It’s only college football. It’s not real life. It’s just college-age kids on a field, wearing shoulder pads, trying seriously to give each other concussions. It’s just a game.
At least that’s what I keep telling myself.
Because a few days ago, the University of Alabama, one of the winningest teams in football history, lost to LSU. I was watching the game alongside my uncle, Tater.
Tater is a longtime Alabama fan, a retired marine, and a former paper-mill worker. He has a tattoo of coach Paul “Bear” Bryant on his upper thigh, and he wears houndstooth underpants.
It was the only time I’ve seen him cry.
When LSU intercepted the ball, my uncle began to exhibit signs of a nervous breakdown. His vision started to dim and he had trouble breathing. He almost blacked out. We had to revive him with Busch Light and Camels.
I won’t recount the game here because, honestly, who cares? As I say, it’s just a game.
Then again, this is what all the losers say. “It’s just a game.” And I know this because for years the previous losers have been saying this same phrase to us Alabama fans.
And all these years we smug Alabama fans have responded by patting our unfortunate friends on the shoulders and giving our best patronizing smiles.
“It’s only a game,” we agree in a pious way, although secretly, deep inside, we are singing “We Are the Champions.”
Shameful. I’m asking for forgiveness for our past arrogance, because now I know the biting pain of loss. Now I know what it feels like to watch your team fall on their own spears.
After the shocking upset, my uncle Tater had to be admitted into urgent care with chest pains. He was babbling in strange tongues, carrying on about past Alabama defeats.
“Punt, Bama, Punt,” he mumbled when they rolled his bed into ICU. “Kick Six,” he babbled when they hooked him up to the IV tubes. He was talking out of his mind.
His nurse was an LSU fan, clad in purple and gold. She asked Tater’s family what happened.
“I don’t know,” Tater’s daughter answered. “One minute he was fine, then during the fourth quarter he went catatonic.”
The nurse stifled a laugh, then confiscated Tater’s shoelaces.
We gathered around uncle Tater’s bedside and reminded him that, for years, Alabama has been on top.
Victory after victory, we were the team that never lost. A team with a winning coach. A team with a university president who once said, “We just want a university our football team can be proud of.”
“So what if you’re not champions?” said Tater’s LSU sympathizing nurse. “Big deal. Life goes on. Get over it.”
And she’s right. Winning has been great, sure. But winning isn’t everything. Moreover, winning isn’t without its troubles. After all, it’s not easy being champs. People love to hate winners.
This year, for example, my cousin’s 9-year-old son dressed up as coach Nick Saban for Halloween. He wore Saban’s patented straw safari hat, and he wore the coach’s trademarked frustrated expression, as though he had not emptied his bowels in six years.
He knocked on doors, presented his Jack-O-Lantern and cheerfully said, “Roll Tide.”
Someone threw rotten tomatoes at him.
The Birmingham police were called. The alleged offenders were 12-year-old hoodlums wearing Auburn University colors.
The perpetrators were detained and questioned by senior officers who asked sincerely, “Why didn’t you use rotten eggs instead?”
This is exactly the kind of injustice we Alabama fans have endured for umpteen years. But we have always borne our suffering with pride because this is what true winners do. And this is what we’ll keep doing. Even if it kills us.
“If you ask me,” said my aunt Eulah, “it all started going downhill when Nick Saban started doing insurance commercials to pay the rent. It’s just embarrassing to see someone you love doing insurance commercials.”
Oh, how quickly people turn against their own.
This, coming from the same Methodist woman who collects commemorative Joe Namath plates in her dining room and uses formal napkin rings which read, “Roll Damn Tide.”
But the truth is none of this matters. In the grand scheme of life, sports are trivial. The world is much larger than an NCAA football stadium.
“It’s just a game,” Uncle Tater mutters anxiously from his hospital bed. “It’s just a game. Just a game…”
“You’re absolutely right,” Tater’s nurse replies. “It’s just a game that YOU lost.”
Uncle Tater’s funeral will be on Wednesday.
Sandra - November 8, 2022 6:24 am
ROLl TIDE ROLL
Steve Winfield (lifer) - November 8, 2022 6:38 am
We’ll come back. Don’t we always?
Melanie - November 8, 2022 9:33 am
Now I’m gonna need to be revived because you mentioned Joe Namath. Quick get the smelling salts!
lanierh2 - November 8, 2022 1:49 pm
Isn’t that the truth….
