My father loved Alabama.
He was also a very emotional man.
That can often be an explosive combination and in Dad’s case it was TNT.
Dad was the man who never used profanity, except when a second field goal was blocked or a Notre Dame quarterback passed on third down out of his own end zone. He PASSED on third down!
Even though I wasn’t around when Joe Namath ran a quarterback sneak against Texas, I have been very well informed about how Broadway Joe with his bag o’ ball bearin’ knees crossed that goal line on fourth down and that “this was another time we got robbed”!
I could follow along with Dad every time a call went against Bama with the “they don’t make those guys wear those stripes for nothing” line that somehow lost its comic edge many hundreds of spouts ago. Remarkably, they became brilliant and skilled observationists when the opposite occurred.
I’m pretty sure that everyone has someone like this. I look back and laugh about it now, especially when I break another remote and curse at the Zebra’s when they throw the yellow flag, slapping Bama for “the call that can be called on every play, holding” while the Tide is winning or losing.
I hate holding!
Well unless..uhm well you know.
Dad passed away 4 years ago on Sunday morning, Fathers Day oddly enough. When my son called me from Gulf Shores last night to talk about the NCAA news, or lack of, I told him how much I miss being able to call my dad when things like this come up. Don’t get me wrong, I love having my son to call and say everything that I’ve said a thousand times, but until you lose your dad, you just won’t understand. I hope you never understand.
While I was talking to Zack (my son) I remembered something that I hadn’t thought of for years. One of the many things my dad would argue passionately about every chance he got was that Alabama was robbed of a national championship in 1966 by the media because of their love for Notre Dame and the stigma of racism that the team carried.
For the record, Bama won the 1964 and 65 national championships and was undefeated in 1966. Coach Bryant said “I thought you stayed on top til someone knocked you off” and Dad agreed.
Years later, once I had started my working life and while Dad was still around, I had the good fortune to be at a sales seminar in Florida where I sat near the front listening to Rocky Bleier talk about football, Vietnam and success. I loved every minute of it and recommend it to anyone. He is an amazing winner in life. He is also an amazing winner in football being the owner of four Superbowl rings. He had a couple of them there and gave us the opportunity of a lifetime to come up and see and hold one of his rings. I can tell you, his fingers are HUGE!
I happened to know that Rocky was one of the captains of the 1966 Notre Dame National Champion football squad that was undefeated but tied Michigan State in their bowl game. I just couldn't pass up the chance to ask something along the lines of “my dad is the biggest Alabama fan there is and all my life I’ve heard him talk about the 1966 team….”
To my surprise Rocky answered before I could finish. “Alabama got robbed of the national championship by the media that year. They should have been and really were the national champions!” A quote from the man who as much as anyone was in a position to say.
I was floored! I almost cried! Maybe I did! I just stood there and thanked Rocky because I knew how much that would mean to Dad. I asked Rocky for his autograph and he quickly wrote “to Roy” along with the quote above and signed his name.
I couldn’t believe what I held in my hand and just what it would mean to Dad. I could hardly wait to get it to him and when I did I can tell you that his eyes did well up. He framed that little scrap of paper and to Mom’s lasting annoyance kept it in a prominent place on their fireplace mantel for years to come. I’m pretty sure that Dad has had a chance to look up Coach Bryant and share his proud little proof moment with the Bear.
At least that’s how I see it.