Tuscaloosa Talks Of Its Football 'Dynasty' After Latest Championship
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish. The University of Alabama won another football championship last night, dominating Notre Dame 42-14. It's the third title in four years for Alabama, a university with a history of football superiority. In Tuscaloosa, the victory wowed the hometown crowd, as NPR's Russell Lewis reports.
RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: At Tuscaloosa's airport this afternoon, hundreds of fans gathered to welcome the team home.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
LEWIS: Regina Croft was here with a pompom and a smile. She was shaking and not because she was nervous.
REGINA CROFT: It's number 15. I'm going to cry. I mean, 15 national championships. It was the most awesome game to beat Notre Dame. I mean, I just - I love them. I love the Tide.
LEWIS: The crowd was packed. Alabama fans ranged from babies in strollers to the elderly in wheelchairs. Today, sports radio was abuzz about coach Nick Saban.
(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO BROADCAST)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: ...and where does he, as far as his legacy, where does he rank amongst not only current coaches but also all coaches when it comes to college football? Phenomenal what he's done, three of the last four...
LEWIS: And it wasn't just on the radio where people were excited.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: What you having this morning?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Do you guys have biscuits and gravy?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Oh, yeah. We have white gravy, sausage, gravy and biscuits. What else you want?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: That would be great. Diet Coke, please.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: OK.
LEWIS: At Waysider Restaurant, business was a bit slow because so many people apparently stayed up late. Pat Sanders was in early, though, wearing an Alabama jacket and finishing up some grits and eggs.
PAT SANDERS: The team is embedded into the fabric of the state of Alabama. It gives us something to be proud of. I mean, it just - it's something that gives us so much pride.
LEWIS: A few tables over, Clara Cross was eating a plate of pancakes and bacon and washing it down with a cup of sweet tea. She's 27 and says her indoctrination to the Crimson Tide started early.
CLARA CROSS: Lifelong Alabama fan. Momma brought me home in crimson and white. Never stood a chance. Wouldn't change it. Will raise my babies the same way.
LEWIS: Even this restaurant is steeped in Alabama lore. It's where legendary former coach Paul "Bear" Bryant used to bring recruits. The walls are covered with pictures and paintings of famous gridiron moments. Cross says the football team helps energize the community, especially after the devastating 2011 tornadoes. But it goes beyond that, she says.
CROSS: It's - it defines who you are. You can go anywhere in the world, and when you see a fan and you're in Chicago or you're in Dubai and they say roll tide, you instantly have family there.
LEWIS: It was during the 1960s in the Bear Bryant heyday that the University of Alabama really flourished. It came during the civil rights era. Churches were bombed, the bloody march between Selma and Montgomery and the Montgomery bus boycott. Ken Gaddy is in charge of the Bear Bryant Museum. He says football was one of the few things happening in the state that many could feel good about.
KEN GADDY: You know, being a positive for the people of Alabama during that '60s time was important. It was something to cling on to. You know, success is a breeding ground for success. And, you know, the examples of coach Bryant, you know, what he taught and the things they did are exactly the same things that coach Saban does today.
LEWIS: There's little time to celebrate. Believe it or not, Tide fans are already looking ahead to this fall. It seems the start of football season can't come soon enough. Russell Lewis, NPR News, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
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