Hank - November 8, 2022 10:31 am
Anne Arthur - November 8, 2022 11:12 am
Gwen - November 8, 2022 11:43 am
Sue Rhodus - November 8, 2022 11:58 am
OhMGoodness ! I felt the same !!! We will return
John in Texas - November 8, 2022 11:59 am
Being a Texas A&M alum and having lived in the “Southwestern” conference for many years our favorite motto was “my two favorite teams are the Aggies and whoever is playing Texas”. That has changed since joining the SEC to “my two favorite teams are the Aggies and whoever is playing Alabama”. You’re right about Saban’s look. Not sure if it’s a “not emptied his bowels in six years” or a “smug” look. In either case a least favorite coach from our side of the mighty Mississippi. Whereas you ‘Bama fans have lived high on the mountain of the college football kingdom, we Aggies have perennially been the serfs of the kingdom. “Wait’l next year” has been the feeling most seasons. We had high hopes though when one of Saban’s underlings came to coach and gloated when he beat his mentor last year. Now we are wishing he would go back to the Tide from whence he came.
Due to these comments I’m sure my subscription to “Sean of the South” will be canceled (not of my doing) but hey “wait ‘til next year” Tide fans. You’ll recover.
sjhl7 - November 8, 2022 12:03 pm
Now you know how the rest of the world feels! Welcome to real life!
Signed, A life long AU fan.
Rhett Talbert - November 8, 2022 12:11 pm
Hilarious! As a fan and grad of a state university that loses all too often to its in-state rival, I try to convince myself that losing isn’t such a big deal. But then follows 8 months of nagging depression until I get my hopes up for a new season … with predictable results. Meanwhile, I’ll pretend that NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl are “a level up” competitively after the bill games, but, as radio sensation Prophet Omega once taught me, I’m “just playing checkers with myself,” emotionally speaking.
William Bryant - November 8, 2022 12:12 pm
Roll Tide Roll.
Debbie g - November 8, 2022 12:13 pm
Like you said ,its just a game. ROLL TIDE.
Jean Sherrill - November 8, 2022 12:18 pm
Preach on!! Long Roll Tide Roll!! Sorry about Uncle Tater.
Diana - November 8, 2022 12:33 pm
It’s actually nice to see someone else win for a change. GO NOLES!
Leslie Anne Tarabella - November 8, 2022 3:04 pm
Amen to the Seminoles who know how to roll with wins or losses. Love your school no matter what. The truest word in this story was, “smug.”
lanierh2 - November 8, 2022 12:42 pm
This was very funny, no matter who you were puling for in that game. Thanks!
Jerry Lee - November 8, 2022 12:44 pm
I am willing to wager a “Big Mac” that the only truth in this lovely story is that Bama did loose to LSU and Uncle Tater is alive and kicking and will be back next week sipping his Busch Light and lighting up his camel…..
Dennis - November 8, 2022 12:48 pm
War Eagle, pansies
LynnB - November 8, 2022 12:58 pm
Warrrrr Eagle! I promise, losing more often makes the Punt Bama Punts even sweeter! Great article!
Alice Treece - November 8, 2022 1:01 pm
As an LSU Alum who lives in Auburn, may the best Tiger win!!!
suzfrew - November 8, 2022 1:02 pm
Sean, how could you not explain that the loss of Uncle Tater is actually the result of the two games in a row loss! It is sure good to be a Tennessee Vol this year! 🧡
BOB E - November 10, 2022 2:43 am
Peggy Slaton - November 8, 2022 1:06 pm
From a DAWGS fan
Cydney - November 8, 2022 1:31 pm
GEAUX TIGERS!!! #40 & #86
Vince - November 8, 2022 1:32 pm
Ah, football fans. It is only a game.. but my how we can take it so seriously. Love your writing, Sean, but I do have to mention that Marine should be capitalized as it is a title.
Beth Wannamaker - November 8, 2022 1:41 pm
I love this!! I am – number one – a Clemson Fan. However, I am an Alabama fan UNLESS they are playing LSU at which time I am LOUDLY cheering for LSU! But Uncle Tater has my sympathy.
Richard Owen - November 8, 2022 1:43 pm
I am not an Alabama fan but your Aunt Eulah has it right. Saben needs to spend less time doing AFLAC commercials with Deion Sanders and more time studying game films of upcoming opponents. The Iron Bowl is just around the corner. Can you imagine if the “Kick Six” game repeats?
wndevore - November 8, 2022 2:16 pm
One of the best games ever played.
Steven Rafferty - November 8, 2022 2:22 pm
What a great laugh! Here on the West Coast the Pac 12 doesn’t have any of these issues!When our teams head East we expect heavy losses.
Paul Mccutchen - November 8, 2022 2:35 pm
I have been a die hard Razorback all my life so now you understand how I feel. A true college fan will follow their team what ever the season brings but a “bandwagon fan” only hoops and hollers for who ever is on top that week so they can yell about how great their team is. Loses are inevitable so you can sit back and yell “ wait till next year”.
H. J. Patterson - November 8, 2022 2:44 pm
“Alabama fans love Alabama football, Auburn fans love Auburn” – Patrick Fain Dye.
