The burden I carry on game day

Posted 9/10/17

I can’t watch college football with my nephews anymore. It’s much too risky. It’s my own fault. When they were still young and impressionable, I had an opportunity to mentor them. I could have helped them understand how to watch football games …

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The burden I carry on game day

Posted

I can’t watch college football with my nephews anymore. It’s much too risky. It’s my own fault. When they were still young and impressionable, I had an opportunity to mentor them. I could have helped them understand how to watch football games without risking the lives of people and property around them. But that didn’t happen.

James and Haven were with Jilda and me in our TV room on the last Saturday in November 1985. We were watching the Iron Bowl. I think that was a pivotal moment in their young viewing lives. James was in grammar school and Haven barely out of diapers.

During the waning moments of the game, Alabama mounted a comeback. When Van Tiffin made “The Kick,” it scarred them for life. The images from that day were etched on their young brains like cheap tattoos. I only have myself to blame. Well, to be honest, my mild-mannered wife Jilda was an accomplice. Back then when games were close, she could weave a web of obscenities that made the paint blister on the walls around the TV. “It’s a kind of sports-induced Tourette’s Syndrome,” I explained to the nephews. She no longer watches college football with me.

Their dad Ricky is an Auburn fan. He did his best to teach his boys right. When he watched close games between Alabama and Auburn, he sat on the couch munching popcorn and sipping a Coca-Cola. It’s always as quiet as a wake in his living room on game day. He was certain his boys would wear orange and blue on Iron Bowl weekend, but after “The Kick,” he lost them forever to the color of crimson.

In the late ‘90s, I worked for MaBell. During my time there, I served as the president of the Riverchase Chapter of Telephone Pioneers. This is a charity organization that raised money to help the needy. One of our fundraising projects was selling T-shirts for the University of Alabama when they played home games at Legion Field.

Getting volunteers for those gigs was not a chore. The friends of James and Haven stood in line to get one of those sideline passes. One of the most memorable games was the third Saturday in October of 1993. Alabama faced Tennessee. The Tide was 7-0 going into that game. Alabama had beaten Miami the year before to win the first national championship since 1977. But with less than 15 minutes left in the game, they were trailing the Vols 17-9.

There were a lot of long faces in the audience, but I kept telling James and Haven, “You gotta believe.” Alabama fought their way back in the final seconds of the game and scored with 21 ticks on the scoreboard. They were trailing by two points. Then David Palmer lined up as quarterback instead of Jay Barker. He was in the end zone before the Vols knew what hit them.

James and Haven wiggled their way through the crowd and were standing near the end zone in the final moments. When the celebration erupted, the cheering crowd showered James, Haven, and those around them with Coca-Cola.

These days both the boys have families of their own and mind their manners when watching the games with their kids. But on game day, my cell phone chirps constantly with colorful comments from these two. I just shake my head. It’s a burden I have to carry.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book, “Life Goes On,” is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at rick@rickwatson-writer.com