bruces1g's Football Blog
This is a little different type of posting for me, so bear with me.

During this past week, I have had several back and forth conversation with folks reminiscing about some of our past memories of SEC football. This got me to thinking that many of the posters and readers on the message boards and blogs probably had no idea of what we were talking about. Probably only those over 35 would understand.

The SEC is now 75 years old. That is a lot of history and memories for a lot of fans.  It represents a rich heritage that we in the south have in football. No other conference in the nation has such a rabid, dedicated following or fans more passionate in their love for the game. I am 48. For about 42 years I have been an Alabama fan and a fan of the SEC.  I have watched and listened to a lot of games over those years.

Which brings me to the subject of this post.  This week is an exciting week in the SEC. Two top ten teams will play in front of a nationwide audience and showcase all that is great about the SEC football.  As fans, this is what we live 9 months for: the three months of excitement that is then followed by another 9 months of hope and anticipation for the next year. People that live outside of the south might have trouble understanding that. To most of them football is just another among several sports. For us, it is as if it is embedded in our genes. From pee-wee games to Friday nights to Saturday, we are there watching, cheering and loving the game.

And my how some things have changed. Many of the younger fans don't know of the days before ESPN, internet, Thursday night games, GamePlan, and 24/7 football on tap.

What I would like to do with this post is share some of my football memories, impressions, and observations. I would also like other readers to add theirs. Call it a Celebration or Homecoming.

Let me also warn you that this will tend to be a rambling journey. Please excuse me if a I tend to skip around a bit or wander down different paths.

One of my earliest childhood memories involves football. I was about 5 or 6 years old, so that would make the year 1964-65. I know it was raining. My dad had an old Volkswagen Beetle that he drove as a work car during the week and spent a lot of weekends keeping it running. This particular weekend it was the transmission I think. My mom was out on the carport as her job was tool-hander. Frustrated and aggravated with the car and already being a man of not a great deal of patience, it was only compounded by him listening to the Alabama game on the radio - a game that Bama was trailing. He was fussing, the radio was loud and John Forney was delivering bad news. My mom had tears from a combination of my dad and the game. I have no idea who they were playing or how the game ended, but I do vividly remember that moment in time.

Back in those days, the radio was our only link to our teams.  Teams were limited by NCAA rules to only being on TV a couple of times a year, so it was that voice on the radio that had to take us to the game and make us see what was going on.  For Bama fans my age, John Forney, Doug Layton and Jerry Duncan were the voices that transported us to the stadium. LSU had John Ferguson, Tennessee was John Ward, Auburn fans got the word from Buddy Rutledge & Charlie Davis (and later Jim Fyffe) and of course the Georgia fans hunkered down with Larry Munson. It was a different kind of announcing back then. No silvery-tounged, professionally trained, clear-of-voice, generic-sounding, announcers back then. Each of these men had their own unique voice and distinct style. They were unabashedly fans of the schools they broadcast for - political correctness and neutrality be damned. These men knew football and knew the teams that they announced for. These were the kind of men that you thought of as everyday men that you might meet and strike up a conversation with anytime. There was no 5.0 Dolby surround sound, only transistor (remember that term?) radios that brought us the game thru the static and scratchy noises. FM wasn't a big thing back then, so you had to catch the game on local AM stations. This meant that you might have to move around the house to get better reception or even go outside to listen. It was even worse if it was a night game because AM stations would drop their signal strengths at night.  And you had to get close to the radio as these were no big-speakered boom boxes. Family and/or friends leaning in together to make sure that you didn't miss a word. But we all hung onto each and every word and closed our eyes and tried to picture the plays as they unfolded. It was special and it was magical.

As for television, well there was really only Keith Jackson. The man with the Southern drawl and the unforgettable phrases. He didn't rely on goofy gimmicks (mascot heads) or crappy promos. He was just another fan sharing his passion with the rest of us. Sure, he had a flare for the dramatic, but it only made the game better. He knew the game and was close to the coaches. It is a serious shame that many of the young fans today never got to hear a real Master at work. They would then understand why we older fans have such disdain for the airheads that call themselves announcers today.

Then there were the Sunday papers. My mom and dad would splurge and buy the Birmingham paper during football season. It was a treat, and after they finished reading, I would pour over each and every word and picture. We knew all the stats, all the names, all the details. I would cut out the articles and pictures and paste them all over the walls in my room. The writers then were not worried about their blogs or in trying to be bigger headlines than the games they covered. They knew how to write. My favorite was always Clyde Bolton with the Birmingham News. He knew how to tell the story.

