Monday, March 06, 2006

Time And Tide

Two years ago today - March 6, 2004 - Sister and I took Alex to Tuscaloosa to see the Bulldogs play the Tide in basketball. At the time the two teams were finishing up a heated conference race, and there was a tremendous amount riding on the game, from bragging rights to SEC standings to NCAA tournament seedings.

Alex wasn't quite a year old, but it was his second Bulldog basketball game. His daddy and I had taken him down to Auburn a couple of months before, where he slept peacefully in my lap as the Dogs eeked out a tough victory over the Tigers/Plainsmen/War Eagles (note to AU: pick a mascot and stick with it). However, the basketball rivalry between State and Bama is on an entirely different level: the coaches don't like each other much, the schools are just a little over an hour apart, and both teams like to play fast, in-your-face ball with an emphasis on defense. For a college basketball nut like me - well, it was a little piece of hoops heaven on earth.

Alex actually had several firsts that day. He had his first trip to Tuscaloosa (since birth, at least - he made a trip over there when I was seven months pregnant, and his daddy was certain that labor was inevitable given my loud and raucous behavior during the game). He took his first bites of cheeseburger when we ate lunch. He lost a shoe for the first time as I carried him down to the court to watch the pre-game warm-ups. He also saw Jackie Sherrill for the first time - but I don't think he cared too much.

Once we settled in our seats, it became clear that holding Alex was going to make it difficult to jump up and down like an idiot, which is something that I personally take a great deal of pride in doing at SEC sporting events. I actually ended up standing for most of the first half, but I made a point to stand in front of the State players' parents section because I knew it would be good and lively in that part of the coliseum. Alex did great - he was at that fun stage where he was old enough to be fascinated by everything going on around him but young enough that he couldn't get away from me - though after an hour of holding him on my hip, I figured that either 1) I was going to have arms of steel by the end of the game 2) my arms were going to fall off altogether or 3) I could just leave him sitting in the aisle alone so that I could watch the game without a 20 pound weight to hinder my cheering. Option #3 seemed preferable, but really, probably not one of my best ideas ever what with, you know, thousands of people milling about.

Sister came to the rescue and offered to mind the young'un during the second half. The Bulldogs, who had fallen way behind, gradually started to mount a comeback, and as I screamed and cheered like some sort of hillbilly Price Is Right contestant ("WHOO! BREAK HIS LEG! WHOOO!"), I hoped that Sister was positioned somewhere with a relatively decent view. Before I got too concerned, something Terribly Exciting happened, and I shifted my focus back to the game.

I've seen a lot of basketball games in my lifetime, but I've never been at any sporting event where I really questioned whether or not my heart could take it. The last two minutes of regulation offered me several insights into the state of my health, chief among them the realization that I have no clogged arteries, because if I did, any and all blocked passages would have exploded / ruptured / burst right there on row too-high-to-count, section Y of Coleman Coliseum. Bama fans have an annoying habit of not supporting their basketball program, no matter how well they're doing (I suppose that's because Bear Bryant did not coach the basketball team), so thousands of State fans had snapped up available tickets. With less than two minutes left in the game, you could not hear yourself scream. It was deafening. It was divine.

With seconds left in regulation, Timmy Bowers tied the game. I seriously doubted whether my heart or my voice could take much more, but seeing as how it was the most exciting sporting event in the history of all time ever, I decided I could make it through overtime.

In the end, the Bulldogs won the game - and as a result, Alex, Sister and I got to experience another first: seeing the Bulldogs win the SEC regular season title. I know it sounds sort of bizarre and maybe to some of you oddly pitiful, but I really do think it was one of the top 5 highlights of my life. It was the most exciting, tense, thrilling environment I've ever been a part of, and it only stands to reason that afterwards I rushed to the court and threw Alex into Lawrence Roberts' arms.

I'll always wonder what in the world Alex was thinking when I took this picture, but truthfully I think he was completely mesmerized by the bling in Lawrence's right ear.

But this is really the special picture. Seeing Alex with Sister, seeing the Bulldogs do something they'd never done before, seeing the State players hold my little boy - well, it made for a very memorable day. And it's not because I put those players on a pedestal. It's because I was able to share a piece of my life outside of motherhood with Alex. So much of who I am is a result of where I went to's where I met most of my friends, where I got my education, where I really got to know the person who would eventually be my husband. There's no way to measure the amount of impact State had - and continues to have - on my life.

Honestly, March 6, 2004 was so much more than a basketball game. It was family, it was tradition, it was a little tiny part of Alex's history. Being able to experience that with him - even if he's only able to "remember" it by seeing pictures - is something I'll never forget.

Go Dogs.


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