Mornin’ Grits: A Canadian’s curse of loving Alabama football

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 02: Alabama Crimson Tide assistants hold signal cards during their game against the Florida State Seminoles at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 2, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 02: Alabama Crimson Tide assistants hold signal cards during their game against the Florida State Seminoles at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 2, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Alabama football has a far reach, even in the not-so frozen tundra that is Canada. Read of one man’s struggle to ‘Roll Tide’ in a sea of silly Canucks.

They play football in Canada?

Yes, yes they do; however, it looks nothing like the football that graces American eyes. They only have three downs, they have a 55-yard line, the field is much wider, and the field goal post is right on the goal line. Notwithstanding the obvious fact that the goal post is a clear obstruction to the play, and a hazard to any receiver coming across the middle, Canadians have played the sport for as long as Americans have but in a different way.

Such is the life of this Canadian’s love for Alabama football.

I was a youngster in the mid-1980s, looking through my uncle’s things at my grandparents’ place one Saturday morning, when I noticed an unusual hat hanging on the wall. The crest on the front wasn’t one of an NHL team (pretty much the standard in Canada). It was colored in a red that I had not seen before with the letters ‘Alabama Crimson Tide’ circling an elephant’s head.

When I asked my uncle, who was 14 years older than me, what the Alabama Crimson Tide was, he told me, “They’re the best football team ever. Remember that!”

When one is just old enough to know what football is, one takes an older person’s word as gospel. Especially when one’s twin uncles played football and rugby as grown men but still found time from their popular lives to take interest in their little nephew. So, the Tide became my team.

That decision wasn’t an easy one.

I rushed to school the next Monday to tell everyone of my discovery. To my chagrin, absolutely nobody knew what I was talking about. Not even the teachers knew. One older gym teacher pretended to know something about Alabama football, but when I pressed him further on the matter he seemed as lost as an Auburn fan sitting in a Crimson Tide supporters’ section.

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As I got a bit older, the National Football League was the only football being drilled into my friends’ heads. Being 20 minutes from Buffalo, in an era when Hall-of-Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and the Bills kept losing in multiple Super Bowls, would do that. All of their fathers would talk about how much they loved the Bills or how much they hated them.

The internet boom was still years away, so for six days a week I was assaulted by a barrage of NFL talk. We played tackle football in open fields, away from overprotective parents’ eyes, to reenact their favourite NFL players’ moments. Youth football was a myth in our area, so this ‘Sandlot’ style of football was all that we had.

However, on the seventh day, there came an awakening and a solace: College Football Saturday.

My uncles would turn on the afternoon game and Alabama football would reign supreme. Their running game was so incredible, it seemed like a herd of charging elephants would run over their opponents every week. In my eyes, the Bills, the Dallas Cowboys, or any other NFL team could not possibly stand a chance against this well-oiled machine of nature.

Yet, every Monday, the talk before we played our own brand of football would be about Troy Aikman’s passing game instead of the Crimson Tide running game that I had come to love.

Since then I’ve become an adult (at least, I pass for one) and have enriched myself in Alabama football as much as I could. However, not much has changed around me. Even though I have a house, two cars, a family, and a profession that has me financially secure, I’m brought back to those frustrating childhood moments every time someone in town sees my Alabama football hat: Oh, you like the Atlanta Braves? I’m a Toronto Blue Jays fan. We beat you guys good in that World Series!

Being made co-expert of has been a great experience, but the Alabama football curse still continues to go on. As many of you will be watching the Crimson Tide likely stomp Fresno State into the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium on television, I will likely be watching those Blue Jays play another meaningless baseball game before their disappointing season finishes.

Why, may one ask?

Simple: Canadian television only carries big college football games. There isn’t enough viewership in Canada to show all of the games. I was fortunate to watch last week’s Alabama game only because it was the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. I will not be able to see the Crimson Tide play another down until the Ole Miss game, weeks away. Instead, I will be huddled around my phone watching the statistics flash and change on my ESPN app.

Next: Bama Hammer staff Fresno State-Tide game predictions

It’s great being a fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide, but you need to have discipline to stay with it. My uncles ended up moving their families to the U.S., with one actually living in Alabama for a time. One of my football friends of yesteryear now plays for Canada’s national rugby team. I guess those tackle football days did amount to something after all. I became a teacher and volunteer coach our high school football team. It’s fun, but watching them almost collide into that goal post in practice just reminds me of the long days and restless nights I have before I get to see Alabama football again.