Best atmosphere? Here’s nod to Tide
I have been to sporting events all over the USA, from sea to shining sea, and none is more awesome than an on-campus rivalry football game.
Super Bowls, World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cups, bowl games and NCAA Final Fours are full of excitement, but they can’t top the energy of 100,000-plus fans cheering for their home team in a “GameDay” clash.
Penn State-Ohio State whiteouts, Ohio State-Michigan, USC-UCLA and Florida State-Miami are just some of the huge college games I have attended.
However, the LSU-Alabama game in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9 may top them all.
The area around Bryant-Denny Stadium has everything that I love about college football. The stadium is surrounded by majestic fraternity and sorority houses — all having pre-game parties with the men in ‘Bama polos and the women in black skirts and crimson tops.
The tailgating is everywhere down streets like Paul “Bear” Bryant Drive with tailgaters (dressed head to toe in everything ‘Bama) offering anyone food and drink.
Unlike most college stadiums, Tuscaloosa has an area named the “district” of fun bars and restaurants just a few steps from the stadium.
The front of the stadium has a huge open area park with statues of national champion coaches, including Bryant and Nick Saban.
And the team enters the stadium through the park with thousands lining the road.
Every time I enter a stadium, I love to pause and take in the atmosphere as Alabama’s experience is like none other.
All lower-level seats enter on field level with your shoes touching the grass, and every fan is able to watch the teams warm up with a VIP view.
Even 90 minutes before the game, the stadium was packed with enthusiastic fans. The stadium felt bigger than the 100K capacity with levels of seats on each side in a sea of crimson and white. Alabama’s players ran out to AC-DC’s “Thunder,” and the crowd noise was deafening.
In most stadiums, even Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, it seems like the stadium music is the “noise” by drowning out the fans. At Alabama, the fans and the music complement each other as everyone sings “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Dixieland Delight” and scream “Roll Tide” after the announcer yells “first down.”
In the second half, after the sun set over the Alabama mountains, during each break in the action, the lights would go out in the stadium, and the combination of crimson lights and music and people cheering made the annoying pauses in the game for TV timeouts fly by.
The Alabama fans were tremendous.
Even when their team was down by 20 points, they kept cheering and yelling, hoping to will their team to victory. Nobody left their seats to get their 10th beer or 20th hot dog as they were glued to the action.
Football is truly a lifestyle in Alabama, and the loyalty to the game is testament. I can’t stand watching a huge game and moving every other minute with people shuffling down the row and blocking the action.
And there was none of the mean-spirited, hateful bashing and cursing of opposing fans that I see in other stadiums.
The Bama-LSU rivalry is one of the greatest in sports, yet every LSU fan I talked to said that the ‘Bama fans were warm and welcoming.
Oh, and the game? LSU won, 46-41, in a game filled with memorable plays and legendary players and a near miraculous ‘Bama comeback.
It was a game and an experience that I will never forget.
Kaufman is an Altoona native, attorney and traveling sports fan. He hosts a Monday night radio show called “Ira on Sports,” that can be heard on FM95.9 and FM106.9 in West Palm Beach, Florida and is available on Sound Cloud and iTunes under Ira on Sports.