Football fans everywhere tuned in Monday night to watch the University of Alabama Crimson Tide beat the Louisiana State University Tigers, 21-0 to win a 14th national title, but for the ‘Bama and LSU fans, the game, as it usually is for fans of a specific college team, meant something more.
For Laurie Daniel and her husband, Jason, the game held special meaning because they are fans in two families of Alabama Crimson Tide backers. Their unique position is that they live in Texas, a state where football has been compared to a religious experience and the University of Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies dominate the college football landscape.
Daniel was born in Laurel, Mississippi, but moved to Brookwood, Alabama, a town outside Tuscaloosa, before she was a teenager. She later moved back to Mississippi when she was a senior in high school.
“My family, they’ve always been Alabama fans. My uncle went to Alabama and was huge alumni and a booster in the early days,” she said. “He and my aunt didn’t miss an Alabama game.” That was even though he never played football for the school.
Her family’s memorabilia collection includes a Nick Saban autographed football, a Gene Stallings autographed football and a book signed by legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant – investment pieces that would be the envy of many Crimson Tide fans.
As for being an Alabama fan in Texas, “its kind of fun being the outcast,” she said. “The only thing that’s hard is it’s hard to find somebody to have a game party with.”
Daniel said she doesn’t suffer too much grief from Texans for being an Alabama fan, though a few people do ask if the stylized “A” on the back of her car is her initial, since almost no one connects it to the University of Alabama.
“I say, ‘No, my name is Laurie. That’s for Alabama’” she said.
She was confident of a Tide win before Monday’s game, although she said she didn’t want the team to have to depend on kicker Jeremy Shelley, whose failure to capitalize had cost the Tide the win against LSU earlier in the season. After the win, she retracted her negative attitude toward him.
She believe Alabama fans can be more vocal than, say, Longhorn fans, but does admit that that is a Southeastern Conference (SEC) thing, not just an Alabama thing.
“Even if Alabama wasn’t playing, I would root for an SEC teams, even if it was Auburn, I guess,” she said, with a laugh.
She believes A&M’s move to the SEC will be good for both the conference and the school, especially for their ability to recruit top talent to the university.
“I thinks it’s going to be tough on them as far as playing,” Daniel said.
She said she believes there is some animosity that both teams in the national title game were SEC teams.
“I know some people don’t like the rematch, but that’s the system, she said. Win, lose or draw it is the system and Daniel believe until the system changes, people have to accept that these two teams were there and could be back.
She attributes the level of competition in the conference and its rise to such national prominence is based on the level of competition among the schools in the conference and high school players around the country wanting to be a part of it, as well as some of the best players being in the south and those players wanting to stay close to home.
“Football is huge in the south,” Daniel said. “Not just with the men, but the women too. We are taught from an early age. We sit and watch football with our fathers and grandfathers and they explain the game to us. It’s just important to us. It’s a part of growing up.”
She believes this is a cultural difference between women in the north and women in the south and it goes beyond weather and not wanting to sit in the cold.
“Hey, it has been freezing cold in south Mississippi and we’ve still, you would just take every blanket you owned and go sit at the game,” she said. “That has nothing to do with it! I don’t care how cold.”
She doesn’t get to attend very many games, but she is planning to go see the Tide play Michigan State at Cowboy’s Stadium in Arlington later this year and looks forward to going to College Station and seeing the Games against A&M at Kyle Field.