Commentary: Will real Alabama fans please stand up?

Brad Stephens brings his own Southern flavored sports perspective and humor to Bartow Sports Zone. He is a Bartow County native and has his own law office in Cartersville, but he's mostly a Georgia Bulldogs' football fan.


It is Georgia- Alabama game week.

That is a sentence you do not hear very much, as the Dawgs and Tide play each other as regularly as Halley’s Comet flies over the Earth. With the new additions to the conference, traditional matchups holding firm and only 12 games in a season, I would not expect Georgia and Alabama to become yearly rivals anytime soon.

In any event, when these two programs meet up, there are sure to be fireworks. From the “Man Enough” game in Tuscaloosa back in 2002 to the thrilling finish in the 2012 SEC Championship game, the last few meetings have been the scene of much drama, stress, disappointment and pure elation on both sides.

Who could forget Pat Dye telling the nation that Georgia was “not man enough” to beat Alabama back in 2002? Or the 2008 “Blackout” game in Athens that catapulted Alabama to their current position of national prominence?

The 2012 SEC Championship game still sticks in the craw of most Georgia fans. Frankly, as a Dawg, I would rather scratch my eyes out with a Brillo pad than watch a replay of that game.

Georgia has come “oh so close” to turning the corner over the years, but has been thwarted more often than not by a Western counterpart. LSU has done it a few times. Auburn and their bagmen have done it more times than I care to count. Alabama’s last two victories over Georgia have knocked the Dawgs for a loop and these painful games are definitely on the minds of the fanbase going into Saturday’s brouhaha.

Trust me, if you forget, Tide “fans” will remind you daily.

Trading blows with the flagship school of the conference is a great opportunity though. All eyes will be on this game. If the Dawgs are victorious, instant validation and national attention. If the Dawgs lose, instant degradation and national detraction. It is one of those “put up or shut up” days in Georgia history – which team will show up?

The one that shellacked #3 LSU in Athens in 2004 or the same team that choked away the season the next week against a hapless Tennessee squad?

Then, there is the biggest issue of all – dealing with the Alabama fanbase. Granted, I have never had a minute’s trouble in Tuscaloosa, any run-ins with Alabama alumni or lifelong fans who know their history. I lived in Birmingham for two years and generally got along with Alabama folks, probably due to our mutual disdain for all things orange. However, when Nick Saban entered the fray and reconstructed the program from the desolation of probation and Mike Shula, a new breed of Alabama fan was born.

After 2008, cursive “A’s” started popping up all over northwest Georgia and I ain’t talking about the Braves. Crimson Tide car tags and t-shirts flew off the shelves faster than houseflies to an open watermelon. Netflix has it all wrong. Orange is not the new black, houndstooth is. It was like somebody walked in their homes, hypnotized them and they have never snapped out of it. College football’s version of Peter Gibbons, sans Bill Lumbergh and TPS reports.

Men, women and children alike joined this unholy alliance with the proclamation of “I’ve always been an Alabama fan.” This is perplexing.

Friends, I don’t really recall much of the late 1980’s, other than my purple Trapper Keeper and stonewashed Jordaches. Ok I lied, I did have my mother buy a Milli Vanilli CD for me. Due to this ignorance, I cannot regale you with tales of the last time Florida fans did not exist around here. I am certain it was a grand and glorious time, those pre-Spurrier days.

Yet, I do recall the 1990’s and early 2000’s with great detail. I remember the days when TBS was on the :05 schedule – “Saved by the Bell” would come on at 5:05 P.M. and 5:35 P.M., eat dinner, then watch the Braves with my grandmother at 7:35. I recall Grunge making its entrance into the music world, Bill Clinton being elected twice, when Coke switched to plastic bottles, my parking spot number at Cass High School (#214) and even my locker combination from 6th grade. (24-14-24)

I can pinpoint all the styles from those days, from the sidespike to Bartow bangs to tightrolling jeans. I ate at the lunch counter at the old Woolworth and a hamburger cooked by Ernie Garrison himself. I remember when the Target on Main Street was a pasture, Winston’s was the hot restaurant destination in town and the only car dealers were the Wynns and the Cochrans. I saw a time when you could take Highway 41 from Cassville and be at the old Blockbuster Video in less than 20 minutes.

What I do not remember are legions of Alabama fans roaming the landscape of northwest Georgia. In fact, I knew precisely one diehard Alabama fan growing up. He was from Fort Payne and moved to Cassville because his wife was from there. We would razz each other from time to time, but normally just agreed on how much we hated Tennessee and Auburn. He was it, the one and only. Everyone else was Georgia, Tech and a thriving pocket of Auburn fans. Where did this Bama diaspora come from?

I am quite positive that Nick Saban did not lead a mass exodus across Alabama, part the waters of the Coosa River and tell his followers to go forth into Georgia. No, I would remember that for sure. These newfound Crimson Tide fanatics are the same people who pulled for Florida State in the 1990’s, Georgia from 2002-05, Florida from 06-08 and then picked up Alabama after Urban Meyer left Gainesville in shambles (‘preciate it, Urban).

Bandwagon riders who buy a new hat every other season. Those thousands of people who suddenly get amnesia when their team starts losing or goes on probation, only to come out of it with a new team. When Alabama was mired in probation, terrible coaches, losing seasons and scandal, you were more likely to find oceanfront property in Rockmart than an Alabama fan around here. Now, they are everywhere – voices ringing loud with hyperbolic ignorance.

These people will be in Athens on Saturday. They will be the loudest and most outspoken fans, espousing the virtues of the University of Alabama without ever gracing the campus with hide or hair. They will proclaim that “Georgia sucks” and “y’all ain’t ready” among other absolutes that contain no explanation and zero forethought. Ignore them, Dawg fans. Their time will pass and they will into oblivion, or Bolivia (if you’re asking Mike Tyson). Leave them to their devices and let the game do your talking.

Remember what the great Mark Twain once said: “Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”


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