Friday, September 30, 2011

The Continuation of a Long Term Bit: Alabama

As we continue our quest to see something unique or essential about all fifty states we make our way to the lovely state of Alabama. What are the first things you think of when you think Alabama? Football and Civil Rights? Yep, me too.

Football:

This trip was a lark more than anything else. Our beloved University of North Texas Mean Green play a "money game" (or opportunity game, or bodybag game, depending on your preference) every year, and while many schools in the non-BCS conferences will do this we somehow manage to get a top 5 team in this game just about every single year. This year, our beloved alma mater was going to take on the number 2 ranked University of Alabama Crimson Tide. The game itself went about how everyone expected, the final score was 41-0 if I remember correctly.
I'm not really sure what I expected from the whole Bama gameday experience and I'm really not sure what to say about it. Bryant-Denny stadium is certainly an imposing edifice, fortunately they aren't shy about giving visiting fans decent seats, as you can see. I was certain they were going to put us in those seats hanging over the top of the entrance.

The statues of old coaches and the things in the ground commemorating their various conference and national championship teams were pretty cool to look at, and a program as successful as theirs certainly deserves ample memorializing.

The people of Tuscaloosa were all very friendly, especially the drunk ones who kept running into us and wanted to know all sorts of stuff about North Texas. My only real criticism is with the pre-game pageantry. That "Million Dollar Band" was overpriced by about $999,997.50. I know I'm spoiled, UNT's Green Brigade may be the best college marching band going, but I was sitting about a dozen rows up and could barely hear them. Also, that guy running around on the field extolling one side to say "Ala" and the other to say "bama" gave the feel of either a minor league baseball game or vamping for time because something wasn't ready when the game was supposed to start.
A friend who went to an SEC school that shall remain nameless who, after I told him I had never been to the home stadium of any school except for UNT and Rice, told me that I was going to see what a real college game day was like. I kept thinking about that during the pre-game mess and the only conclusion I could come up with was you SEC people really overrate yourselves. Perhaps the Rice MOB was right when they said that Texas A&M joining the SEC would raise the collective IQ of both conferences. :)

On to happier things!

Civil Rights:
We stayed in Birmingham, about 60 miles from Tuscaloosa, because we didn't want to spend $1000 a night for a hotel room in Tuscaloosa. Turns out that Birmingham is a lovely small city, and the things we did there were quite enjoyable. St. Symeon Orthodox Church has an absolutely jaw dropping choir, there's a neat little natural food store where we got some road snacks (vegan chocolate chip peanut butter cookies, yum!), and very good Greek restaurant downtown. I told Chandler a time or two that if UNT ever plays Alabama-Birmingham I'd be interested in that just to visit the city again.

The highlight of the entire trip, however, was the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. This museum is fantastic. Gives you a really good idea of the history of Birmingham and how it relates to segregation and the civil rights movement. I think it may belong in the category of places every American should visit.



The museum is right across from this church, which you may or may not recognize as the church that was bombed by the KKK in 1963 killing four girls inside.


What's next?

On our way we went through Mississippi and were taken with how pretty it is. We may head out that way to see some of the Civil War and Civil Rights stuff there when I next have a break from school. We also spent the night in Memphis on the way to see Chandler's mother who's been sick and have discussed spending a weekend there for our anniversary. Stay tuned!