However, early blowout wins versus Utah State and Ole Miss created a buzz around the team. Talk of a potential 7-0 start (before playing Tennessee) and a possible run at the SEC West crown began to surface. The 3rd Quarter of the Western Carolina game shut those folks up. Junior Quarterback Brodie Croyle went down with a busted knee and is out for the year. Alabama completed the domination of Western Carolina, but the damage was done. SEC foes Arkansas and South Carolina victimized the inexperienced Tide 27-10 and 20-3, respectively. Now Alabama had to accept that just going to a bowl this year would be a success. However, a road tilt with Kentucky was up next. Kentucky, a team that would be at the bottom of the SEC if not for perennial doormats Vanderbilt and Mississippi State (who's problems are too numerous to mention in this space), was just what the doctor ordered for an Alabama team which was struggling to rediscover its identity.
My wife and I visit a different state every year for our anniversary. This is a tradition we started at our honeymoon in San Francisco, California. We've since been to Illinois, Ohio (we stayed home because we had to travel too much that year and couldn't really afford even a small trip), and Pennsylvania. We needed a trip for this year. We needed something low-budget, as money is tight. I was making my usual rounds online and I stopped at RollTide.com, the home of University of Alabama athletics. I checked out the football page and saw it -- "Next Game: at Kentucky." I looked at the date...it was October 9. I didn't want to get my hopes up, so I checked the Kentucky athletic site (UKAthletics.com, if anyone cares). Tickets were still available! I called my wife, and she thought it was a great idea. We set up the trip that night.
My wife Gretchen has lived her entire life (except for one year in college) in the Columbus, Ohio area. She always held herself out to be an Ohio State fan. During Ohio State's national championship run in 2002, Washington State came to town. We had errands that took us through the Ohio State University campus on the way home. She asks me, "Do you think that I would get us hurt if I screamed 'Go Cougars!' to random OSU fans?"
"Yes," I said. "You might get us killed."
"Cool! Roll down the window."
"I'll be nice. Just let me do it once."
"OK, but if you do this, you're no longer an OSU fan."
"Whatever, just do it."
So I roll the window down. Sure enough, Gretchen yells at OSU fans as we pass them. We receive various reports and hand gestures from the rank and file. This was quite funny, but I did fear for my life. Finally, she stuck her head back into the car and I put up the window. After she quit laughing, the following conversation ensued:
"Fired? From what?"
"From being an Ohio State fan. A real OSU fan wouldn't do that."
"How would you know? You're an Alabama fan."
"True, but I've lived in Columbus long enough to know that OSU fans and Alabama fans aren't so different that we would root against our team, even in jest. You don't hear me screaming 'Go Hogs!' or something when 'Bama plays Arkansas, do you? Well, you won't. And from now on, this won't be an issue for you either. No longer are you an OSU fan, you are an Alabama fan. That way, I can yell at you if you do something goofy like pull for the other team. I don't care enough about OSU to stop you, but I care about Alabama. And I care about you. This way, I can see that you don't get yourself killed by some rabid OSU fan."
"Great idea! Roll Tide!"
OK, I admit that both of the above conversations are paraphrased, but you get the idea. So Gretchen is now an Alabama fan, and I've never had any problems with her wavering. I believe that it's because we're outsiders - strangers living in a strange land, so to speak, but that's probably just because it's something sports-related that we can share.
In any event, we decide to visit Lexington, Kentucky for our anniversary and catch the Alabama-Kentucky football game. Tomorrow, I will return with the weekend's fun, including my thoughts on:
- Dinner at Waffle House
- Lexington's transit system
- The actual football game
- Meeting the coach's mom and dad
- Lexington's transit system...again
- Riding in the back of a police car
- And not much more!