptions, the state of Alabama was colored crimson for years on end.
Even after his passing, Alabama was able to cobble together national rankings and even national titles. But the crushing penalties for violating NCAA rules in the 1990s left Alabama ravaged and aimless. Wins were almost impossible to come by, and getting season tickets was as easy as showing up.
Simply put, being an Alabama fan in the years before Nick Saban arrived was miserable. Alabama’s cross-state rival was clearly the dominant team in the state, and every game was an exercise in futility. It wasn’t ‘cool’ to be an Alabama fan, and the jokes from outside the state about rednecks and racism (which are, unfortunately, as much Alabama’s birthright as good football) stung just a little bit more. The bandwagon emptied out in those days, and only the true believers stuck around.
In our darkest days, Nick Saban arrived, and the trajectory of Alabama football changed.
Alabama football is once again in a golden age. Championships are expected, not praised. Victories are not celebrated; they are foregone conclusions. So when a loss does occur, you can bank on the celebrations from other fans, as the mighty Alabama goes down.
The criticism and mocking will be too much for some. They won’t go outside wearing crimson, or be able to withstand the payback for all the trash they talked about “their” team beating everybody. In short, the bandwagon is about to empty out.
But the players that actually suffered that loss won’t have that luxury. When the sun came up after this crushing loss, they were still members of the Alabama football team. They will return to practice this week and have to put the loss behind them and move forward.
Alabama fans should do no different. Pay no mind to those whose loyalty extends as far as the winning streaks. Put on your crimson this morning and go out into the world, proud of a team that has accomplished so much.
Losses are part of the game, so take the ridicule in stride. Alabama has a single SEC West loss, while Auburn has zero SEC West wins. Enjoy this golden age of Alabama football, because it won’t last forever.
Anyone can be a fan when their team is winning. Let’s show them how Alabama fans handle a loss. Show your class. Show your pride. Keep calm, and Roll Tide.