Beyond the Tigers and Alabama, she was never much of a football fan. Or as she puts it: “To just sit and watch a ball game? No. That’s boring.”
When we were talking about the college games coming up, I asked if she has a favorite player. “I’ve always liked Peyton Manning,” she said (SEC, NFL—tomato, to-mah-to). “But he’s retired now. Did you know he sells pizza on TV?” (I did indeed.) “Also, I sure think a lot of Tim Tebow,” she added. “He just seems like a good Christian boy. Does he still play football?”
Alas, Mr. Tebow was not in the stands next to Mama one fateful Saturday back in the 80s, when I invited her to come down to the Plains and personally experience Jordan-Hare with the Tigers on the field. The trouble started when I convinced her to watch the game from the student section with my friends and me instead of sitting with the grown-ups. One by one, I came to see my errors in judgment:
- We were playing Nebraska, a team predicted to steamroll the Tigers that Saturday.
- When the game is a runaway, college students have nothing to distract them from their beer and their flasks.
- Mama is Southern Baptist—a teetotalling, card-carrying church hostess and former Sunday School teacher. No. Booze. Ever. (Unless, of course, it’s soaking a fruitcake.)
- Placed in a situation that she finds distasteful, Mama can deliver a wicked version of what I like to call her Sidelong Glance of Shame. It’s a quick, fleeting look (just the eyes—no head turn), cast in the general direction of whomever is misbehaving. A Sidelong is usually accompanied by, “Now, I just don’t go along with that.”
Roughly translated, “I just don’t go along with that” means you should immediately cease and desist your current activities, head straight for the nearest Bible study, and maybe make a donation to the Women’s Missionary Union while you’re there.
But back to the game. As it progressed, the frat boy standing next to Mama grew merrier and merrier until she finally had no choice but to shoot him a Sidelong, lean in my direction, and shout over the din of cheering students: “That BOY is so DRUNK that I am getting HIGH just breathing his BREATH . . . [Wait for it] I just don’t go along with that!!” [Pah-dum-pum]
Tipsy stadium neighbors aside, Mama’s big game weekend wasn’t a total bust. She had arrived on campus bearing a turkey and home-cooked vegetables. Every burger-weary student who so much as walked by our apartment and sniffed came inside to eat. Mama made a ton of new friends that day. And when she got back home, she called me and said, “I had such a good time—promise me y’all won’t eat anything that was in your refrigerator before I got there. It might very well kill you.”
To all the rivals battling it out on November 26 . . .
Texas Tech and the Longhorns
Georgia Dawgs and Georgia Tech
Florida Gators and FSU
Kentucky and Louisville
South Carolina and Clemson
The Vols and Vandy
Mississippi State and Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl
Auburn and Alabama in the Iron Bowl (WDE! RTR!)
Make Mama proud!