Tide fans return from Pasadena

Published 1:59 pm Tuesday, January 19, 2010

By Ben Flanagan

Frequent debates over which fan base dominated Pasadena on Jan. 7 persist.
Was there more crimson or burnt orange? Each team’s faithful would have you believe it was, of course, its own.
But the Chilton County residents actually in attendance at the BCS National Championship Game saw red, and plenty of it. In airports, restaurants, souvenir shops and everywhere else they looked, folks hollered “Roll Tide!” in their general direction.
Watching it on television showed viewers a split down the middle, two semi-circles of a different color battling it out for shaded supremacy.
County circuit court clerk Glenn McGriff saw it all with his own eyes. His report bleeds crimson.
“It was close to 60-40 percent in Alabama’s favor,” he said.
Thorsby baseball and girls basketball coach Ab Argent agreed with the slight edge Bama fans may have had on the Texas faithful.
But it wasn’t just in the stadium.
Argent said you couldn’t look in any direction without eyeing at least one Tide fan.
“Bama may have had a hair bit more, but Texas may say that, too” he said. “The fans were everywhere. Everywhere you turned, there they were.”
Argent said stunned employees at the airport often commented about how many Alabama fans they saw pass through.
The fans, relieved that many years of recent mediocrity had finally passed, felt they were needed in California.
“Fans really thought they were going to make a difference in that game,” Argent said. “People have waited so long for Alabama to make it back on top.”
Argent knew he had to do his part. Fairly superstitious, he and a friend noticed the Tide fared quite well when they went to games in person. Only when he missed last year’s SEC championship against Florida did Alabama finally fall during an undefeated season. Not this year.
“People said to me, ‘You ain’t going to Pasadena,’” Argent said. “We actually booked a flight and room and didn’t have tickets to the game. A couple of weeks before the game, we got tickets. The chances of me going out there without my team playing in it were slim. My mind was made up for a few weeks. If they a made it out there, I was going.”
McGriff wouldn’t miss any game let alone a national title match-up for the world. His older brothers used to take him to games in Tuscaloosa when they attended the university. Needless to say, that tradition stuck.
“I eat and breathe Bama football; I have since I was 6 years old,” McGriff said. “I don’t hunt and don’t fish, but I love Alabama football.
Chilton County Medicine physician and Clanton city councilman Jeff Price, a Georgia Bulldogs fan, didn’t really have a choice in whether he journeyed out West.
His wife did his deciding for him.
“When Alabama beat Florida in the SEC Championship she wanted to go, but I was a little hesitant,” Price said. “Then when she asked me where I would be on Jan. 7 if Georgia were in the game, I knew we were Pasadena-bound.”
Price said California offered up an exceptional atmosphere they wouldn’t soon forget, but one walk down the notoriously ritzy Rodeo Drive reminded him there’s no place like Alabama.
“$400 for a T-shirt let me know that I was at home in Clanton,” he said.
Argent shares that feeling, although the warm weather certainly didn’t rub him the wrong way.
“[California] was one of those places where you can’t appreciate the scenery until you experience it,” he said. “If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it again. But Thorsby’s still home.”
Along with the scenery, Alabama fans were greeted with respect and proper manners from their counterparts, the Texas fans.
McGriff remembers 17 years ago when he went down to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl national title game versus Miami University.
He said the Hurricane fans weren’t as humble or kind in their friendly competitive behavior.
Miami quarterback Gino Torreta had just won the Heisman trophy, and the fans viewed Alabama as an easy win on the schedule, McGriff said. Alabama dominated the ’Canes, 34-13.
“The Texas folks were nice people, not like the Miami fans,” he said. “They looked down on us, but it was so sweet because they were never really in the game.”
Price got a similar vibe from a few Longhorn fans but not enough to sour the experience. For the most part, they behaved, he said.
“Texas fans were nice but seemed to have a sense of entitlement about football,” Price said. “If I heard ‘This is Texas football’ once, I heard it a million times.”