Hello, friends. Are you lonesome? Do you seek new friends in what seems to be a cold, cold world? Do you wish that total strangers would approach you in malls, at gas-and-go outlets and in library parking lots with a hearty smile and a welcoming greeting?
Well, sir and/or ma'am...wear some Crimson. Put on a t-shirt or cap that signifies your support of the unbeaten football team from the University of Alabama, and I guarandamntee you that people you have never met in your long life will walk up to you in various places and say, "Roll TIDE!"
We still don't know how I got to be a 'Bama Booster; it must have been
some sort of osmosis. I woke up one day and found myself being a fan. This thing where people walk up to me hooting and hollering about that school down in Tuscaloosa happens to me all the time, and face it, nothing about my everyday appearance says "Alabama" whatsoever. But when I'm sporting my 'Bama duds, it's almost as if I were Liberace or something, the way my clothing draws attention.
So, on Saturday, with the big game against Louisiana State (the "Bayou Beatdown") looming that evening, I donned my Tide finery while Peggy and I ran errands at Harford Mall (Pearle Vision, the best place in town to see and be seen!) and then to Lowe's, before dining sumptuously at the Bonefish Grill. I also had to make a stop at that Hollister store in the mall to get something for someone else. I took my place in line, while my fillings rattled from the sound of the techno-hip-hop-pop that poured out of speakers and almost took my mind off the aroma of the sweet perfumes they (apparently) sell there. So thick was the attar of their SoCal cologne, it was making it SoHard to breathe.
And then! A kid - he couldn't have been more than 13! - spotted me. He was wearing a Redskins hat, so we have nothing in common anyway, but he ankled right over to me and said, "AlaBAMA! You like Alabama? They suck, man!" He told me that he favored LSU in the game that night. I saw his mom at the register, giving me that "OK - you deal with him now if you can" look and I said, "Well, son, you won't have to worry about asking if you can stay up to watch the whole game, because it'll be all over by halftime!"
(That turned out to be an inaccurate prediction, not my first. But the record shows that the Tide pulled out a victory in the final 90 seconds, 21-17.)
The youth and I bantered for a while before his mother finished making her purchase and steeled herself for the journey home. What I really liked about this kid, his choice of football teams notwithstanding, was that he had no qualms about mixing it up with an old duffer almost 5 times his age. It was fun; I felt like I was back in junior high or something.
I was hoping that he would ask his mom if he and I could hang around the mall and ogle women and eat pretzels and get chased by the rent-a-cops and let me relive being 13 again, but he said he had to go, and all, and see ya later, Mister.
Then I felt like Holden Caulfield, because that kills me, the way kids always call us old guys "Mister."
Peggy says I need to find better things to do than to argue with adolescents about football. I'm not so sure that there are any many better things to do than that.