I’ve always been an Alabama football fan. Always. I can’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t.
That’s primarily because of the influence of my dad and my maternal grandfather. Neither were college educated – i.e. neither went to school at Alabama, but both were Bama fans and their influence in all areas of my life – especially this one – is obvious. They didn’t spend fall Saturdays hauling their families to Tuscaloosa for games and they didn’t spend their time bashing Bear and making excuses whenever things went wrong. They were simply Alabama fans, rain or shine. And as an Alabama fan born in the late 1960s and raised in the 1970s, there were a lot of sunny days.
Back in those days, games on television were rare. Fans tuned in listen to John Forney call the action and, occasionally, we were treated to a Saturday afternoon ABC game. Sundays brought a review of all the previous days college football action via Bill Fleming’s highlight show and, of course, a review of Bama football on the Bear Bryant show. I also spent quite a few lazy fall Sundays studying the sports section of The Birmingham News and reliving all of the action via write-ups and box scores.
But there was one evening when my Alabama fandom took root and sprouted on its own, separate from my dad’s and granddad’s. That night was December 20, 1976, the evening Alabama played UCLA in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee.
What was different about that night? Why was that the beginning for me? Well, this game was my first solo game. It was the first game where I marked the calendar, eliminated every other distraction, guarded the one and only television in the house, popped a huge bowl of popcorn and then watched the game from beginning to end – all by myself. I was then able to give my dad a first hand account of what happened when he arrived home from work late that night.
From that point forward, for the most part, I have a recollection of most of the football games Alabama has played. That’s not to say I remember every detail, but I have tracked things rather closely.
That was actually a pretty good time to ascend to a full-fledged Tide fan. The 1976 season had not been a particularly good one for Alabama – at least by Bama standards, and the ’76 Liberty Bowl launched another fantastic run by the program.
The game is also known as the coming out party for Tide linebacker Barry Krauss. Here are a couple of links to his interception return for a touchdown and the game highlights…