The Beatless Beat Writer: Why I'll Always Be Thankful for Tuscaloosa

Joey Blackwell

Today is the first official full-day that a 24-hour curfew has been put into effect here in Tuscaloosa, so what am I doing?

Heading to the grocery store.

I know, I know. I've been meaning to go for the past several days, but I've been too busy with work around the house the past few days to actually get out of the house, plus now that there's the curfew I assume there will be much less people out than there would have been on the weekend leading up to the curfew.

Social distancing, people. Do it.

Anyways, while I was out of the house for the first time in a week, I decided to take a quick drive past the athletic buildings on Alabama's campus. I pulled into the drive that takes you past the Mal Moore building, when I saw a group of about a dozen or so people standing at the Sarah Patterson Champions Plaza.

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Alabama Athletics

My journalistic curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to put my car in park and walk over to speak to these people (at a safe 6-foot distance, of course).

As I walked up to the plaza, everyone turned to look at me questioningly. I smiled and asked them what they were doing out at a time like this. An older gentlemen answered in kind: "We're here to read the names of the best."

They older man and his wife began to explain their situation and agreed to an interview, but they asked to be kept anonymous for the story.

"I played baseball for Alabama way back in the day," the older gentleman said. "Me and [my wife] are driving up with most of my family here from Florida to help my grandson and his wife, who need help with their newborn."

"We form quite the quarantine caravan," he laughed.

Indeed they did. The dozen or so people consisted of a wide assortment of ages from a teenager all the way up to the older man. Their willingness to help their family, who are now having to balance a newborn along with both father and mother working from home due to our current situation, moved me.

"When we were driving through Birmingham, [my husband] asked that we could take a detour through Tuscaloosa," the older woman said. "We had actually planned a road trip up to see my grandson and his family this week, and we had tickets to watch Alabama play Samford over in the city, but obviously since that was cancelled this is the next-best thing."

The older man, sporting an Alabama t-shirt, said that he just had to bring his family by.

"We moved to Florida soon after we got married, and one of my kids here has been to Tuscaloosa, but the rest never have.

"I just had to show them where it all started."

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Alabama Athletics

The older man and his wife met at the university, and married soon after graduation. He started his own business down in Florida which proved fairly successful, and he and his wife had several kids.

When asking him why he felt like taking a two-hour back-and-forth detour from Birmingham was worth it, the old man smiled and said the following:

"My life started here. I needed to show my children why I'm grateful for Tuscaloosa."

That hit me hard. I thanked the man and his family and walked back to my car in the massive Coleman parking lot that was completely empty except for the two SUVs and small car owned by the family.

This family represents everything to me and so many others about the magic of the University of Alabama and Tuscaloosa. This city and its beautiful campus are ground zero for so many fresh start in life. So many beginnings and so many memories.

I can also be included as one of those fresh starts. As I've mentioned in this blog before, prior to myself moving to Tuscaloosa, I was in a bad place. With barely any money or means to make it on my own due to having been fired from a job that I despised, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and moved to Tuscaloosa to continue my education.

Two years later, I am here today. A fresh start has evolved into a career that I love.

In these dark times that we as a nation and a planet are facing, it is good to sit and be thankful for what we have. I know I've harped on this before, but it's because it is an important aspect to maintain a sense of positivity and to keep up the will to press onward.

Today, just like that old man, I am thankful for my school, my city and my Crimson Tide.

I can't wait to show my future children why I'll always be grateful to Tuscaloosa.

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The Beatless Beat Writer is a series of stories by BamaCentral's own Joey Blackwell. The series is meant to reflect on and discuss Alabama athletics and its fans in Tuscaloosa during the current pandemic.

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