Sweet Home Alabama…….Roll Tide!

Attendance at any kind of sporting event in the cities we visit has been one of the staples of our itinerary. So far this year we have been to several baseball games, college football games, and US Open tennis.  Thursday was our day to go to a PGA golf tournament.

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The Tour Championship is the final round of the FedEx Cup playoff, thus only the top 30 golfers are invited.  With the winner of the FedEx Cup receiving a $10,000,000 “bonus”, the atmosphere at this event is pretty intense.  We started the day by planting ourselves on the 220 yard (over a lake) par 3 sixth hole for about an hour.  Our position next to the drop area was perfect as several players put their tee shots into the water.  We finished the day on the 9th green where we saw almost every player come through.  I was even able to snap a few forbidden pictures of several notables:

Rickie Fowler

Rory Mcllroy

Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson

Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler

Jordan Spieth and Jason Day

Jordan Spieth and Jason Day

We really enjoyed this event.  The course was in great shape, the shuttles and transportation system were well-organized (not up to UVA standards but very smooth) and the limited field made the viewing extremely manageable.  The rain even held off until we were back in the Old Home and safely on the road.  Ended the day with flu shots (4 strain), a drive-by the state capital building, and burritos.

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Friday we reentered the Central Time Zone, checked into the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel, did laundry, and purchased appropriate attire for Saturday’s Alabama vs. Louisiana Monroe football game.

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We had this waiting for us in our room.  Nice!

We had this waiting for us in our room. Nice!

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When Adam saw that we were traveling through Alabama, he strongly recommended that we attend an Alabama football game.  Being perennial national championship contenders and with a fan base solidly in the insanely crazy rabid category, attendance at a home game in Tuscaloosa did seem to be a fine idea.  Adam even went deep into his network to arrange parking, a tailgate party, and 2 seats in a skybox for us.  So special thanks Adam, his co-worker Zoe, her boyfriend Taylor, and Taylor’s father Pete and Uncle Brooks for making our Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium exceptional!

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Uncle Brooks was our host for the day.  If I have the lineage correct, Brooks and Pete are third generation Alabama graduates.  The family is fiercely loyal to the university and although he now lives in Mission Viejo, CA, Brooks makes the pilgrimage to Tuscaloosa for almost every home game.  The family even owns a condo a block from the stadium….well, it’s really more of a shrine/man cave to everything Crimson Tide.

One of several memorobilia shelves

One of several memorabilia shelves

We arrived in Tuscaloosa several hours early so we could meet Brooks, have a few drinks (they make their own vodka…….how much fun is this family!), and stroll the campus to observe the local game day traditions.

As expected, the University of Alabama knows how to celebrate game day.  Brooks directed us to the area near the stadium where the campus quad and sororities are located.  The quad is just enormous and was covered with hundreds of tents for tailgates.  The streets leading to the quad were lined with vendors selling every imaginable piece of Alabama memorabilia.  The surrounding sororities resemble plantations….huge, immaculate, and Antebellumesque.  It kind of felt like the 4th of July meets Gone With The Wind in the middle of a large flea market.

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Most interesting was the game day dress code.  The co-eds are all dressed like it’s date night.  The most popular ensemble being a short dress and cowboy boots stuffed with pom-poms (the boots, not the dress).  Just one more thing to like about the south!

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We made our way to the skybox and enjoyed an afternoon filled with Alabama touchdowns, Roll Tide chants, an endless supply of southern cooking and southern hospitality….all to the perpetual chorus of Sweet Home Alabama over the PA system.  It was a great day.

View from our box

View from our box

With uncle Brooks

With Uncle Brooks

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A small sample of the food supply. They brought a new course every quarter

Today we got in our workouts and happily watched the Raiders win their second game in a row!  They are actually starting to look like a real football team.  Next up…..Da Bears…

This afternoon we visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.  Alabama, Birmingham and Montgomery in particular, were the epicenter of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The institute does a tremendous job of presenting the history of segregation, Jim Crow laws, and the struggle against the racist way of life that existed here not too long ago.  Going through the galleries today it is still hard to imagine that a society so blatantly racist existed in this country.  Yes, we still have work to do, but imagine living in a state where laws prohibited interracial marriage, prohibited white nurses from treating black men, and mandated segregation in everything from neighborhoods, schools and restaurants to bathrooms and water fountains.  Voting registration rules were enacted to deny blacks voting privileges, decreasing the number of registered black voters in Alabama from 180,000 to 3,000.

Remember this guy?

Remember this guy?

Birmingham, being one of the most fiercely segregated cities in the South, saw more than its share of violence through the mid 60’s.  It was given the nickname “Bomingham” due to the 50 unresolved  racially directed bombings, one of which killed 4 little girls at the 16th Street Baptist church.

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16th Street Baptist Church. The Bomb took out the right side of the building.

Kelly Ingram Park.  Now filled with memorials, the park was the staging area for numerous protests and marches

Kelly Ingram Park. Now filled with memorials, the park was once the staging area for numerous protests and marches

The Institute, 16th street Baptist church, and Kelly Ingram Park are all located at the same intersection in downtown Birmingham.  Well worth the visit.

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