People often ask me how I can be a fan of both Oklahoma (OU) and Alabama collegiate athletics at the same time. Being a life long Oklahoman it does raise the question of why. So to answer those calls and answer any further inquiries I will explain my reasons.
Being born and raised in Oklahoma where for some time most of my family from both my mother and fathers families resided, I had always had a fondness for Oklahoma. My mothers’ side of the family are lifelong Oklahomans going back several generations dating back to before statehood. My father’s side of the family originate from the deep South and moved to Oklahoma in 1900′s. Logically most people expect that I would be a fan of OU, Oklahoma State, or Tulsa collegiate athletics having been born in Oklahoma. This is true to a certain extent. But my mothers’ family is what I consider moderate fans of collegiate athletics so my exposure to football on a large scale didn’t come until later on in my upbringing.
When my fathers’ family came to Oklahoma they brought along with them a love for football as is common in the state of Alabama. People who have been there understand what I mean. Brought along with that was a vigorous loyalty to the Alabama Crimson Tide. The first exposure I had to college football came in the form of being around my father, grandfather, aunts, and uncles from my dad’s family on a Saturday afternoon watching the Alabama Crimson Tide in action with all of their glory. Who wouldn't be impressed with pride and power that emanates from the Alabama Crimson Tide not just from the athletes and coaches participating in the athletic program but even from the fans as they cheer their Crimson Tide to glorious victory or suffer in disgust from a crushing defeat? This side of collegiate sports was something I was never exposed to by my mother’s family. My mothers’ family, being the moderate fans that they are, seldom ever watched football games let alone ever considering going to see one in person.
In the Fall of 1992 at Legion Field in Birmingham, AL the Iron Bowl happened to me. Just mentioning it sends chills down the spine to those who have witnessed it before. Imagine 83,091 football fanatics; half Crimson and Cream and the other half Orange and Blue, all screaming at the top of their lungs a call to arms, a battle cry to victory for a 3 hour long war on the gridiron. What you imagine in your mind is maybe half the intensity that you feel when you are actually there. The ground rumbles beneath your feet as if an earthquake threatens to swallow the ground you stand on. It is an awe inspiring spectacle to say the least. Being as young as I was at the time I have no shame in admitting that at first I was intimidated and regretting that I even came there that day. Who wouldn't be when their not even 10 years old and less the 100 lbs. amidst all that chaos? The noise was making my ears numb and the raw ferocity of the crowd was so thick you could taste anger when you breathe. It tasted like the anger and hatred for those wearing orange and blue to me. Less then 10 minutes into the game I was standing in my seat going crazy right along with the mob and loving every moment of it. From that point on I was hooked.
Since then I have come to appreciate OU football as well. There is of course a rich tradition and a legacy of winning there that is to be respected. But they're no ear splitting cries of the elephants at OU. There are not 13 National Championship titles there either. There is no Paul “Bear” Bryant there. Don't get me wrong I have the utmost respect for Barry Switzer and his accomplishments. But I am confident that Switzer himself wouldn't dare liken himself to the legacy which is Paul “Bear” Bryant. The Iron Bowl of 1992 will resonate with me for the rest of my life. I will chant for the Crimson Tide with a white hot passion whenever they walk onto the field no matter what the state of the program is at the time. And incidentally I have grown to hate the colors of orange and blue. Auburn especially but also the colors of Florida and the orange of Tennessee is distasteful to me. Coincidentally I hate Texas and Oklahoma State as well so being an OU fan and Alabama fan can come quite naturally given the BCS National Championship in 2010.
Some might also wonder which team I would cheer for if Alabama and OU were to go head-to-head as they have in the past and nearly did again in the National Championship in 2009. To answer that I'll say that I was there in Norman, Oklahoma at Owen Field about 15 rows up on the 50 yard line when OU and Alabama played in 2003. You better believe I was wearing Crimson and Cream with a capitol A on it. Those who saw the game that day know what I'm talking about when I say it was classic football game. It was something like a great boxing match where both boxers get knocked down but keep getting up off the canvas to return the favor. Oklahoma won and I was not at all disappointed. How could I be with such a hard fought bout? I may have been born in Oklahoma but I was reborn a true football fan at the Iron Bowl in 1992 and I didn't come out crying that time, I was screaming “Roll Tide Roll”.