If you were lucky you might get to actually attend a game. But that was a very rare treat. This was before the day of 90 or 100,000 seat stadiums; most were in the 40 to 60 thousand range.  So tickets were a bit harder to come by. In my family (there are 6 of us) it also was a big chunk of the family income.  My very first Bama game was in Birmingham, not Tuscaloosa. Back then, Bama played a lot of really big games at Legion Field and the Old Gray Lady would be packed and swaying. I was really fortunate in that I got to witness a very historical game. A game that would change Alabama and SEC football. It was September 12, 1970 and Bama fans witnessed the USC Trojans with Sam "Bam" Cunningham run all over the non-intergrated Tide. It led to two of the biggest changes in Alabama football - Bear Bryant defied the color barrier and that disappointing season caused Bryant to install the wishbone offense to start the next season (the Tide went California avenged their loss to USC by beating them 17-10 behind a pair of Johnny Musso TDs) and a new era. I will never forget that I was there that day. I was 11 years old and having grown up in the small towns of Fort Payne and Sylacauga, I had never seen so many people in one place. Since then I have been to many other games - some more memorable than others.  I was at Sanford Stadium the night Al Bell and Mike Shula led the Tide to an amazing come from behind victory. I was at the Superdome the night that Bama shocked the Hurricanes and won their 12th national title. But all of the games were special and wonderful. The sounds, the noise the crowd, and the excitement. Even the away games. I have had the pleasure of seeing games at Sanford, Tiger, Neyland and Jordan-Hare. The hospitality has changed somewhat - fans used to be more friendly, more civil.  It is still not bad, but just not quite the same.

When I was a kid, there was no fantasy leagues, or video games, or computers. Our idea of "fantasy league" was putting on your teams jersey (with your favorite player's number), gathering the neighborhood kids and then divide-up by allegiance and play out the games. And we had some legendary players to admire. Names like Musso, Terry Beasley, Archie Manning (remember hearing "Archie Who?"), Ozzy Newsome, Pat Sulivan, Tommy Cassanova (had to love his name), Bobby Majors and Woodrow Lowe.  Those are just a few of the names that I remember. Most grew up in the state where they played as most schools back then had rosters loaded with primarily local talent. There were no recruiting magazines, shows, or websites (but I do remember anxiously awaiting the pre-season Smith & Street and Sports Illustrated magazines). Many of the players we idolized never made it to the NFL. Most just became memories for us to cherish. I have a son that is 12 years old and a couple of years ago I had the rare opportunity to let him meet many of my childhood idols. There was an event called the Iron Bowl Challenge that took place the week of the Bama-Auburn game. To benefit a local challenge, Alabama and Auburn Alumni competed in various events. During and after the event, those attending could meet the participants for photos and autographs. I have a ton of pictures of m son with names like Kenny Stabler, Jerry Duncan, Bobby Humphreys, Jeremiah Castille and Bob Baumhower. It was priceless to me to be able to tell him who these people were and what they had done.

Do you remember the old bowl games? How there weren't 30+ bowl games every year and a whole lot of teams stayed at home. I can remember when there were only 4 that really counted: The Rose, Orange, Sugar, and Cotton. That is where the big games were played, tho the Rose often shafted itself with its Big 10-Pac 10 tie in.  There were no other conference deals back then and bowl matchups were often decided among the coaches themselves. Back then the big program coaches were the Kings. Names like Broyles, Royal, Bryant, Dooley, McKay, Hayes, and Schembechler  (just to name a few). Calls were made from these powerful offices, bowl committees listened, and matches were made.

Through the years, football has always been a big part of my life. Even now, I still can't help but watch any college game that I can find on TV. My wife says that I would even watch Slippery Rock vs Greasy Elm - and get excited about it. But the one constant has always been the wealth of memories that I have accumulated over the years. I urge any younger fans to learn about your team's history. Read about the league and the storied rivalries and great games that have been played. If you haven't already you might come away with a new and better perspective of the team you support.

I could write on and on about this, but I don't want to bore everyone to tears. What I would like is to hear YOUR stories, YOUR memories. Maybe some of our musings can help others to understand why words like "Tradition" , "Pride" and "Historical" mean so much to long time fans.  And this is not limited to Bama fans. Lets hear from all fans of all teams. Its Fall, its football season, its time to celebrate.


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