Tears and Laughter: Football is a feeling

I was rushing to get home, because the University of Alabama was set to kickoff at Bryant-Denny Stadium within the hour, when I received a breaking news text from WAKA out of Montgomery.

I pulled off of Highway 22 on the way back from Valley Grande into the nearest parking lot I came to. It was by chance in front of a tattoo and piercing shop. It had not been recently resurfaced. But getting a news alert text on Saturday, September 12, is equivalent to the house phone ringing after 9:00 pm. It had to be important.

It read, “Breaking: #6 Auburn narrowly avoids disaster, beats 41 point underdog Jacksonville State 27-20 in OT at Jordan-Hare.”

We value football across the South, but especially in Alabama where wins and defeats rank as breaking news. We are religious about it. We celebrate it with energy. It is why Alabama and Auburn merchandise is sold in Tennessee and Florida gift shops. And it all starts, in part, on Friday nights.

The names change county to county, town to town, along with the mascots – the lions, the tigers, the bears, and the bulldogs.

The colors in the stands change. The names of the banks and hardware stores and local sponsors change on the signs from field to field, but the feeling is the same.

It takes everyone in the community from the people who prefer to listen at home over the radio, to the volunteers in the concession stand serving chicken fingers and hotdogs. It takes the kids selling programs, and the girls circling, walking and talking, indifferent about the score of the game, but fully aware of the players on the field.

Guys not playing line the fence watching, second guessing plays and watching the cheerleaders, from both teams, kick their heels high.

Women huddle in groups in the bleachers bragging about their children and telling about their churches. They point out this kid or that kid in the band during halftime while at the same time planning the entire menu they intend to cook for “the game” the next day.

At every game there is almost always at least one mother, sometimes a dad, from each side who can’t quit yelling at the referee or coach. Everybody understands though. It’s passion.

Most men sit beside the women, or above them, high in the stands alone where they can take it all in, as it all takes them back to their glory days.

Saturdays in Alabama during the fall are planned around the time of kickoff. Fans not traveling to games have parties and cookouts. Tasks are completed early. Tractors are parked, wrenches are put down, paperwork is left to wait, pens and keyboards pause, and for a few hours our state stops.

Most people don’t watch just one game. Most fans watch the Alabama game and the Auburn game along with any other game played by a team that will at some point in the season play Alabama or Auburn.

It’s just who we are as a people. It unites us, even as rivals. Of course it ranks as breaking news.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.