Crazy bright lights in the stadium

This installation of the Franklin Stove Blog is a departure from the usual format.

It’s fictional, based on accounts of actual events.

It might even be considered a ghost writ post.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.

Hi, it’s me, Rose. My home away from life–Bryant Denny Stadium–erupted into pandemonium when the first football game of the year took place.

First–those lights! Those lights were killing me! And I’m dead already!

Whoever had the idea of turning the stadium into some sort of light show must have been four sheets to the wind. It freaked me out. Don’t they know that some people have a form of epilepsy that is triggered by flashing lights?

I looked at a discarded ticket stub and didn’t see any warning about the lights. I once read a video game console’s warning. It said that people who were subject to this kind of epilepsy could experience “lightheadedness, altered vision, eye or face twitching, jerking or shaking of arms or legs, disorientation, confusion, or momentary loss of awareness.” They could have seizures that cause loss of consciousness or even convulsions that can lead to injury from falling down or striking nearby objects.

I suppose some people who had consumed too much alcohol could experience many of the same symptoms. Now people can buy beer and wine in the stadium. Back in 1968, when I went to my last game in corporeal form, students and other fans would smuggle alcohol into the stadium. People like Shorty Price were notoriously drunk at games. I remember hearing how the perennial candidate for Governor in Alabama had peed on nearby fans. Price was called Alabama football’s unofficial “Head Cheerleader.” He purportedly once lowered his pants and “mooned” a rival team’s fans.

Beer was sold at concessions stands in the stadium for $8.99 for domestic beers and $9.99 for craft, local beers. Most people were buying Coors or Budweiser. Beers in the club rooms sold for less. There were recycling bins for the cans but I didn’t see a lot of people using them. No one was allowed to carry a can out of the stadium. I’m sure that beer was being bought by minors with fake IDs, but the cost probably was prohibitive for binge drinking.

In the nose bleed U4KK section of the stadium high above the fifty yard line I noticed a woman who, unlike Shorty Price, seemed to be sober as she led cheers and vociferously showed her team support. She just could not stay in her seat. She seemed to be very popular though with the fans who were seated nearby as she vigorously shook her booty for the Tide.

There was a steady stream of people carrying brown paper bags and cardboard boxes into the stadium on the Friday before the game. That piqued my interest. I found out that they were going into the field suites lounges and the “Zone Clubs” at either end of the field. It turned out that they were carrying hard liquor to place into private lockers. Bringing regular bottles of booze into the stadium on Saturday would’ve been impossible. On game days, even in my days as a live fan, miniature bottles were smuggled in.

The different kinds of accommodations in the stadium are varied. There were air conditioned areas with catered food and bar service. There were seats with chair backs at the edge of the field where people were able to retreat to a lounge and watch the game on flat screen televisions. Some fans even had private restrooms. It kind of reflected society at large, with the haves and have-nots. But the price of tickets these days means that even the have-nots aren’t paupers. I remember in 1968 that just about anybody could afford to go to a game. Now single tickets for the Auburn game begin at over $250.

I’d intended to ride on the sky cam. Somehow I was going to “fly” over the field but I couldn’t figure out how to reach it. I did spend a lot of time with the team on the sidelines. During the game I think a Utah State player actually saw me. As the player staggered off the field after being hit hard, he looked me right in the eyes. He must have had a “near death” experience. But I doubt if he remembered it.

The Crimson Tide dispatched the Utah State Aggies without breaking a sweat–55-0. The stadium, which was almost filled to capacity with fans, emptied out in the fourth quarter. The temperature in the stadium, which was in the eighties, began to cool off before the end of the game. Rain was in the air.

It seemed as if the Crimson Tide when it played in Bryant-Denny stadium just never lost or tied. But I think Coach Saban may have felt like his team was truly only winning when the the players followed through on what they had learned in practice. When the players passed under the large illuminated “Be A Champion” message on the ceiling of the tunnel before exiting to the field, they must have known what Saban was expecting. In an interview I think he said something like “all actions taken in life, regardless of how trivial they may seem, affect the desired outcome.”

When I was haunting Tutwiler Hall in 1977, a song “Deacon Blues” that I liked by a band named Steely Dan was released. I thought about the lyrics. “They got a name for the winners in the world/ I want a name when I lose/ They call Alabama the Crimson Tide/ Call me Deacon Blues.” My friend in Tutwiler Estelle seemed like she’d be a good deacon at times, when she wasn’t taking me to a dive bar or trying to corrupt me in some other way. She would occasionally quote the scriptures, things like “In the Kingdom of God Loss Is Gain.” But most of the fans at the stadium wouldn’t agree. For them winning is everything. I remember something that Coach “Bear” Bryant was supposed to have said about a tie being like kissing your sister. He also said, “I ain’t never been nothin but a winner.”

I briefly visited the television broadcast booth. It seemed pretty cramped. I hope the ESPN play by play announcers watched what they were eating. I don’t know much about playing any sports, much less football. They seemed to have an infinite amount of knowledge about the players and game. Their cheat sheets helped of course.

Although I can feel the temperature and smell odors, my sensory perception is somewhat diminished. But it’s enough.

Floating in the air that stadium lights pierced was a vortex of skin cells, sour and pungent odors from spilled beer, vomit, stadium food, sweat, stale cologne and flatulence as well as a mixture of bacteria and viruses. The cacophony from screams of the fans, the playing of the band and groans from the players will linger in my mind. My first game in my home away from life, in spite of the crazy bright lights, will doubtlessly haunt me as long as I’m haunting the stadium.


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