It is well-documented that I love college football. I have been accused of choosing to attend the University of Alabama (1967-69) because of this passion. This accusation is not entirely true. But it is a serious partial truth. I went out-of-state in the fall of 1967 (I lived in middle Tennessee) because I wanted to go away to college. I also wanted to follow a friend who was a pastor who had just moved to Tuscaloosa. And I wanted to root for the Crimson Tide, being a big-time Bear Bryant fan. After my growing relationship with Christ manifested itself in a clear call to mission I transferred to Wheaton College to finish my bachelor’s and master’s degrees after January of 1969. But I never lost my passion for all things Crimson Tide. I have more shirts, jackets and hats than most fans. I wear crimson as my color of choice. Hey, I did this even when the Tide was losing and being routinely mocked by ESPN with considerable glee. I love the Tide.
A few of you know that one of the greatest material gifts I’ve ever been given was a ticket and trip to see Alabama win the BCS Championship in Pasadena in January 2010. That memorable season will never be forgotten. I still look at my photos and various other reminders of that great evening in California when the Tide rolled and I celebrated a grand season with all its gridiron glory.
Today is the biggest game of the season! The Tide plays LSU, the number one team in the nation, in Tuscaloosa in the incredible venue of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama is rated number two, just a small percentage point behind LSU. The winner, absent an upset, will make the BCS Championship game and could well be the BCS Champions for 2011 when the big game is played on January 9, 2012. Both schools have won in the past decade. LSU has won twice. In fact, Alabama’s coach Nick Saban won it all at LSU before he then won it at Alabama, making him the only coach to win a national championship at two schools.
After Alabama's last win, over Tennessee on October 22, Birmingham News writer Kevin Scarbinsky captured the humor of Harold Camping's prophetic predictions, in a region of the country where many can relate, and related it to Alabama football and the Tide's early struggles to put away an inferior Tennessee team. Scarbinsjy wrote of Alabama's halftime resolve to win big:
The Alabama players made that decision with authority. They decided not to postpone the Rapture beyond its previously scheduled date. After the Crimson Tide outscored the Vols 31-0 in the final 30 minutes to finish the Vols 37-6, the end of the world will arrive as planned right here on Nov. 5.
Alabama will be 8-0, same as LSU. LSU will be No. 1 and Alabama No. 2, or should be, and not necessarily in that order. The Tide and Tigers will play the game to end all games, and if it plays out as expected, with one team winning on a pick six in the fifth overtime, it will start the debate to end all debates.
To say that I will be in “all out football mode” this afternoon is an understatement. (Ironically I have no great love for professional football. One reason is I could never get into it on Sundays over the years.) The emotion of these few hours is beyond fun at times. It is often nerve-racking. But in the end it is just a sport and the passion is a way to enjoy something that is not truly serious. (A lot of fans for both teams have no clue how to deal with this passion and live-or-die with these events.)
One of my favorite game-day events is the ESPN College Game Day. Coach Lee Corso, who is now 76-years old, remains a fixture on this show with his famous one-liners and funny sense of the moment. At the end of each three-hour show he dons a head-gear of the team he believes will win the big matchup of the day. The award-winning ESPN gang will all be in Tuscaloosa today so the question is which head-gear will Corso wear at the end of the show? I hope it is the one shown in the photo above but either way “Roll Tide.” Corso’s drama makes the whole business a lot of fun but the game will be won on the field. It could be one of the great games of the era. I am not alone in thinking this way. But then how could you beat the drama of Michigan State’s touchdown to end the Wisconsin game two weeks ago? By the way, congratulations to quarterback Kirk Cousins at Michigan State, the son of Don Cousins, former pastor at Willow Creek Community Church. Kirk is a great young man.