Sunday, June 16, 2024

Southern hospitality alive and well in Tuscaloosa

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Featured Photo by Holden Carter

Story by Holden Carter

Football in the South is only truly overshadowed by two things: faith and family, depending on whom you ask. The collegiate game is as American as apple pie, and in the country’s southern region, it can only be understood completely through firsthand experience.

Football and its fandom are a tribal existence. That is really the only way to describe it. You’re born into it, rooting for the hometown school’s team with every fiber of your being. Whether it be the Crimson Tide or one of three Tigers in the Southeastern Conference, you wear their colors proudly and without a second thought.

What happens when you are clad in the away team’s colors from head to toe is a completely different gameday experience.

Holden Carter standing with Tuska, the University of Alabama’s 19-foot elephant statue. (Photo courtesy of Holden Carter).

I went into Tuscaloosa nervous about the reaction of the Alabama fans to me wearing my blue. I knew I wasn’t going to be sitting with any other Middle Tennessee State University fans as my tickets were given to me by my uncle, a hardcore Tide fan and alumnus of the University of Alabama.

My family left the Volunteer State packed and excited to go. Two hours into our trip, we stopped at the local Buc-ees in Athens, Alabama, about an hour north of our destination. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of Blue Raider fans in the “world’s largest gas station.” I was greeted by many students and fans who gave us a simple and enthusiastic “Go Blue!”

We were headed into the “belly of the beast.” The home of the Crimson Tide, where Alabamians bleed crimson red.

We reached our hotel at around 2 p.m., four and a half hours until the 6:30 p.m. kickoff. I immediately felt the Alabama faithful looking at me funny with my Blue Raider polo and vintage cap that reads “MTSU” across the front proudly displayed.

“Should we boo them?” asked a Bama fan to his fellow Crimson-wearing companion as we walked down the street.

“This could get interesting,” I thought.

We walked to a local bar and eatery called Innisfree Irish Pub right on University Boulevard just a short walk from the football stadium. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by an employee of the establishment who informed us that the first round would be on them. Although it was hard to ignore the stares and funny looks the Alabama students and fans gave me, it was well worth it knowing the owner of Innisfree said we could get any drink we wanted.

Not long after sitting down, a Bama fan by the name of David Harvey, 65, joined us. He and his friend, both Alabama alumni, had been going to see their beloved football team their whole lives.

“We hate the University of Tennessee, but not Middle Tennessee,” he joked.

His friend, Dennis Hartley, 64, had been a lifelong Alabama season ticket holder for football games. In fact, his family had been box seat season ticket holders since 1908. We talked with them for about an hour, exchanging jokes and commentary mostly concerning the game ahead.

We walked to Bryant-Denny Stadium about an hour before kickoff. I was told, mostly by college students, that MTSU was not a real school. They also did not like the hat I was wearing, but I shook it off.

The game came and went. The Tide rolled to an impressive 56-7 win over the Blue Raiders. Although the final score wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, I had an exceptional time in Tuscaloosa.

The fans, both older and younger, were mostly kind. I can see where the idea of Southern hospitality comes from. Although I am True Blue for life, I have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team and their fans. I hope to return to Tuscaloosa very soon.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Destiny Mizell, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com. For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on X at @MTSUSidelines.

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