Monday, October 08, 2007

Greatest SEC games, a personal memory

An update from last week's greatest SEC games post.

Publisher H. Brandt Ayers offers this memory from an SEC game:

It seemed odd not having Dad there for the Tide’s opening game in 1964, but I was grateful for the tactic he had found for avoiding the parking problem at Legion Field. His membership in the Mountain Brook club offered a good lunch and a bus ride to the stadium. The club had another advantage; it was accessible to two-lane U.S. 78 without going through downtown Birmingham.
But it wasn’t the same without him. I can see him now in the long tan overcoat and the battered hat, which framed a slender face and prominent nose, a relic of the game before modern protective headgear became a requirement. He had played for Jacksonville Normal School (now Jacksonville State University.)
Leaving him behind was a regrettable necessity. A stroke that summer had leveled him.
Joe Namath was still healthy. It wasn’t until the North Carolina State game that he injured his knee rolling out without anyone touching him, an inexplicable injury that dogged his college and professional career. But on this unusually cool and cloudy afternoon, Namath and the Tide totally outclassed Georgia, 31 to 3. Namath was everywhere, a quarterback with a rocket arm who could also run. Once or twice, he reminded me of a legend, Harry Gilmer, No. 52, the All-American halfback in the late 1940s who threw long spirals from the apex of astounding leaps.
Dad had taken me, along with the grown-ups, to see Gilmer play. For a little boy, being invited to join the men for the game was like a Protestant Bar Mitzvah. Now it was another generation leaping and winning for the Tide. It would have been fun to recall and compare those two with Dad, but he had not spoken for weeks.
When I got back to Anniston dusk was gathering. Before going home I went to Stringfellow Hospital to see Dad. I leaned down over his bed and took his warm hand. “Dad, we whipped hell out of Georgia,” I said.
He squeezed my hand.