Thursday, February 17, 2005

Fielder’s Choice
By Barry Burleson

A trip to Tuscaloosa

It’s no secret that my 10-year-old son Andy is breaking the family tradition, so to speak, by being an Ole Miss fan.

I think it all started a couple of years ago. One of Andy’s best friends, Miles Moore, invited him to go to an Ole Miss football game with him. He came home with souvenirs and was hooked on the Rebels.

Then about a year ago Andy wanted his new and enlarged bedroom decorated in Ole Miss colors with Ole Miss items used as decorations, too.

We obliged – even dear ole’ dad.

I will admit I always pull for Ole Miss, if they’re not playing Alabama.

Since then I’ve taken Andy, 13-year-old daughter Emma or both to various Ole Miss sporting events – men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball. It’s great living only 30 minutes from Oxford and having access to Southeastern Conference sports.

Emma, like her dad, has always been an Alabama fan.

I told Andy a few weeks back that we desperately needed to go to Tuscaloosa for an Alabama basketball game. He agreed, and of course, Emma was more than ready.

Last Saturday, we awoke early and started our journey. I even talked Andy into wearing a Crimson Tide cap.

“I’m making progress,” I thought to myself.

We stopped first in Hamilton to drop Erin off for a several-hour stay with my mom. Pam stayed back in Holly Springs to complete her renovations in Erin’s room.

We didn’t have tickets to the Alabama vs. South Carolina matchup. It was sold out. Last week I got on the Internet and almost bought some good seats. When we arrived in Tuscaloosa about an hour and a half before game-time, I was wishing I had some tickets already in hand.

There were people selling tickets along the street to Coleman Coliseum. I thought they were wanting too much money and I ignored them.

Later I returned and probably paid more than I should have, but the three of us got into the coliseum for the big game.

Andy waited near the entrance to the Alabama locker room and got several autographs on his cap from Crimson Tide players, including starter Chuck Davis and sixth man Evan Brock. It was Reginald “Mule” King Bobblehead Day, and Andy got the autograph of the former Crimson Tide star, too.

Our seats were really high up. We waited until about three minutes before tipoff, saw several empty seats closer to the court and moved.

I saw a guy sitting alone in the reserved section. He had about five or six vacant seats beside him.

“Do you know if anyone is coming to sit beside you,” I asked.

“Sometimes they come to the games; sometimes they don’t,” he replied “You’re welcome to try it.”

We did, and the season ticket holders never came. We ended up with great seats, and a very nice and kind gentleman beside us.

The game was close for a while, but Alabama had a strong surge late in the first half and went on to the easy win.

I even heard Andy saying a few “Roll Tides.”

He wore his Alabama Crimson Tide cap with signatures home. His grandmother kidded him about it when we got back to pick up Erin.

It was a good trip to Tuscaloosa, one we don’t get to make often. I haven’t seen the cap since Saturday, but Andy assures me Ole Miss is still his favorite college team, which is OK with me.

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