Stacey Wallace - November 8, 2022 3:51 pm
War Eagle! Coach Dye was correct.
tom oster - November 8, 2022 2:52 pm
Ha! Roll Tide!
Jan lane - November 8, 2022 3:23 pm
As a razorback fan, ” wait til next year “, is a mantra. In the last few years, hope has now sprung forth.one can only hope. Win or lose, we love those hogs.
Peggy M. Windham - November 8, 2022 3:34 pm
This is hysterical!! I love my Bama team win or lose!! Roll Tide!🐘❤️🐘
Stacey Wallace - November 8, 2022 3:48 pm
Sean, I am an Auburn fan who bleeds orange and blue, so I am used to the pain and humiliation of losing, especially this year. We haven’t won a game since September 24 when Missouri gave us the game. I told my husband Mike, also an Auburn fan, that it would have been much easier to have been born a Bama fan since y’all win most of the time. However, I just can’t do it. I will pull for Auburn until the Lord calls me home, so War Eagle! I love my family and friends who are Bama fans, and I love you, Jamie, and Marigold, too.After all, nobody’ s perfect except the Lord.
MermaidGr - November 8, 2022 4:44 pm
A good friend of mine – an Auburn fan – told me once, “you Alabama folk don’t know how to lose!” Well, we better roll sone Tide before THAT game!! November 26 is all that matters
Melissa Brown - November 8, 2022 5:34 pm
OMG, l am so sorry about Uncle Tater. The game was very upsetting, but l am a die hard ALABAMA fan and l stick with them through the winning and the occasional losing. I do wish what ever coach called the plays for two extra points x2 had not made that call. We would have won the game. ROLL TIDE ROLL !!!!!!
Pete - November 8, 2022 6:43 pm
Gooooo Dawgs! Sic ‘em!
Cindy - November 8, 2022 7:13 pm
Bet you were laughing while you wrote this. Nothing like SEC trash talk. 😂
LIN ARNOLD - November 8, 2022 7:16 pm
Sorry, Sean. My oldest son graduated from UGA ……………. GOOOOOO DAWGS!!!!!!!
janicecarlile - November 8, 2022 7:16 pm
Linda Moon - November 8, 2022 7:17 pm
I won’t tell you what My Guy and his younger brother said about that lost game. I will tell you that it was not a peaceful ode to joy. R.I.P. Uncle Tater.
MAM - November 8, 2022 7:43 pm
I’m sorry about Uncle Tater, but I sincerely hope it was not due to a lost game! After all, it’s only a game. Sure glad I’m not that into any sports. Although I must admit, I was happy that the Astros won the Series and especially that Dusty Baker finally won a ring.
Sandra Bradley - November 8, 2022 7:43 pm
You will have a second article about the other lost…..I enjoyed that so much.
Naomi - November 8, 2022 8:12 pm
I’m from Alabama. When Bear Bryant died, my brother tried to go to his funeral, but there were so many cars lined up, he couldn’t get into the cemetery. My claim to fame is that I ate breakfast at the same restaurant as Coach Bryant.
Karen Hebert - November 8, 2022 8:58 pm
As a Louisiana girl living in Alabama, it’s nice to say “Geaux Tigers” for this game when they squeak by with a win! LSU Geaux!
Linda Moon - November 8, 2022 9:34 pm
I won’t tell you what My Guy and his younger brother said about that last game. I will tell you that it was not a peaceful Ode to Joy. R.I.P. Uncle Tater.
Patricia Gibson - November 8, 2022 10:42 pm
That is too funny and so true!
N. K. Wood - November 8, 2022 10:59 pm
As an LSU graduate, it’s nice to see the “Tide,” roll off, on fire…
catladymac - November 8, 2022 11:01 pm
Just to inject a historical fact…in the 1850’s before LSU became LSU the head of the school was an Ohio man named William Tecumseh Sherman.
Bonnie - November 9, 2022 2:36 am
I sincerely hope you are joking about Uncle Tater’s funeral!!
Mark - November 9, 2022 3:12 am
I grew up in Tennessee and was a Dallas Cowboys fan. I cared nothing about college football until I married a girl from Alabama. Her parents were split between Bama and Auburn…I had no idea where Auburn was and didn’t care initially. Once I saw how football crazed my new in laws were, I became a Tennessee fan….because that’s where I’m from! Nobody loves their college football as much as the state of Alabama! War Eagle and Roll Tide!
Duane Shelley - November 9, 2022 3:39 am
Bless your Heart!
BOB E - November 10, 2022 2:39 am
Death isn’t funny but I’m laughing anyway.
Judith Harris - November 10, 2022 9:05 pm
This one made me laugh, Sean. From you cousin in the adjoining county in Florida! GO NOLES!!