Today is the start of a long-awaited weekend for me and many people in Tuscaloosa. Even in a normal year, the first University of Alabama weekend is reason enough to bring excitement to most of the town. But this year, it’s so much more than excitement.
To kick off the big weekend, the country music group Alabama is performing their first full concert since they retired from touring 8 years ago. After the Bama Rising benefit concert in July, which included many country music acts, the band decided to do a full length concert in Tuscaloosa. They wanted to do it to raise more money, but really, more than that, raise the spirits of the people in this town and state. I have a feeling they will succeed.
A little personal history about me and the band: When I was in the 4th grade, a friend and I made a deal to save our allowance so we could get a ticket to their upcoming concert. Back then, the cost was $20.00. Well, we had the money, but the concert was at 8pm on a school night and well, we couldn’t drive since we were 9 years old. This will be my first time to see them since that year. They retired from touring before I could find a chance and the funds to see them. Tonight, I get that chance.
Tomorrow, the first big sign that Tuscaloosa is not only surviving, but rebuilding will be live on TV. Football is the one thing that the whole town (except for a few random Auburn fans) has in common. No matter if you’re a die hard Tide Pride ticket holder of all the games or you’ve never been to a single game and can hear the crowd from your house, on game day we are all on the same side.
“Tuscaloosa is among the most sports-obsessed cities in America. Athletics will play a special role in rebuilding it. Brick by brick, life by life”
We have one of the best home and travelling RV groups in the nation. There are hundreds of RVs of retired people, working people who save each vacation day for the 10 weekends in the fall, or just ordinary folks who chose the best games to haul in the 5th wheel and stay a weekend or two. If we play in the back field of Nebraska, our visiting team will rival the home team. The RVs started rolling in on Tuesday. Normally, we see them late Wednesday or Thursday. This year, people are arriving early to see what has happened to their fall home. See what has changed. See what has changed from their last trip in the summer. See what has changed since they gave up vacation time usually reserved for all the games to come early in May and help clean up.
This first home game is usually a non-SEC game. It is usually not even televised, but on pay-per-view. This year, it’s on TV and the stadium is sold out. The Quad (huge grass area for tailgating) is already full of marked real-estate for the day. People are already camping out to keep their spot and just enjoy re-connecting with their friends from last year.
Today, the City Cafe will be packed. Nicks in the Sticks will have people eating steaks and onion rings off paper plates on their laps because there won’t be enough seating. The RV lot by the mall will have many “family” reunions of people who are not really blood-related family, but close enough to hug and call each other “brother”. Many stories will be shared today. Many more tears will fall. Mine included. The first view when topping the hill at University Blvd will steal some breaths and crack some hearts.
But like we did on April 28th, wipe away the tears, smile with a friend or a stranger (even if the stranger is wearing orange and blue), and take pride in our town and the people who work to rebuild.
Roll Tide Roll. And we will keep rolling until the job is done.