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Commentary: She was my first

I saw an old acquaintance last Saturday. I had not seen her in years and my heart flip-flopped when I got my first glimpse of her, standing tall as I remembered.
 
To be honest, she was my first outside of Nashville, and that fact alone has kept her in my heart since the first time we met.  
 
It was a brutally hot night in July of 1980 when her blazing smile mesmerized six under-age rising high school seniors. We were spending the summer at Birmingham-Southern College, relishing in the freedom of being away from home, anxious to take on the world.  
 
The six of us were wedged into a ’72 VW Beetle, racing to beat a campus curfew, when the siren-call of her beauty and reputation latched on to us like a tractor beam, pulling us into her web, none of us smart enough at that point to consider the consequences of the decision. But she left the door open and the lights on; for us, a sign that providence approved of our plan.
 
We spent a sweaty, physically depleting hour with her, going places none of us ever dreamed of going, places none of us have been since. The night was pure magic, as we were able to slip back onto campus an hour late.
 
We crawled to breakfast the next morning, sharing the snarky smirk of successful co-conspirators.
 
Her football parties were legendary. For years she hosted the biggest, most important Saturday afternoon parties in the county. She became a national TV star with her parties and her unabashed love of University of Alabama football. Her parties on the third Saturday in October and for the Iron Bowl at Thanksgiving were gatherings of legend.  She even made peace with the Crimson Tide’s arch rival Auburn, holding several parties for the War Eagles.
 
When I saw her Saturday, the first time in person since 1982, the changes brought by time were obvious. She’s smaller than she was and the futile work she’s had done to try and stop the march of time are obvious; a nip here, a tuck there, full lifts in a couple of places. She needs more, but can’t afford or justify it.
 
There was a sadness about her that I felt the minute I reached out to her. She knows she is no longer sexy-Auburn walked away from her years before and her beloved Alabama found a younger, sexier playmate in Tuscaloosa.  Even Alabama high schools deserted her, leaving only the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) as her only steady beau. Others come and go during the year, but she knows she has seen the peak of her desirability.
 
My life-long love of The Old Grey Lady, better known as Legion Field in Birmingham, made the trip to the Compass Bowl a no-brainer. But even Vandy fans, normally ecstatic just to be in a bowl game, have been complaining about her condition. Guess three bowls in a row can spoil you just a little. Rightfully so.
 
I fear for the future of The Old Grey Lady. Big time programs require big time on-campus facilities—they aren’t coming back.  It’s doubtful the City will be inclined to take on the required renovations, especially without guaranteed tenants. And Birmingham does not have the appreciation for history and tradition that is so prevalent in Williamson County. Several years ago the sitting mayor and council were heard squealing with laughter as the first wrecking ball hit their historic fairgrounds.
 
The Vandy win Saturday was great, but the memories of romping on that field on a hot July night, the first time I “played” on a college field, made the day perfect.
 
Joe Williams is sports editor for the Williamson Herald. He can be reached at joe@williamsonherald.com

Posted on: 1/8/2014

 
 

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