Roll Tide! Amen!

Paul W. "Bear" Bryant (Photo from Wikipedia)

There comes a time in every man’s life when he is confronted by a crisis of faith. Faced with serious doubt, questions with no conceivable answers, and soul-deep introspection, he (or she) may find this burden too heavy to bear. What to do? What to do?

Hopefully you will never be so conflicted, but many an Alabamian will be on January 7.  You see, in a state where football is nigh unto a religious experience for the majority of the populace, this year’s BCS National Championship match-up between the University of Alabama and Notre Dame has many a local Catholic on the horns of a dilemma — can you be a fan of the Crimson Tide and a good Catholic when you feel driven by a force you cannot deny to cheer against Notre Dame ( French for “Our Lady”, the Virgin Mary, patron saint of the University)? In other words, if you boo the Blessed Mother, are you automatically on a fast track to the hot place?

So great was the anguish of the Catholic fan base, that the bishop emeritus for the Diocese of North Alabama felt the need to assure his flock in a recent homily that the faithful can indeed root for Bama without sin or regret. Can I get a HALLELUJAH?

You see, we here in Alabama are serious about not only the game, but its venerable coaches and sacrosanct championship trophies.

We drape ourselves in crimson and houndstooth to honor not only the college, but the man his ownself, Coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant, who led Alabama to six national championships and thirteen conference championships during his 25 years on the sidelines. The Bear once said, “Mama wanted me to be a preacher. I told her coachin’ and preachin’ were a lot alike,” and he certainly made believers out of many a young player. His grave in Birmingham’s Elmwood Cemetery is still the site of frequent pilgrimage with devoted fans leaving mementos even though this month will mark the thirtieth January since his death.

In recent years, the University has taken its two National Championship trophies on a whistle-stop tour through our state’s WalMarts. Like pilgrims to Canterbury, droves of devotees traveled to that cathedral of savings to lay eyes on the crystal wonderment, greeting fellow worshipers in the only acceptable manner — with a hearty “Roll Tide.” Pictures were made, thanks were given, and, I’m sure, more than one soul gazed reverently upon this ultimate prize through the blur of a tear.

So come the 7th, when crimson and white takes on gold and green on the gridiron, let us raise a joyful noise without fear of damnation, without anguish, without apology. Yea, Alabama! Roll Tide! Amen.