For the uninitiated and possibly relatively new Crimson Tide football fan, first of all, welcome to the most rabid and--dare I say--sacred fan base on the planet.
Secondly, let's get some things straight right off the bat; there are certain requirements of all Alabama fans.
Let this article be your short primer on how to be a fan of the Tide, and there's no where better to begin than by having the right mentality. That means, simply put, Alabama expects to win. To what did you think, "Roll on to victory " refers?
And we're not talking about a 7-6 season or even eight or nine wins or so. What or who do you think we are--Ole Miss? No. We expect wins like we expect the leaves to change as those wins happen throughout the fall.
For example, a 13-1 National Championship season will be celebrated, certainly, but it will provoke some hand-wringing over the one loss. That loss will provide fodder for the discussions over The Best Team Ever that continues among Tide fans.
That's another thing; learn the history.
Maybe it's our southern heritage here, but history and the Tide are inexorably entangled.
We are not johnny-come-latelys (Hello? Miami?) to success in college football, and part and parcel of understanding this year's team is understanding them in the context of the history of the program.
Your family should speak of such men as Musso, Newsome, Neighbors, Hannah, Howell and Hutson; these should be known, savored, and, perhaps, used as names of beloved pets or, even, the odd child or two.
A child whose first word is, "Bama" or "Bear" is destined to go far.
Next, and this is corollary to the above, while we expect to win, we feel humbled by the experience. Oh, you might participate lustily in "Rammer Jammer " after each win, but you feel a twinge of guilt for gloating and saying "hell".
No, the winning should be accepted as a gift, as a bestowal of graces. You see, to the average 'Bama fan, there are such things as Football gods. They are the ones who gave us Coach Thomas, Coach Wade, Coach Bryant, and Coach Saban, and all the good kids who play their hearts out for their mamas and daddies.
And these 'gods' must be appeased. We must follow our game day rituals in order to be blessed with wins and success. We must wear that old jersey or that faded hat or sit in the right seat in front of the TV.
A closely guarded secret amongst the Tide faithful is that ultimate success or failure for the team depends completely on how we, individually, faithfully perform these rituals.
We don't like to talk about it, but each of us has the rituals and feels personally responsible when things go badly if they aren't followed.
Finally (for our purposes as a short introduction, anyway), there is pride, "Dixie's football pride ." I'm not talking about the 'We think we're better than everyone else' pride (which we are--but we don't talk about that).
I'm talking about holding your head up when you make a mistake pride. I'm talking about having respect for yourself and your opponent--even if the opponent wears some tacky color such as orange (sometimes mixed with blue) pride.
I'm talking about having pride in your efforts because you gave it your all, you played cleanly, you did your best, and because you wear crimson pride.
So, welcome, new Tide fans. You've got a lot of catching up to do, but enjoy the ride as this year's team continues writing 'Bama's "name in Crimson flame ."
And remember; hounds-tooth goes with anything.