From the archives: Football and family

By Hunter Ford
I posted this last year after the Tennessee game. I can’t think of the Tennessee game, win or lose without thinking about my grandfather.

It was a glorious autumn scene- clear blue skies and a gentle breeze with just enough nip in the air to justify wearing a sweater outside on a bright sun-drenched day.

The University of Alabama football team, which had been on the short end of the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry for several years, was laying the wood to the Hillbillies from Tennessee.

I could have been describing the scene from Saturday’s 41-17 Alabama victory over the Vols in Tuscaloosa.

But the memory in my mind is actually from a fall afternoon two decades ago; the day my grandfather Ralph Ford was laid to rest.

Grandpa was the biggest Alabama fan I have ever known. He was a cheerleader for the Tide in the 1930s and rode with the team to the Rose Bowl one year.

I asked him once if he ever got teased for being a male cheerleader.

“Oh, sometimes,” he said. “But I was on the sidelines with the prettiest girls on campus while the football players were getting their teeth knocked out. (Those were the days of leather helmets). So, it didn’t bother me too much.”

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The Alabama-Tennessee football rivalry was special to my Grandpa and people of his age. Alabama did not play Auburn in the years between 1907 and 1948, so the Tigers were not foremost on the minds of Tide fans.

The Tennessee Volunteers were, and still are, the only rival that, historically, has challenged Alabama for Southeastern Conference supremacy. Alabama has won the most SEC championships with 21, and Tennessee is second with 13.

Grandpa used to tell his grandchildren that you could predict the winner of the rivalry game by the color of the falling leaves. If there were more red leaves than orange left in the trees on game day Alabama would win, and vice versa, he would say.

Anyway, back in 1986, much like last Saturday, the Crimson Tide had something to prove against the Vols in the annual epic struggle. On that particular day, Alabama entered the game after losing four in a row to Tennessee. Much like this year’s Tide, who had lost three out of the last four and eight of the last ten, that Alabama squad was hungry for a victory.

Alabama racked up a 56-28 victory in 1986 with Mike Shula at quarterback and Bobby Humphrey at tailback.

We listened to the game on the radio on the way to the cemetery. Following the services the family gathered at my parents’ house to watch the end of the game.

Somehow, several of the Ford family members received a mutated crimson gene that turned orange. Yes, there are several Tennessee fans in my family.

But even the Tennessee faction of the family clan had to admit that an Alabama victory on this somber day was very fitting.

“Ralph would have missed his own funeral to see this game,” one family member remarked.
I’m sure he would have.

With Grandpa as the head cheerleader, my childhood and teenage years were a time of glorious football memories. My father and younger brother often attended games together with Grandpa, and many years after his death, without him. I would be willing to bet that there are many folks like me who have wonderful memories of spending time together with family, gathering around the TV or at the stadium to enjoy college football games. It doesn’t matter what your colors are or what team you pull for. And it doesn’t matter, in the grand scheme of things, whether your team wins or loses.

I was able to attend the Alabama-Arkansas game this year with my Dad and my oldest son. It was a thrilling victory for the Tide. I attended the Alabama-Georgia game with my brother, an equally thrilling game, but a loss for Alabama.

In each case, the best part of the games was spending quality time with family.

I shared high fives with my eight-year old son during the Arkansas game, and watched him high-five otherwise perfect strangers who shared his enthusiasm.

My brother and I reminisced about past Tide victories on the way home from the close loss to Georgia.

Grandpa would have had a ball at those games too. I truly believe he was there with us in spirit.


Add Yours
  1. 1

    Great post. I always watched Bama-Auburn games with my dad and granddad as a kid.After my granddad passed away they were really special. Now that my dad is gone as well their still really special but a little sad. Thanks for the post it sparked a thousand memories.

  2. 2
    Ballplay Indian.

    While I would always rather watch the game, I have some great memories of listening to the game on the radio while at hunting camp with friends. Radio really leaves a lot to the imagination.

  3. 3

    Ballplay, maybe you could listen to the rest of Auburn’s season on the radio and imagine them being worth a shit. . .

  4. 4

    I agree Ballplay. I won’t miss a game that’s on TV if I can’t actually be at the stadium, but I do have some very fond memories of listening to games on the radio back in the day.

  5. 5
    Ballplay Indian.

    Good one Bamaman. I have to admit that I laughed a little on that one.

    Serious question. Can yall stand listening to Eli ? Hes awful. Its like fingernails on the chalkboard. And this is not a flame. I have Bama friends who cant take him either. He just babbles on and on about nothing relaitive to the game. Snake is sorely missed this year. He actually let you know what was happening on the field.

    Another one was Larry Munson. Goood grief. It was like listening to paint dry. He bored me out of my scrotum. And he was a legend in the game calling circles. Wow. He almost sounded drunk.

  6. 6

    Ballplay: Well, I guess you can say the same about the “TOUCHDOWN AWBURN” guy that died. He was like the fingernails on the chalkboard to me. I guess it just matters on who you pull for.

  7. 7
    Ballplay Indian.

    Brando. I agree Fyfe kinda got on my nerves too. I do like the guy Bama has with Gold now. But Gold is the pits man.

    Did you ever listen to a Munson broadcast ? He would put you to sleep. Seriously.

  8. 8

    I agree with you on Eli Ballplay, but the Aub radio guys are so biased it is sickening, they will not even call chopblocks when they see them, I am serious.

  9. 9
    Ballplay Indian.

    I dont doubt it. But duuuude. Eli has a freeking orgasm if the tide gets a first down. Have yall heard his gay pun on Glenn Coffee ? I kid you not ….” Glenn Coffee scampers for a first down !!!” ..”Coffee anyone?” !!!!!!”Mr Coffee is really percualting now, to the tune of a first down!!!!”””….etc. I really wanted to vomit.

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