From the desk of Wally Dawkins, Athletic Director

It is the Saturday night after Thanksgiving last year, and I am sitting in an apartment in Brussels, Belgium winding up a week-long trip to France and Belgium with our kids and their spouses.  I am anxiously awaiting the outcome of the “Iron Bowl”, the traditional rival football game between Alabama and Auburn.  Since the only thing on TV in Brussels is soccer, I am following the game on ESPN.com on my cell phone.  If you have ever done this, the 45 second waits between plays can seem like hours.

Alabama has blown a 21-7 lead, and with the game now tied at 28 apiece, Alabama is kicking a field goal to hopefully win the game with 3 seconds remaining.  For nearly thirty minutes I wait for the “all-clear” signal that my boys from Bama have pulled it out.

“What is taking so long” I thought.  “Was there a weather delay?  Did the satellite get shot down?  Has the game gone into multiple overtimes”?

And then came the most devastating news for an Alabama fan sitting halfway across the globe; Auburn 34-Bama 28.

What happened?  All of a sudden my dream for Alabama to be the National Champion for the 4th time in 5 years had been shattered…and because of Auburn?

Now I am sure some of you might be thinking “What is the big deal?  You are in “across the pond” for Thanksgiving and you’re worked up over an Alabama football game”?

You see I was raised on Alabama Football.  My dad was born in Montgomery, Alabama and he went to high school at Highland Home, a small dusty town just outside of Montgomery.  I spent several summers at “the old home place” on The Old Selma Road.  I remember eating “Chris’s Hot Dogs” on the square in downtown Montgomery many times with my dad and his sister.  Aunt Dorothy used to say “Chris’s hot dogs were the world’s best hot dog” and it is still the best one I have ever eaten.  I was an Air Force brat and we moved a lot.  So many vacations were spent in the tropical paradises of Montgomery Alabama or Jackson, Tennessee (My mom’s home town).

Being from Montgomery, my dad taught me at a young age how to be a loyal Alabama Crimson Tide Football Fan.  I grew up thinking their coach, Bear Bryant was worthy of Saint-hood.  I used to write him letters, listen to him talk football on the radio, and hope for a glimpse of him on the local TV sports shows.  My dad took out a subscription to The Sporting News, and I followed every player and kept up with every stat.  A few of my dad’s friend’s sons even played for the Tide.  As a coach, “The Bear” was my idol.   I emulated his no-nonsense approach over the years with my players.  My dad used to take me to watch Coach Bryant’s teams play.  We would get to the stadium early in time to watch the Alabama players as they got off the team bus wearing their maroon blazers.  Those players in their maroon blazers were larger than life to me.  I loved the maroon blazers so much I had “Santa” bring me one for Christmas in the 5th Grade (yes I believed in Santa as a 5th grader.  It was a much different time and there was no internet).  By the way…I can still “hear the bell”.

In the summer of 2001, I travelled to Tuscaloosa and walked around Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium until I found an open gate…snuck in, and went and sat on the top row of the lower section, right on the 50 yard line (believe me, we did not have these good of seats when I was a kid!).  Surely by now you get the picture.  My blood is Crimson…not red, not maroon…Crimson, as in Tide!

Honestly, over the past decade, it has been easy to be an Alabama fan.  Under the “new Bear” Nick Saban, Alabama has a record of 80 wins and 12 losses.  Over the years, The Tide has won 24 SEC Championships and 12 National Championships.  But from 1996-2007, Alabama was barely above .500, winning 67 games while losing 54.

But the Tide’s record wasn’t the end all with me.  No matter what, I love Alabama Football, and I will until the day I die.  Win or lose, SEC Champs or National Champions or not, they are still my team.  Crimson helmets with white stripes, and white numbers on the side.

Brad Sham, who is the Dallas Cowboy’s Radio Announcer, feels the same way about his Chicago Cubs.  I heard Sham speak at a luncheon last year and he revealed that he had been a Chicago Cubs fan for 43 years, and they had never won a World Series.  BUT…”the Cubbies were still his team”.

We celebrated Thanksgiving a little pre-mature this year.  Last Saturday night my kids and their spouses drove down for some “early bird”.  My wife and I will spend Thanksgiving this year at Bonita Beach between Naples and Fort Myers Florida…but without the kids.  This “Thanksgiving” Saturday night was again filled with some more nervous anticipation as Alabama travelled to the University of Tennessee for another dose of SEC Football action.  This year however, the Tide jumped out to a 28-0 lead and held on to win 34-20 over the Vols.  Although the result of the game for an Alabama fan was better than “Thanksgiving” a year ago, the outcome didn’t matter.  Not if you really love Crimson Tide.

You know what is strange?  I have caught myself feeling exactly the same way about Brook Hill.  In good times and bad, I love me some “ALL ORANGE”.  Sometimes we win, and sometimes we don’t, but it is still my school.  Some days are better than others, but my loyalty remains with The Guard.  I think when you develop this type of relationship  to a school or a team, you are willing to work to overcome the things you can change, accept the things you can’t, and relish those good or “winning” times.  I am ALL ORANGE because I love our kids and what this school stands for.  Win or Lose, I AM BROOK HILL…just like Bama!

Now back to Alabama and Auburn. You know what the real differences between Alabama and Auburn are?

About 160 miles and 11 National Championships.