Whenever the NCAA deems it necessary and the Universe and Anheuser-Busch (no particular order) agree, a national championship football game is scheduled between Notre Dame and Alabama.
I was not watching, but obviously the Universe, Mr. Bud and the NCAA decided it was time. It’s happened before, at least once there were back-to-back New Year’s games. But they are still rare, and it just fits that these two storied programs would meet on occasion to settle old scores.
These are natural conflicts.
You’ve got the unwashed, Bible-thumpin’ Sons of the South playing nose-to-nose against the Papist-Mass-Enduring Irish Catholic Yankee Horde to prove not only which is the better team, but basically who would have won the Civil War if it were decided on a gridiron. West Coast teams occasionally make it into this battle and Big Ten or Texas entries have been known to fight for the Crystal Football. But we know in our hearts that the two Goliaths of the North and South are Notre Dame and Alabama.
Please, don’t get me started. The Bulldogs are finer men and better scholars. Mostly. But we are talkin’ National Championship football and Dixie’s champion is on years without miracles…. Alabama. Other representatives may play over their
heads occasionally and earn their spot, but like I said, when the fight is for Momma’s love or a blonde Kappa’s heart, bring out the big boys.
My first viewing of this ritual fight was in 1973, mid-way during my Junior year at UGA. I’ll spoil the suspense and tell you: ‘Bama lost by one point to coach Ara Parsegian and a team of blue shirted monks quarterbacked by Archangel Gabriel himself. How else could they have won? Alabama was coached by the living legend Bear Bryant. A slow-talking, slow-walking Deep South twin of John Wayne in a hounds tooth fedora. But my memories of that night had little to do with football.
It being New Year’s Night, we friends and frat brothers would meet in Atlanta, a somewhat central location for men of merit from around the state. We procured a suite at the old Castlegate Inn off Howell Mill Road. You remember this faux Tudor ramblin’ mess, right? It was not yet in decline and with lovely dates and generous beer budgets, football was on the TV, but party was on the agenda.
Yes, there was a fist fight when my beloved Woody from Carroll County thought a party-crashin’ redneck had absconded with his hootch. And yes, there were Atlanta Hawks players who thought their height would impress our dates. We were in a public environment and subject to the whims of passing strangers attracted to open doors and short skirts and that darn football game on the Sylvania.
We rooted for ‘Bama ‘cause the South needed our support. We could cuss the Yankee invaders with no one in earshot likely to be offended. But it wasn’t a Bulldog uprising. Those games, you ignore your dates and pee in bottles to avoid missing a single play. The disappointment we endured following Alabama’s mighty but short effort was legit. Yet it did not match the agony and bloodletting common when our Red ‘n Black fall in similar circumstances.
So here we are back to this Monday night. The Tuscaloosa Tide against the South Bend uniformed acolytes. It should be a no-brainer. Prognosticators will compare schedules and records and tattoos, resulting in a tossup in the media and a similar spread in Sin City. Don’t buy it. The O’Irish will find New Orleans much too seductive and pull up drunk and lazy come Monday Night. Alabama has partied like it’s ’73 since they left Muscle Shoals and know the cure for party fever. The Tide will prevail on Monday. Mostly ‘cause I say so. I'm a Count!