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AFTER THE FALL

Dec. 09, 2013
Dec. 09, 2013

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Dec. 9, 2013

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AFTER THE FALL

Bama fans aren't used to losing, but the bad feelings should make them appreciate how infrequently it happens

IN MANY PARTS of Alabama people name their newborns after Crimson Tide football coaches and stars. They plan their weddings around game dates. They adorn their bodies with ROLL TIDE tattoos and their living room walls with oil paintings by Daniel Moore—the state's version of Michelangelo—that re-create special moments from special Bama games. The true believers are buried in custom caskets emblazoned with an elephant and a script A.

This is an article from the Dec. 9, 2013 issue

This is why an almost postapocalyptic gloom settled over Tide fans after Alabama's stunning Iron Bowl loss. They screamed. They cried. They punched walls. An upsetting number of them sent threatening tweets to kicker Cade Foster, who missed two field goals and had one blocked.

But here's the thing about losing: It should make you appreciate winning. Coach Nick Saban has complained about his fan base at various times this season. In late October he was upset that thousands left their seats in Bryant-Denny Stadium in the third quarter of Alabama's 52--0 rout of Arkansas. "We have a beautiful stadium and one of the nicest venues in all of college football," he said. "I think we all should show our appreciation for it by staying and supporting our team for the whole game." And last week Saban's wife, Terry, was clearly speaking for her husband when she told The Wall Street Journal, "The expectations get so great, people get spoiled by success, and there gets to be a lack of appreciation."

So this, Alabama fans, is your smell-the-roses moment. Savor the fact that the Tide have won 60 games over the last five years, which ties Nebraska (1993 to '97) for most victories during any five-year stretch in college football history. No team has claimed three straight uncontested national titles, but this group of fifth-year seniors in Tuscaloosa has won three out of four, a feat only achieved by Tom Osborne's Cornhuskers (1994, '95, '97) and Frank Leahy's Fighting Irish (1946, '47, '49).

At least one Bama fan found the proper perspective. Dawn Ward, a 40-year-old office administrator from Cullman, watched the game from the upper reaches of Jordan-Hare Stadium. Two hours after the final, mortifying play, she was driving on I-85 outside of Montgomery when flashing blue lights appeared in her rearview mirror. She pulled to the shoulder, her heart jackhammering, and watched the three Alabama team buses roll by. As they disappeared into the darkness, Ward—wearing crimson cowboy boots with script a's, an Alabama sweatshirt and a houndstooth scarf—was overcome with emotion. "I was proud," she says. "So proud of everything they've done."

PHOTODAVE MARTIN/AP (SABAN)UNDERAPPRECIATED Both Saban and his wife, Terry, recently spoke about the Crimson Tide fans' feeling entitled to winning.